Thursday, December 29, 2005

Race relations today

Via Instapundit this morning I learned that America might have one of the first instances of black people infringing on the voting rights of white people.  Only in Alabama.

      Using the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the government has alleged that Brown and local elections officials discriminated against whites. It is the first time the Justice Department has ever claimed that whites suffered discrimination in voting because of race.

Brown thinks it’s politically motivated and that the Justice Department is in league with the Republican Party.  Although one of the witnesses is a Democrat.  He’s white, however, and alleges that Brown imports black candidates from out of county to run for offices against white Democrats.

      The president of the Mississippi NAACP, Derrick Johnson, says there is still plenty of discrimination against black voters in the state, and he questions the Bush administration's priorities in bringing this suit.

      "We've had several issues over the years of what appeared to be racial discrimination against black voters and the Justice Department has yet to come in and do a thorough investigation," Johnson said. "And for them to take on this case is highly unusual and very suspect."

I think that Johnson might be right about that.  I know that there is still discrimination against black people in this country, although nothing like 30 years ago, and he perhaps there are dubious motivations surrounding the Justice Department’s case.  However, if Brown IS in the wrong here, two wrongs definitely don’t make a right, and if you really want to make a point, Mr. Brown and Mr. Johnson, please prove that you are better than the white racists by proving that you are not racists yourselves.

Making lawsuits harder

A judge ordered environmentalists to pay a bond in order to delay logging on a plan in Montana.  Justification is that it will help prevent suing legal logging operations in order to drain the coffers of the logging companies.

      The National Forest Service did a full environmental impact statement on this logging proposal.  Since then, the environmental groups in question have gotten a couple of restraining orders while the courts considered, then rejected their complaints.  Now after spending considerable time and money fighting this "hazardous fuels reduction project," the environmental groups claim they don't have the money to post the bond to stop this "illegal" logging. 

I think it’s obvious what the tactic of the environmental group is here, and this kind of thing happens in Oregon all the time.  I’m not surprised that environmental minded groups are not happy with this verdict, as they aren’t typically interested in what the legal system has to say to them.  I wonder if this verdict, in making it very hard for them to use the legal system in the only way they know how, will make lawless protest activity more frequent.

Oregon State politics

Roguepundit noted that Oregon partisans have learned to work together.
If it means helping the to keep them in power.

      Partisan politicians who run as independents will need to get nominating signatures from nonaffiliated voters or those who don't vote in the primary, said John Lindback, the director of the state Elections Division.

      Which is trying to prevent another Ralph Nader situation where Democrats accused Republicans of signing petitions to get him on the ballot just in order to suck liberal votes away from the Democrats.

However, I think that this will only hurt the democratic process in the long run.  Nice job, Oregon representatives.
Oh, yeah, and another thing: while government officials are complaining about large corporations not funding their pensions or stealing money from them, do you think they could clean up their own act and learn how to fund their own?  (That one also brought to you from Rogue)

Albuquerque, in sum

Vacations can be fun, relaxing and food for the soul.  The one I took last week is no exception.  I did a good part of my growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a very dry place, only to spend the better part of my adult life in Portland, Oregon.  The contrast is striking.

Here’s a great picture of Albuquerque at night from the top of Sandia.
Here are some other photos.  I regret that I don’t have many myself, as they are almost all personal and involve unwrapping presents and such.

Getting back there is always a treat.  Some parts remind me of my childhood, but since my parents moved out of our southeast middle class neighborhood and into the heights near the mountain, I’ve found that I spend almost no time in the old haunts any more.  I really can’t “go back home” as the saying goes.  But home is where the heart, or the family, is, and so my parents new place is home enough when I’m there.

Albuquerque, for those of you who imagine that it never gets cold, is often below freezing in the winter, and does get snow every winter, although not much.  It’s at 5,500 feet (over 6k at my parents place) and sits in the middle of the continent.  The skiing is powdery and dry, but the ski area on Sandia, the peak over Albuquerque, is hard pressed to get enough snow to open some years.

However, this year it was quite warm in New Mexico while we were there.  If you can’t have a white Christmas, why not have a warm and sunny one.  There were a couple of days I decided shorts and a light sweatshirt were quite enough to run around doing errands with.

