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Archive for January, 2006

Better is Better

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

There’s a funny story in Tuesday’s ODE about how the Student Senate wants to form a committee to make itself better. Awesome. I’m sure we can all agree that additional committees are ideal catalysts for increased governmental efficiency. But lazy sarcastic comments aside…

[Senate President Stephanie] Erickson and [Senate Vice President Sara] Hamilton passed out a memo that noted the “exceptional achievements” of the Senate so far this year, but which also called on senators to explore their potential as a governing body.

Exceptional achievements? Has good ol’ Mahmoud decided to suspend nuclear research? Jews in Israel will be so happy to hear this!

SotU ’06: Now Partisanship-free!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Well, I was able to catch the last half of tonight’s State of the Union address live and read the rest online. Pretty much what I expected, particularly as the “addiction to oil” meme had been leaked to the press early. But there were a couple of things that stood out to me:

Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending — and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

“Non-security discretionary spending” is code for “a tiny fraction of the budget.” As Heritage’s Brian Reidl points out over at The Corner, this accomplishment is utterly meritless considering “that discretionary outlays are up 48% since 2001. Even excluding defense, homeland security, and Katrina, they are up 33%.” Bush is a big-spender, ’nuff said. Oh, and that line-item veto thing? That was declared unconstitutional by the SCOTUS back in Slick Willy’s days.

To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

As I pointed out in the last OC issue, no breakthroughs or research is required for safe, clean nuclear power plants. The technology is there and ready to be used. What is needed is a bold push to speed up regulatory hurdles and educate the public about nuclear energy. Wind technology? “Zero-emission” coal plants? Give me a break.

We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.

Test scores are up because teachers now teach for a test rather than for a subject, not because there are suddenly better teachers and administrators in schools. What America needs is more competent and well-paid educators, not inflexible, arbitrary tests and incompetence-protecting teachers unions.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

If you didn’t find this part a bit ironic, then you haven’t read Freakonomics.

Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.

Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?

Did anyone else find it strange that the two individuals Bush used as examples were both assasinated? Break out the tin foil caps!

Of course, while the SotU was filled with meaningless hopeful platitudes and vague promises (as they all are,) the Democratic response was even weaker than I imagined it would be. Tim Kaine had little emotion in his voice, smiled even when talking about things he didn’t like, and offered no new ideas, solutions, or policy proposals despite repeating the horrible catchphrase, “there’s a better way.” Sure there is, Timmy, the Dems are just too stupid to offer it. One thing that particularly stood out was this:

The failure of the federal government to implement and enforce a rational immigration policy has resulted in a confusing patchwork of state and local efforts.

This is a reasonable point that Kaine, if his party were competent, should have driven home. Practically noone is happy with the immigrant situation right now, particularly border-state Republicans. If the Democrats were smart, they’d be preaching to the Lou Dobbs-took errr jobs-majority and doing the same thing to the Republicans as the GOP is doing to them on the Iraq and eavesdropping issues. It wouldn’t play well with a lot of the base, but I think said base has learned its lesson during the past six years and would likely stick with the DNC come election day. I too wouldn’t like the results (just as I didn’t like the results of Bush’s centrist welfare conservativism, sigh) but I think the Dems would fare far better in the upcoming elections.

Frist Realizes Americans Want Government Out of Their Business.

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

At least, when it comes to “end-of-life” decisions, according to an AP article at the Washington Post.

In regard to the Terry Schiavo case, Frist said on “Meet the Press”:

“Well, I’ll tell you what I learned from it, which is obvious. The American people don’t want you involved in these decisions.”

Most Americans, I imagine, don’t want the government to intrude on their private lives at all. The sooner Congress and the Executive realize that, the better off we’ll all be.

In the case of Shiavo, it boiled down to a dispute between private parties, and that’s what the courts are for. State courts. Rather than leave it alone, Republicans in Congress, led by Frist, stepped in. They not only used Shiavo to strengthen their ties with the pro-life momement, they also used her to railroad a private bill through Congress that gave power to the federal courts to take the case for review, despite the fact that it had already been decided by the Florida Supreme Court. Thankfully, the federal court system left it alone. At least part of the government occasionally understands its place.

Now Frist is finally starting to understand that his place isn’t in in the middle of private disputes and matters of state law. Why, it almost seems like he got around to reading the 10th amendment. Hopefully the rest of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, will also have this understanding.

We’ll see. After meeting the press, it’s usually back to business as usual in Congress.

That Pungent Odour from the North Ain’t Bacon, My Friends, It’s Democracy

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Apparently our quaint neighbours to the north have finished participating in their own crude, Molson-and-syrup soaked simulacrum of democracy. And after 12 years of liberal rule, the Conservative Party has won a majority of seats in Parliament. The Canadian press is in a tizzy over the news (Read: here, here & here). It will undoubtedly be the top Canadian story of the year, unless a hockey player spontaneously bursts into flames during the Stanley Cup.

