Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hell on Earth.
Michael Totten has this very revealing look at the real France. Not the one you see in pictures. He details the differences in the old style of archetecture, the one that you see in pictures, and the new style, made famous by Le Corbusier. The new style, apparently is boxish, soviet like, and drives your spirit into the ground. The grand old Paris is now just a small part of the ugly landscape that is modern Paris.
He also talks about the problems of immigration and how those who live in those dreary suburbs feel about those who live in the ivory towers of central Paris.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

El Salvador reprise.
In addition to this terrific article by David Brooks in the New York Times comparing the coming elections in Iraq to the elections in El Salvador in 1982, OxBlog takes things a bit further and really sums up how important these elections are, and how important it will be for the entire population of Iraq to accept the elected government as legitimate. OxBlog quote:
Yet because the United States was truly committed to a democratic outcome, it ultimately persuaded the Salvadoran electorate to side with its elected government. On a related note, another fact that Brooks might have pointed out if he had more space was that the democratization of El Salvador facilitated the end of its horrific civil war.
If this Shi'ite-Kurdish state demonstrates respect for its citizens' rights, both personal and political, the residents of Sunni Iraq will begin to ask themselves whether they truly prefer to be ruled by violent Islamic fundamentalists. For the moment, the alternative to fundamentalist dictatorship is American occupation. But if the alternative were an elected Iraqi government, the results might be very different.
The elections must take place on schedule. Bush understands that. Kerry seems to also, indicated in recent speeches.

Measure 33
Onto more interesting things to vote on. The title of this measure is: Amends Medical Marijuana Act. Requires marijuana dispensaries for supplying patients/caregivers; raises patient possession limit.
Here’s the Sec of State website explanation of the measure.

According to the explanation, the measure would create a licensing program for distributing pot for patients. You apparently would still be able to distribute to less than 10 patients without a license. The licensed distributors would be subject to lots of auditing, tracking, inspections and such. It also increases the amount that patients can possess at one time. They may possess as much as a pound of cannabis or, if they only harvest once a year, as much as 6 pounds. One other thing it does is add to the list of professionals who can prescribe it, including naturopaths and registered nurses.
This is interesting: “The measure requires a program for indigent patients to receive medical marijuana at no cost from licensed dispensaries.” What’s that about? Free pot?

Here’s a site that is encouraging a yes vote on OregonVotes, who argue that patients who require cannabis and cannot grow it on their own often have a hard time finding legal sources.

Here’s an article displaying the major players involved pro and con. The major objection seems to be the amount that patients can have at any one time. I have to admit 6 pounds is a LOT of pot. I don’t think most folks can understand just what that looks like, since it’s a plant, and the weight of a large amount is negligible. I remember a guy in college who, along with a buddy, bought a pound for the school year and it took them MANY months to smoke the stuff.
Now having said that, I don’t know how often patients need to take it, but if the DAs are correct and six pounds equals one joint every hour for the whole year, I think that is indeed excessive.

Here’s a message from a patient and user under the current system in favor of the new measure.

The ACLU is supporting the measure. We should not be surprised at this, as the ACLU is noted for its support of decriminalization of Cannabis.

The Oregon Medical Association urges a NO vote.

The Pacific Green Party endorses it. Also no surprise.

And, although I can’t find references on the Oregon Republican Party site, I’m sure they are against it.
The Democratic Party of Oregon website indicates that the process of ballot measure endorsements is still in process. Their web site, by the way, is far better than the Republican site. Not as pretty, but very functional and full of information.

Another story, here in Willamette Week, where the original poster girl for the first measure, Stormy Ray, is against this current measure, but not for the reasons you would think. She is against the selling of cannabis and is happy with the “cooperative, cash free system that empowers the sick.”