While there I also make a point of eating lots of New Mexican food drenched with green chile.  No, I didn’t spell that wrong.  Chili is the sauce you serve with beans and usually comes in a can con-carne.  Chiles are what you call the peppers down there.  The green and red chiles used in New Mexico are often used in place of other sauces in dishes.  My favorite enchiladas come covered in chile instead of some enchilada sauce, and are served flat instead of rolled.  Chile Rellenos are a popular dish, as is green chile stew, and huevos rancheros (eggs) are made with green chile instead of salsa. 

By the way, cilantro is an herb that originated in Asia, but was imported when Europeans started coming here.  New Mexicans cook dishes that have histories dating back hundreds of years, and I didn’t taste one leaf shred while I was down there.  I generally disagree with putting cilantro or heavy amounts of herbs in Mexican cooking.

Sopapillas are served with most meals, as readily as rolls in American-style restaurants, and are deep fried so that they puff up instead of stay flat like Mexican Sopas (and don’t roll them in cinnamon/sugar).  You tear them open, put a little honey in them and eat them after the main meal to subdue the spices from the chile.  You can’t get them made that way up here, at least I don’t ever see them, so I crave them when down there.

I don’t often get down there for this, but if you are in the area in October, Albuquerque hosts the worlds largest hot air balloon festival.  Since you can see most of the city from basically anywhere in the city (as a result of the geography) watching can be an anywhere-in-town experience and is fantastic to behold, although being at the launching grounds is the coolest.

I’m back in Portland now, and blogging should resume at it’s normal pace after the new year, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

When the cows come home

I’m taking the week off.  Anyone reading this who doesn’t know me personally should know that when I take vacations, I don’t browse, google, blog, or pay much attention at all to the outer world.  I just relax.  I’m taking a trip down to the land of my roots.

Actually I just did most of my growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was born and spent a little of my toddler life in the east.  But I consider the Duke City the home that I left when I became an adult, so I make the pilgrimage there every once and a while and hang with the folks and my sisters.  Usually every other Christmas at least.  We put up some luminarias (or farolitos if you like), play hearts, eat excellent New Mexican food and catch up.

Have a Merry CHRISTmas and may God see to it that your new year is better than the last one.  Laters…

Partisanship for Kiddies

I saw this article in the Oregonian today.  It seems that some want to shower their political mania on kids

      That's why this holiday season we have books such as "Why Mommy Is a Democrat" and "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!"

Please!  Freaks, please leave the children alone.  Let them grow up thinking the world is a wonderful, magical place.  They’ll figure out the rest all too soon on their own.

A reader noted that the article brings up Bill O’Reilly’s book “The O’Reilly Factor for Kids” as an example of a conservative writing a political book for kids, but if the author had bothered to research the book a bit, he would note that this book had very little to do with politics, but was O’Reilly trying to educate kids about growing up and what to expect.  Not that he really has the background for that kind of thing, ala Bill Bennet or something.  More lazy reporting.

Darfur update

Just in case you were wondering:  No, things aren’t getting any better in Darfur, Sudan.  Things seem to be getting worse, and the African Union “peacekeepers seem to be getting their operating instructions from the UN, meaning that they aren’t keeping any peace, just protecting foreigners.

Professor Eric Reeves has been arguing for NATO intervention, and I have made noises like that myself for a while now.  He also has a couple of great maps of the region.

Amendment madness

I would like to continue my non-partisan gripe, soon to become a crusade, about congresspersons who attach bills or amendments onto larger legislation because the larger bill is certain-to-pass, and their amendment might not get consideration otherwise.  I think this is not an ethical practice, even though it seems to be fully allowed and encouraged by practically everyone. 

How many times has a good or necessary bill gone down in flames because of some ultra-controversial rider, or how many bad laws and allocations of taxpayer’s money have ridden on widely supported bills?

Just to show that, despite my conservative bent, I don’t play party favorites on this point, I would like to declare shame upon Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) for trying to attach the ANWR drilling bill to the latest military budget bill.  That bill has money for hurricane relief, and, I’m sorry, but ANWR has nothing to do with military or relief budgets.

      But Stevens, who has fought since the 1980s to pry open ANWR, indicated he would not give up easily.
      "I want you to know we're going to be here until (New Years Day) ... We're going to stay here until this is finished," Stevens said just before the vote. "I can't go home for Christmas. I've already canceled (airplane tickets)."