What does this mean for US-Canadian relations? Who knows. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper won the election by a small margin, and the victory was more a response to governmental ineptitude and corruption than a desire to reevaluate the international political landscape. Nonetheless, here’s hoping that we hear a little less vowel-garbled vitriol from up north.

We Americans are constantly flagellating ourselves due to our lack of international political knowledge, so take this time to edify yourself. But rest comfortably knowing that the editors at the Toronto Sun think that Congress is close to nominating someone named “Alioto”. The pendulum swings both ways, my friends.

“Free” Uhuh, Right.

Friday, January 20th, 2006

Ah, John Kitzhaber, everyone’s favorite cowboy-booted former governor.  He’s back, and as further evidence that doctors don’t know anything about economics (or business, a fact to which anyone in the financial sector will gladly attest), he’s proposing “free” healthcare for all Oregonians.  Proving that kids in the Journalism school don’t learn anything while busily failing the world’s easiest economics class, Ryan Knutson buys the “free” line hook-line-sinker.  The nut ‘graph:

In the future, O’Leary and all other Oregonians may not have to pay a dime for health coverage if former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed health plan is put into effect. The former emergency room doctor announced his goal to implement drastic reforms to the Oregon health care system to provide free health care to all Oregonians. He hopes to get an initiative in November’s elections and possibly enact legislation in 2007. [Emphasis added]

Right, because the taxes they pay don’t count as expenditure.  I guess the $5000 I paid to Uncle Sam in one way or another in 2005 doesn’t count, then.  Moving on to Kitzhaber’s actual plan:

Kitzhaber’s plan says that pooling tax dollars and federal funds that currently pay for Medicare and Medicaid with the tax break employers currently receive for providing medical insurance for their employees would create an approximate $6.4 billion fund. That fund would provide universal coverage for everyone in the state, yet allow citizens to purchase private insurance if they wanted.

That money breaks down to about $2,000 per person per year, which Kitzhaber said isn’t enough to provide for all Oregonians because the current health care system is too inefficient. However, by overhauling the system to be more cost-effective, the funds would be enough, he told the Register-Guard.

Let’s get this straight, shall we?  His plan relies on diverting money already going to Medicare/caid, diverting other tax revenues from other sources, and “streamlining administrative costs”.  Color me unimpressed.  If the geezer drug giveaway is any indication, this plan is likely to cost much more than initially expected.  Further, there’s going to need to be an additional government bureaucracy to administer this new “free” healthcare.  A couple of years ago the cost of Measure 23 was estimated at $10 billion once the model assumed people with health insurance would drop it to sign on to the socialist medicine.  Kitzhaber’s plan comes up $3.6 billion short of that estimate, and unless he’s got some sort of mystical power over administrative costs, the money is going to have to come from some place.

 States have only two ways to raise money: taxes and debt.  Being that debt is really just deferred taxation, states only have one way to raise money in the long run.  With the heavy anti-growth sentiment in Oregon, the 5.8% unemployment rate (nearly a full percentage point above the national rate), and the cyclical volatility of Oregon’s primary revenue stream (personal income taxes), Kitzhaber’s plan would be a disaster for Oregon.  Unfortunately, the same people who roundly rejected a similar proposal just a few years ago may be duped into ruining their economy with compassion this time.

Son of Democratic Consultant to Sue NBA Player

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

If you’ve watched any ESPN during the past 18 hours than you’ve surely seen clips of the Knicks’ Antonio Davis going up into the stands in the middle of a game. Davis, who acted in a calm and reasonable manner, claims that he saw his wife pushed by a nearby fan named Michael Axelrod. In my mind it’s absolutely ridiculous that a suspension is being considered – this guy did what any concerned spouse would have done if they saw their loved one being harrassed.

Of course, the real outrage isn’t the possibility of Davis being suspended or fined. It’s this:

But Axelrod said Kendra Davis tried to scratch him after he after protested a call. Axelrod said he never laid a hand on Davis’ wife and said he was not drunk.

Axelrod’s father, David, is a prominent Democratic political consultant in Chicago who has worked with Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

“When I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for the Bulls, and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they’re playing,” Michael Axelrod said. “I don’t feel comfortable if players are allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it’s necessary.”

Axelrod’s attorney, Jay Paul Deratany, said he planned to sue Davis and his wife for more than $1 million. Deratany said he was writing the papers Thursday for a battery suit against Kendra Davis and a slander case against Antonio Davis, and planned to file them Friday.