The McMinnville News-Register is against it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Measure 32.
True to stripes, I'm back with the second measure on November's ballot. This one seems even more innocuous than Measure 31. Once again there is not much on this one. Most sites just list the ballot title, and there are no campaigns for measures referred from the Senate.
The Oregonian printed it's recommendations on the 14th of September for both Measures 31 and 32. Their explination for 31 still does not satisfy me and so I'm still wondering how I'm going to vote (knowing that it probably won't matter too much), but thier explination of 32 is like what I've heard and it does in fact look like a housekeeping thing.
Basically, until now mobile homes have been treated like cars in the tax code and the taxes and fees regarding them have been earmarked for transportation. This measure will change the code so that the taxes from mobilehomes will go to expenses related to building codes. The overall taxes on people living in mobile homes will not change.
Sounds fine to me. Once again the question flittering in my mind is, "Why are we being bothered with this? Why does it need to be an amendment?"
This article from the McMinnville Register Guard answers that, sort of. "Two measures on the Nov. 2 ballot are there because legislators, by themselves, cannot alter Oregon's Constitution."
Apparently the mobile homes are singled out specifically in the Constitution.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Oregon Measure 31.
Here's the text and explanation.

Ok this sounds really tame, like it's just a procedure change. The text of the bill says that there will be no financial hit on government if passed. But here's my question: why do we need to go through this at all? I don't get why it's necessary, or even why elections can't be postponed now. From what I've read in the text of the measure, if candidates vote for the dead guy, then the current office holder stays in office until a subsequent election anyway.
Most sites just quote the official explanation of the measure, saying something like "current law does not provide for postponement of elections due to the death of one of the candidates," but what does that mean really?

The Green Party seems to oppose it, although they don't say why.
Jackson County's Mail Tribune has an opinion (which starts talking about measure 38) but later endorses measures 31 and 32 as reasonable housekeeping measures.

RoguePundit has a post several days ago on this and spends considerable text on it. He thinks it is a good idea, but poorly written and narrow. The bill was written when local legislators read about Mel Carnahan, then Governor of Missouri, who died during his run for Senator. Legislators wondered what would happen in Oregon if a candidate died and crafted this bill. The bill just applies to state offices (Governor, Attrny gen, Sec of State, Senator, Rep) and only applies to major party candidates. Which is probably why the Green party opposes it.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Local Boy.
I'm stopping for a while to pay attention to some of the local issues here in Oregon. We have a mayoral race here in Portland and several ballot measures to pay attention to. I figure that the Dan Rather - Forged document issue, the election and debates, and terrorism are getting good treatment from other bloggers, so I'll ask all those of you who want info on that to check out Instapundit or Winds of Change for thier almost constant blogging of issues that I usually make note of.
Ballot measures can either be real easy or real hard. Some are moral or constitutional issues that are obvious to the voter (although not all voters feel the same, like measure 36 this year).

Here are the measures up for grabs in November:
Measure 31. Constitutional amendment. Permits postponing of election when nominee for that office dies.
Measure 32. Constitutional amendment. Deletes a provision regarding mobile homes dealing with taxes and fees on motor vehicles.
Measure 33. Amendment to Medical Marijuana act. Raises possession limit. Requires regulated dispensaries for distribution.
Measure 34. Requires balancing Timber production. Specific to two forests.
Measure 35. Limits non-economic damages for patient injuries caused by medical negligence or recklessness.
Measure 36. Constitutional Amendment. Defines marriage as one woman/one man.
Measure 37. Government must pay landowners when restrictions reduce land value.
Measure 38. Abolishes SAIF and requires the state to re-insure with some other mechanism or private insurer.