Do I think the ANWR bill is a good idea?  Sure.  Do I think that environmentalists are talking out of their hindquarters about the impact of drilling.  Yes, I do.  However, I think that holding his colleagues in session for Christmas will get him no more clout or support on Capitol Hill, nor will it get him any kudos from me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NSA ramblings

I have only glossed the surface in reading about Bush’s NSA snooping scandal, which is looking less like a scandal and more like a low level debate about accountability of intelligence gathering during wartime.

However, in reading this 60 minutes transcript from February of 2000 regarding the subject (and, as Glenn Reynolds notes:  note that date.  It’s not just Bush), where Steve Kroft interviews an ex-spy, I am more concerned for the intelligence of the analysts reading the conversations.

      Q: Is it possible for people like you and I, innocent civilians, to be targeted by Echelon?
      Mr. FROST: Not only possible, not only probable, but factual. While I was at CSE, a classic example: A lady had been to a school play the night before, and her son was in the school play and she thought he did a--a lousy job. Next morning, she was talking on the telephone to her friend, and she said to her friend something like this, 'Oh, Danny really bombed last night,' just like that. The computer spit that conversation out. The analyst that was looking at it was not too sure about what the conversation w--was referring to, so erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady and her phone number in the database as a possible terrorist.

Really?  As an intelligence analyst, you listened to some conversation a mom was having about her son and that translated: terrorist?  Yikes, I’m more afraid of the CIA than ever.

I note that later in the show, they interview European Parliamentary members about their concern that the US is using the information they get for American industry.  Which to me, just sounds like sorry loser ranting.  Take it to court, and win, and then I’ll take that whining seriously.


The American goalkeeper most likely to play in the World Cup this year is former University of Portland keeper Kasey Keller.  He has been playing in European leagues for the last 15 years, and has gotten lots of respect from foreign players and coaches.

A few quotes:

      Keller now plays at Bundesliga club Borussia Moenchengladbach, where he is so highly regarded the notoriously critical German fans unfurl banners praising "Kasey 'The Wall' Keller."

      He is rated second in the league among goalkeepers, ahead of the likes of Bayern Munich's Oliver Kahn, a two-time world goalie of the year.

      Keller had a 15-shutout season for England's Leicester City in 1997-98 and 77 saves for Tottenham two years ago, second best in England's top league. His four shutouts in four UEFA Cup rounds boosted Rayo Vallecano of Spain into the quarterfinals in 2001. The two years he spent with the club make him the only American to play in Spain's La Liga.

      Keller's performance in the Americans' 1-0 win over Brazil in 1998 prompted Romario to say it was the greatest performance he had ever seen by a goalkeeper.

Keller started in England in 1990, where he was the first US player to play there on a US passport.  His presence in Europe opened the door for young American players careers abroad.  I thought he was going to get the nod for the 2002 World Cup, but Brad Friedel got it instead.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Don't leave your CD in the light

For those of you who read this blog regularly, this post is a slight departure from the usual.  I don’t normally talk tech, but have to know some of this stuff for the work I do.  The other day I had to learn about the manufacture and components of CDs and DVDs while trying to figure out why our old method of archiving data on CDs wasn’t working.  The CDs were corrupt and producing the error “Cyclical redundancy” from Windows.  If you have ever seen that error, or just like to learn about stuff, this post is for you.

The first thing you’ll need to understand is that there is a difference between CD-ROM technology, which is what you get when buying music CDs or Movie CDs that were produced in the factory, and CD-R, which is what you buy when you want to copy music or data at home or the office.

The above links explain the manufacturing process of both in a quick and simple manner, but for even more brevity, I’ll compress it even more.  The main difference between the two is that CD-ROM disks only contain three layers: a clear polycarbonate layer, which is etched; a reflective aluminum layer; and a lacquer coating (which is the top where the label is commonly printed).  The data is stamped onto the polycarbonate, all at once, so that the microscopic groove contains pits and lands that are interpreted by the laser as 1s and 0s (that’s too simple, but the explanation isn’t necessary for understanding disk manufacture). 

CD-R disks that you buy in the store have several layers, including a non-etched layer of clear polycarbonate, a dye surface, a reflective layer (gold or silver), a lacquer and a label coating.  The dye surface is a metallic dye like Cyanine or Phthalocyanine, which is actually burnt (or melted) when the drive’s laser strikes the surface of the dye layer.  The burn or melted marks simulate the pits on a CD-ROM and can be read by any drive that reads CD-ROMs. 