Even if Axelrod’s account is 100% accurate, suing Davis for more than $1 million shows that he is completely unreasonable and only looking to profit off of the situation. Plus- do you think Kendra Davis has never heard hecklers before? Does Axelrod expect us to believe that she flipped out and assaulted him upon simply hearing someone protest a call? Improbable.

Rain, Rain, Here to Stay

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Oh what fun day this has been. So I come into work late today only to find that the basement where we keep a lot of older equipment and files has been flooded (nasty cameraphone pic.) I work in ancient Susan Campbell Hall, so the flooding is a pretty regular occurance. While it isn’t as bad as last time (when our offices were located in the basement and the flooding amounted to a few inches of standing water,) it’s still a pretty big pain due to the constant seepage and damage to any books/files/computers that happened to be on the ground. You’d think they’d have figured out how to contain the water by now, particularly since this is Eugene and it isn’t like the rain suddenly performed a goddamn Pearl Harbor on us.

Of course, a number of other buildings on campus have had significant flooding. I’ve heard that Allen, Friendly, and even Lillis have had flooding. Perhaps most distressingly for the dorm rats, the ODE reports that work crews have had to sandbag Barnhart in order to protect the precious dining hall. What’s worse is that the rain is set to continue.

OC Slammed in R-G Letter to Editor

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Haven’t heard enough whining lately? Check out the letter from Ellen Furstner in today’s Register-Guard:

As long as the Commentator, a UO-funded publication, encourages alcoholism in its annual “Back to the Booze” issue; as long as the UO shuts its eyes to fraternities that, although their houses are supposed to be dry, nevertheless don’t seem to balk at buying alcohol for the students in the dorms, students will believe that getting drunk is a normal and healthy part of college life.

College students will stop drinking if the Commentator stops printing BttB and the fraternities are squeezed dry? I never knew he had so much influence on campus!

Alcohol abuse affects young people’s emotional and physical health, their education, their relationships and their decision-making skills. The UO, to whom we send our children when they first leave the nest, should take its role as guardians of these young people on their new and confusing journey more seriously.

Here’s an idea, Ellen: how about parents teach their kids to drink and behave responsibly rather than expect a University or fraternity to do it for them. Drinking is normal for a majority of students at nearly every public university in the western world. If you’re upset with this, I suggest sending your kids to Haverford.

New Issue Out

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

The new issue is finally, finally, finally, done. Check it out, for the love of God.

“What Happened To Affirmative Action?”

Friday, January 13th, 2006

M. Reza Behnam seems to have been writing this op-ed for the ODE while wearing a stylish tinfoil hat. The issue at hand is the absence of a major in Islamic Studies at the UO. Well, that’s not quite the issue – it’s more the presence of a different major…

What forces led to the inclusion of Judaic studies while excluding Islamic studies? … Are [non-Muslim social science professors] at all responsible for the inclusion of Judaic studies and exclusion of degree programs in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies?

Notice that the very presence of a Judaic Studies major – established via a private endowment, with a whopping two faculty members, and offering (along with a sequence in basic Hebrew) three lecture courses that look to be of quite general interest – constitutes de facto “exclusion” of Islamic Studies.

And the bigoted University establishment won’t stop at this act of exclusion, of course:

Is the plan to hire a specialist on medieval Islam and occasional conferences and special programs on the Middle East a prophylactic exercise to disguise the racism and favoritism of faculty members?

Will the exclusion never end? They’re even hiring a specialist on medieval Islam, the devious bastards.

I’m quite sympathetic to the idea that the UO should offer a major in Islamic Studies under the general social science umbrella, and I’m sure that, if there’s sufficient interest from the student body, this’ll come to pass. What’s more, hiring experts in medieval Islam – besides helping disguise the fact that all the professors who study other things are obviously terrible racists – will help foster this interest. You’d think that people who actually want this to happen would be all for expanding course offerings for students in the social sciences or religious studies – after all, the more pluralistic these faculties are, the more chance they have of attracting undergraduates. It is, however, possible that there is another policy goal here:

Until then, in the interest of balance and fairness, Judaic studies should suspend operations.

Ah. I should have guessed, really.

UPDATE: The ODE feedback forum presents an exciting pop quiz:

“Do you not see the parallel between the black civil rights movement of the 60’s and the rights of the muslim community now?”

No!

“So do you blame the Catholic diocese for its wayward child molesters?”

Yes!

And so on.

You, Me & Raney

Friday, January 13th, 2006

Check out Nicholas Wilbur’s story on the Designated Driver Shuttle in today’s Emerald. The ODE does a nice job covering the story and expressing an appropriate level of outrage in the accompanying editorial, but one has to wonder about this line:

We are astounded that these shenanigans transpired. We are even more surprised that they were allowed to continue.