I'll start tackling these as soon as I can, because I want to be as informed as I can regarding these.
Florida Court shoots down law keeping Terri Schiavo alive.
Saw this one this morning. In the mix of court decisions that I find suspect, including the ones shooting down the abortion ban and the local one denying Ralph Nader a spot on the ballot, this one really came at me with a sledgehammer.
Here's the money statement from the court:
"It is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote.
OK, isn't it a mark of the separation of powers that if a majority of the legislature AND the executive branch thinks the Judicial end of things is out of line that they have the power to do something about it? I'm not familiar with the Florida Constitution and how the three branches of opperate to control each other, but this smells fishy. I am cynical about the authority of the judicial branch not just because of this, but the cases keep piling up where courts don't just apply law but try to create it or modify it for their purpose. What controls do the other branches really have against this?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Kerry on the War.
John Kerry made a speach detailing how his foreign policy will work.
Aurthur Chrenkoff is not impressed. Some of his stances are not based on any fact in the real world. The ones that are, Bush is already pursuing.
So why are we supposed to vote for you, Sen Kerry?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Argument for Kerry
I have to say that this is probably the best argument that could be made for Kerry as a war hawk. If anyone could do it, it's Mike Totten.
First of all, the anti-war movement is more anti-Bush than it is anti-war. Don't believe it? Ask yourself how many protesters would have filled the streets if Hillary Clinton led the charge against Saddam Hussein.
Michael argues that the Democrats really wouldn't shut down the war, that it's consistant with their liberal philosophy, freeing nations and promoding democracy. But it's all a Hate Bush thing right now and they will eventually embrace it and be able to reunite the nation for the cause.
The urgent need to shunt the UN aside was obvious when Bill Clinton was president. It will be obvious once again when the UN tries to hamstring John Kerry.
He endsd by saying that convincing Kerry that proactive measure must be taken once he is in the hot seat and once he has access to the same intelligence that Bush has that he will be more hawkish and he could be convinced that pre-emption is necessary.
Sounds pretty thin though.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

GPS and the Peterson Case
I can't believe this is up again. The defence lawyers are really stretching this time. They are STILL trying to get the GPS tracking data out of the case, even when the judge in the case OK'd the data as evidence last winter.
I've noticed that some news media folk don't seem to remember the February ruling, but I'm not really surprised that the attention span is that short.
Daniel Drezner has an interesting post on a study done by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (affiliated with AFL-CIO) stating that unemployment figures for tech workers, including programmers, are huge (6.7%) whereas during the recession it wasn't as bad (2.5% in 2001).
The only paragraph supporting their claim that offshore outsourcing is a major cause of this dirth of jobs is void of any real connection between the two.
Drezner is skeptical. So am I.
I'm not surprised that it took until after 2001 for all the programmers that were in employment because of the big tech boom of the 90s to finally get canned. A typical employer is not so crass as to fire an employee the minute the economy takes a down turn. They try to ride the storm to a certain extent. But after 9/11 I'm sure the jobs started to take a mighty turn downward.
Also, I have an anecdodal experience with the GIS Programming industry. In addition to our own efforts to hire someone a couple of years ago and finding no one in the US (at least those who applied) we really liked (we hired Canadian that time), I know a company here in town that has been looking for a couple of GIS Programmers. They haven't seen any worthy applications yet. Are there really any qualified applicants here in the US, or is that why they are going out of country?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Instapundit has been blogging up such a storm over this CBS Dan Rather-gate issue that I haven't felt the need. Therefore I won't. Check his posts for the last week.
But one of his posts offers a great reason to trust Blogs. I have been often asked why, when people can put anything they want on the internet, can you trust information jotted down on any random website.
Well... As Glenn writes, you can definitely mitigate that with links to support your claims, and with the internet you can Google and research the topic without too much trouble. Indeed I'm beginning to learn to trust these guys as much or more-so than the traditional media (who have proven that they can be just as un-trustable as any web site out there).

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Winds of Change has their Africa roundup today. Check out all that's news on the continent of Africa.
Also: Via that same link, here is the latest top 10 dictators in the world, as listed by Parade magazine. Surely one of Dr. Evil's favorite lists.
Kerry repudiates himself.
William Kristol:

JOHN KERRY said yesterday that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Translation: We would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

Not an unheard of point of view. Indeed, as President Bush pointed out today, it was Howard Dean's position during the primary season. On December 15, 2003, in a speech at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, Dean said that "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer." Dean also said, "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion."