The reason this is important is that when you copy CDs at home, they will not last as long as CD-ROMs.  Especially if left out in the light too often.  When left out in the open, light degrades the dye over time, so that eventually the pits become faded, and the CD drive reading the information will get confused and render the error I spoke about above.

This brings up an interesting point.  It has been a part of digital lore among us common folk that copying data, or music, to a CD would completely replicate the sound and therefore be identical to the original.  Whether you believe that this is true or not, one thing is certain, and that is that music made industrially by stamping, like all the stuff you buy at Music Millennium or Tower Records, will last you for years, perhaps decades if you take good care of it.  The etched data on those CDs is made of metallic substances and does not degrade when exposed to light.  Look over your music collection and insert the oldest one into your stereo and it will most likely work, if there aren’t too many deep scratches in it.  My oldest CD is probably almost 20 years old. 

However, CD-R are only designed to last about 2 or 3 years.  A CD-R I inserted in my drive just the other day and got the cyclical error was 2 years old.  If you leave it out in the open more it could last even less time than that.  So the product you get from whatever big music media giant production company is actually superior to what you could produce by copying someone else’s CD for your own personal use, and perhaps worth the money if you care about keeping the music you acquire for a long time.

However, with the advent of IPOD and related devices, that may no longer be true.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

World Cup talk

 I’ve been reading some of the talk from the coaches of the National teams that are competing in the World Cup this summer, and their reactions to the draw.  I’m amused.

Some countries realize how lucky they are considering some of the groups contain relative cupcakes.  Group A, for instance, with hosts Germany: “It could have been worse.  We think this group is very doable.”  Poland: “I think our chances have risen.”  They know they got a sweet draw.

Group D, Mexico: “This is a favorable group, one you can compete in.”  That’s an interesting statement coming from a top seeded team.  But they have to realize that they lucked out getting seeded over the U.S. and have to be thankful they didn’t get put in a group like we did.

Most of the lower seeded teams sounded like they were just hoping to play some good soccer.  The responses from Group C caught my eye.  Ivory Coast: “I think this is the toughest one.”  Serbia: “Easy groups do not exist at the World Cup.”  But they could have said that about any group, at least at their skill level, they wouldn’t have much of a chance in any of the groups, let alone one with Holland and Argentina.  However, in case anyone is looking, the group of death is still group E.  Ghana: “Every team will be difficult, but we like challenges…”  At least Ivory Coast and Serbia will get to play each other.  Poor Ghana will be lucky to score and will probably be on their heels in all three games. 

On playing Sweden in Group B, Sven Ericsson:  “It seems to be our destiny to play them.”  (England played Sweden in group last Cup as well).

Of course I’ll be rooting for the US of A this summer.  I’ve always liked watching England and Sweden play, but this year I’ll be rooting for upstarts Trinidad and Tobago, most of whom play in the English leagues.  Stern John used to play in the US.  Said goalkeeper Shaka Hislop: “I am buzzing.  I’ve spoken to all the players based over here and we are looking forward to it.”

I also liked Australia’s joy at just being there: “This is what dreams are made of.”

Offensive Democratic Sticker

A good friend just Emailed me that the Democratic Party website in Washington State was offering a metallic bumper sticker that attacks Christians using a variation of the “Fish” that you see on so many cars.  Here is the original page, which has been removed, although the state organization has not apologized for putting it there in the first place. 

There are other “ribbon” type magnetic stickers too, with more liberal type statements like “Blue State Pride” and “Support our Environment” which, even though they are a rip off of the original support our troop stickers and other things, I think that’s fine.  The anti-Christian one is quite offensive, and to me is just another example of how un-tolerant the Democrats are becoming.  This is ironic since one of the stickers on this page says “Support Diversity.”

Gender gaps and non-wedlock births

Interesting pulling together of numbers.  Richard Bennett compares the numbers on the growing gender gap in American Universities and the out of wedlock birthrate among different ethnic groups and finds that they correlate very closely.

      But why do Asians do so well in higher ed? One reason is family structure. The out-of-wedlock birth rate for Asians is 15%; for whites it’s 29.4%, for Hispanics it’s 45%, and for Blacks it’s 68.2%. The higher the OOW birthrate, the greater the gender gap in higher ed.