Student group leaders receiving stipends yet repeatedly acting irresponsibly and in a criminal manner? Inconceivable!

Because We Haven’t Actually Always Been At War With Eurasia.

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

The headline is my answer to this headline.

In typical ODE columnist fashion, Kristen Brock takes a completely nutty position and then manages to completely miss the point. Her column, I’d like to note, is called “Illustrating Absurdity”, to which I say (as an English compatriot might): Quite.

Let’s go ahead and get down to the naughty bits:

However, the FISA court isn’t always fast enough, or it sometimes serves as an obstacle in and of itself. Because of the FISA court’s reluctance in granting domestic wiretap warrants, the FBI decided not to file for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer because it had been turned down so many times in the past. If the warrant had a good chance of being granted, the U.S. government would have known about the Sept. 11 attacks months in advance.

This would be true…if FISA didn’t provide a 72 hour window to obtain a retroactive warrant. That’s right, kids, under FISA the government can get a warrant after it’s already searched whatever the bejesus it was interested in. The rest of the column rambles off into Jimmy-Carter-Did-It-Too-And-Clinton-Was-Worse la-la land before coming to this gem of a penultimate paragraph:

As a Republican, I cringe at the thought of the government being given more power in the — usually vain — hope that it is given back. In this instance, however, I try to remind myself that every administration since the 1960s has been using these programs, and I still have my civil rights intact.

The last time the GOP cringed at the government being given more power was at least a decade ago, and we’ve all seen that, really, that only boiled down to partisan politics after all. And, frankly, this kind of crap going on against American citizens violates (just off the top of my head) the Fourth Amendment and the due process clause of the Fifth. Do you remember those, Kristen? They’re in what’s called the Bill of Rights. You do know what that is, right? As for the government yielding back power once it’s granted, I’ll point you to the “temporary” Federal Excise Tax that was started in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the final paragraph:

Is the president’s practice of authorizing spying without warrants a bit frightening? Of course. But is it an impeachable offense? Hardly. The Democrats need to cut their losses, drop the issue and focus on something that’s actually important.

I think she’s right here folks, those pesky Democrats (admittedly likely doing the right thing for the wrong reason) should shut up and let Bush 43 go ahead and wiretap any citizen he feels like without a warrant. I mean, Jimmy Carter did something similar and they like Carter! And, besides, it’s not like Bush has suspended habeas corpus the way Jefferson tried to in order to get Aaron Burr for treason or the way Lincoln did during the Civil War….Oh wait.

Even Risk Wasn’t This Simplistic

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

I feel bad for not providing more context in the last post: after all, this is no laughing matter. That thirty-five (or three-and-a-half – hey, who’s counting?) billion dollars is, in fact

the amount of money slated to be spent between now and 2011 on reorganizing all Army forces as well as increasing active Army combat brigades by 30 percent.

There. Context! Alas, this is immediately construed as

In five years, the U.S. Army will occupy 30 percent more of the world — good news for weapons industries and global outsourcing opportunities.

No. That’s not what the last sentence you wrote means.

A Career In Accountancy Beckons

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

Oh, alright. If nobody else is going to point this out, I can’t resist. Here we have the peerless Ailee Slater thinking out loud about the federal budget.

The number 35 billion is so large it takes a minute to comprehend what it really means. There are 1,000 millions in a billion.

Yes. Yes, there are.

That is akin to 1,000 $1 million stacks of money. And $1 million is a sizable stack of money.

Very true.

Needless to say, 3,500 stacks of $1 million is an even more sizable amount.

Once again I am in complete agreement. It’s especially needless since this number – the one that we’re taking a minute to comprehend – would amount to 35,000 of these stacks, not 3,500 – but whichever way you look at it, “needless” is the word.

Anyway, after a bit more fun with numbers, we eventually learn:

Just like the years before it, 2006 will be gone in the blink of an eye. Perhaps only then can the nation evaluate whether this year’s federal funds have been wisely spent.

Now, I wasn’t a journalism major, but this may not be the best way, in January 2006, of ending a column that evaluates whether or not this year’s federal funds are being wisely spent. I’m just sayin’.

Stop Global Warming: Clearcut a Forest Today

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

According to a BBC news article:

Scientists in Germany have discovered that ordinary plants produce significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which helps trap the sun’s energy in the atmosphere.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature, have been described as “startling”, and may force a rethink of the role played by forests in holding back the pace of global warming.

Ahh, it would seem that the decline in logging in the pacific northwest has been contributing to global warming! I wonder, what does OSPIRG think about this?

I don’t have much else to say, other than I look forward to the next contradictory study about global warming to come out.