But who challenged Dean immediately? John Kerry. On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

Kerry was right then.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Islamic self-criticism.
The L.A. Times reported that some prominent Arabs have come forward recently and declared that:
"Our terrorist sons are an end product of our corrupted culture," he wrote. "The picture is humiliating, painful and harsh for all of us."
That was Abdul Rahman Rashed of a prominent Arabic television station. This was following the Russian school children thing. Is the tide turning?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Mapping the Galaxy.
Here I was recently talking about mapping kid's neighborhoods as an example of how small in scope geography can get. The smallest mapping project ever has been the mapping of the human genome. Now we see an example going in the other direction, as the large radio telescope in Puerto Rico, known as Arecibo, is on project to map the known galaxy.
The radio telescope, the world's most sensitive listening device that is powerful enough to hear planets forming several billion lights years away, received six more radio receivers to expand its range.
The project will take at least 2 years because other projects are going on at the same time that utilize the telescope. I'm glad that this mapping won't bully those other important useful, scientific projects. Oh, wait:
However, the process is likely to take at least two years to allow other astronomers to work on other projects like searching for extraterrestrial life, he said.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Geography of the Local.
Research in inner-city Buffalo is interacting with children by studying how they experience their neighborhoods through geography. I have long though we should be teaching them to understand geography on the local level first.
They seem to get the States and Nations thing OK, but it doesn't really fall in their mental context well. However, kids perceive their local environment much better. I have often tried to explain the relationships to my son about where New Mexico is in relation or Oregon and, because of air travel, doesn't grasp that as much as he does a trip to the store. He is 8 and just getting used to the larger picture. This study done in Buffalo watched how kids in the inner city saw the area they lived in differently by the maps they made and the pictures they took:
At the same time, the UB researchers who supervise the project are discovering how children in inner cities view their physical surroundings, what makes them feel good or bad about urban places and how the children themselves impact their communities. They also are exploring how those perceptions could contribute to a more meaningful geography curriculum at the elementary school level.
The diverse projects are helping Cope and her students learn more about the microgeographies—the small-scale social/spatial interactions of everyday life—of children's urban experiences, uses of different spaces and perceptions of neighborhoods.
My feeling is that we should concentrate on the local more when the kids are young and then proceed to the regional and national in more detail later. Geography is much more than maps and knowing where the states and countries are. But knowing how to read maps and understand spatial relationships is much more important. Knowing the capital of New Hampshire when you are 10 isn't as important as knowing the location of the capital of your own state (unless you live in New Hampshire), what neighborhood you live in and the geography of the areas that affect your life, along with some spatial theory on why the geography matters. Memorizing capitals is just a lesson in memorization, not in geography.
(Note: I don't say that because I didn't like memorizing capital names. I was really good at it. But I don't think it is that important. It's more important to learn how to read a map and know how to find the capitals on it)
Kerry's Record.
Not his war record, his voting record. Hey, I like what the Republicans are doing here at the convention. They aren't going after Kerry's war record. Partially because it is already getting scrutiny outside the party, but also because it really shouldn't matter. What should matter is what Kerry has been doing for the last 20 years in the Senate and what he has said for the last couple of years regarding current issues. So instead of slamming Kerry for his war record, which is what the Dems want him to do, they are critisizing his (gasp!) actual political credentials as a senator.
You mean they are actually talking issues? Yes, that's right. Issues, not name calling.
To be fair, they Dems did a fair amout talking about issues, but spent most of the time saying that they would be better than Bush, without really saying how. And they really pushed the fact that Kerry was in the war and won lots of medals, and his main qualification, without really discussing his record over the past two decades much.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Chechen Terrorism.
We aren't the only ones having problems with terrorists. In this case it's the Russians trying to deal with a group who took a school full of kids and is holding them hostage. With all the problems with suicide bombers scuttling planes and blowing up subway stations.
Interestingly, those earlier bombings were perpetrated by women, who the authorities are now calling "Black Widows."
I have been pretty neutral about this conflict that Russia has found itself in up until now. The current Russian administration has it's flaws and Soviet style authoritarian tendencies, but threatening to kill school children is over the line and suddently I'm rooting for the Russians.