Bennett also noticed that the percentage of Asians entering Berkley rose dramatically when California banned Affirmative Action and they removed the Asian quota on enrollment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Totten in Egypt

Michael Totten is describing his journey to Cairo, Egypt, in great detail.  He is comparing it to Beirut, where he has been living for a couple of months now.

It’s totally worth reading, but he’s not done yet, check his site for the next few days and get the rest.

Sporty Anecdote

They say that sports imitates life.  Perhaps in the sense that we take all our frustrations, our hopes, our aggressions and emotions and frequently pour them out into professional and amateur sports.  We create heroes and demons to root for or against.  We fixate on the beauty and complexity of each sport’s machinations.  Strategy and tactics are like armies fighting battles in wartime, and each team like the troops of some free and democratic nation, battling for victory over a field of other free and democratic (but antagonistic?) nations.

At other times, though, the mirror into our society that high profile sports becomes does not reflect well on us.   Recently, or not so recently, Olympic track and field stars have been accused and often penalized for taking performance enhancing drugs.  Now, I know we can all get confused by this because these drugs are commonly not illegal in the real world.  But it’s felt that they give unfair advantage to people who prefer to compete with what God gave them.  And so the powers that be in the sporting world put tight reigns on what drugs athletes can use, much like our government restricts the use of drugs they deem dangerous to society.

Like in the real world with illegal drugs, sports have legal systems that try and punish athletes who abuse the regulations.  Recently, two sprinters for the United States, Tim Montgomery and Chryste Gaines, were handed two year suspensions for using prohibited substances.

      This is not a defense of Montgomery or Gaines. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid scandal showed the dark side of a win-at-all-costs mentality adopted by seemingly upstanding athletes. Odds are good that Montgomery and Gaines were lured by a competitive advantage in a syringe.

      At issue here is the dangerous precedence set in determining their guilt.
      Lacking actual positive drug tests, USADA went after Montgomery and Gaines for what it called "non-analytical positives" -- evidence without a smoking gun. The arbitration panel found that evidence to be "strong, indeed uncontroverted."

So, the USADA was trying to set a precedent, going after two people highly suspected of taking enhancements, and showing the rest of the athletes under their umbrella what testing positive will get you.

But Montgomery and Gaines were never tested positive for anything, and testimony was largely based on the testimony of another athlete who was also suspended, but is only serving that suspension (instead of lifetime ban for two incidents) because she promised to testify against other athletes.  Does that make the case sufficient to establish guilt?

I like the Biblical precedent of the necessity of at least two people to establish witness against another person.  But the USADA’s use of a single, fairly un-credible witness is proof that they were only trying to get some shred of verification of the story they already believed was the truth.

I see this attitude in society at large.  Perhaps it hasn’t totally worked it’s way into the judicial system proper.  You will most likely get a fair trial because of the rule of law that has guided this country since it’s founding.  But people too often make judgments before evidence is presented.  Politicians pontificate on subjects that are beyond their understanding and make policy with only the thinnest of factual support for their platforms.  Or with none at all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gerrymandering in the news

So the Texas redistricting issue is now going before the Supreme Court.  I leave it to you, the reader, to peruse the article, look on Google, pick up your newspaper, whatever, and get the bulk of the story.   Quick context is that the state Republican party wants to redraw the districts in a non-census year (which is when you would normally do it) and the Democrats are taking this up the fish ladder, all the way to top, claiming that the redistricting will favor Republicans heavily, and therefore is partisan and wrong and unconstitutional.

But this is a long standing argument about gerrymandering that caused the Texas state Democratic party to exile themselves, first in New Mexico and then in Oklahoma, in order that the state senate would not have a quorum, and therefore could not vote on the redistricting plan.  At it’s very essence, it’s a partisan battle to decide who controls the House of Reps next year.  The difference between the way districts were drawn in 2002 and today, and with the Republican plan, makes or breaks several legislative campaigns for either party.  Does anyone think that either party is speaking totally truthfully?

Of all the articles I’ve read, none pick up why this became an issue in the first place.  Of note, before 2002, the primarily red state of Texas was for some reason still electing a lot of Democrats to the US House.  Why is that?  Exactly, extreme gerrymandering was already in place!  The Republicans effort here should be considered as it is:  a move to eradicate bad districting in the state of Texas.

However, I haven’t seen the re-districting.  It may be that the Republican plan is just as bad, only in the other direction.  It is possible to draw districts so that large areas of your opponents supporters are diluted into your strong areas until they just don’t have a majority anywhere.  So It’s possible that the redistricting does dilute the voting power of minorities.   But the question is:  are the minority populations of Texas getting their voting rights purposefully stomped on by the Republicans, or are their districts just getting less potent because they were heavily gerrymandered in the first place, giving them a disproportionate amount of voting power?

Here’s a better article, and since it’s coming from Texas, it has better information.

World Cup draw

I’m a bit late by this one, as it happened on Friday.  I saw the draw on TV, but you have to be a real fanatic fan of soccer to retain your interest through that entire program.  The announcers, the Irishman Tommy Smith among them, sat and pondered the possibilities for England and the US for about a half an hour, and then the draw took the rest of the hour. 

The draw consisted of a proper Englishman as MC, and a host of soccer legends, like Pele and Johan Cryuff, picking team names out of a bowl.

Basically, the results of that draw have produced a group of death.  Here’s the draw.  The United States happens to be in that group of death this year.  The US has to fight it out with Italy, the Czech republic and Ghana just to make it out of the first round.  Our chances are bleak. 

However Ives Galarcep has a more positive take on this.

      Rather than dreading the worst-case scenarios and imagining a result similar to World Cup 1998, when the United States went winless and finished in last place, American soccer fans should be relishing the opportunity their team has to make a statement. World Cups are about memories and triumphs that endure.

If the US were to get out of that group alive, they would most probably be matched up with Brazil.  Talk about making a statement.


Senator Coburn is being denied his ability to practice medicine (he delivers babies) by the Senate saying that he is receiving “compensation for practicing a profession which involves a fiduciary relationship.”  He hasn’t been generating any profit from that activity, which basically means that he can’t keep current on his license, since he has claimed that he only intends to serve in the Senate for two terms.  He needs to keep current so he can go back to being a doctor afterwards.

Note that many of the Senators opposing him are upset by his anti-pork crusade. 
Hat tip to Instapundit.

Friday, December 09, 2005

How your charity money is spent

I received this Email from a friend.  Not sure where the data comes from, or if it's fact, but if it is, it's interesting, and it will influence my decision where to send money next time the disaster bug bites humanity.

    As you open your pockets for yet another natural disaster, keep these facts in mind:

    - Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the  American Red Cross... salary for year ending 06/30/03  was $651,957 plus expenses.

    - Brian Gallagher,  President of the United Way receives a  $375,000 base salary, plus numerous expense benefits.
    - The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing this $2 billion dollar organization.

    No further comment necessary.

Maps and Microsoft

Microsoft has released something they call Windows Live Local.  It’s a mapping program, not designed to replace MSN Virtual Earth, but to provide some other functionality. 

I’m not sure about that functionality.  The article says that it provides better tools for getting driving directions, but I found the navigation tools and the text box where you type addresses to be either not functioning, or hard to find and use (and really slow too).  The imagery they have (from aerial photos) is really good, but only exists for a few cities.  Google Earth is still a much better product for poking around with a birds eye view.

Anybody else tried this thing and liked it?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Can't fly to Dallas on the cheap

Finally, this old law is getting chipped away at.  If you have never had to think about traveling to Texas by air before, then you might not be familiar with this issue.  It’s an example of one of the worst and most useless bills on the record:  The Wright Amendment.

The Wright Amendment is named after US Congressman Jim Wright, representative of the Fort Worth area.  When Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) was built, major airlines servicing Dallas-Love and Gr. SW Int. Airport in Fort Worth agreed to use DFW, as the FAA determined that it would no longer fund the older airports.

Along comes Southwest Airlines, which until 1978 had only flown inside of Texas, but was based out of Love field. 

    After the deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in 1978, Southwest Airlines entered the larger passenger market with plans to start providing interstate service in 1979. This angered the City of Fort Worth, DFW International Airport, American Airlines and Braniff International Airways which resented expanded air service at the airport within Dallas. To help protect DFW International Airport, Jim Wright, a Fort Worth congressman, sponsored and helped pass an amendment to an unrelated law in Congress which restricted passenger air traffic out of Love Field in the following ways:

    • Passenger service on regular mid-sized and large aircraft could only be provided from Love Field to locations within Texas and the four neighboring states (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico). At the time, all of Southwest's destinations were included within this zone, hence the law had no immediate effect on Southwest's operations.
    • Long-haul service to other states was possible, but only on commuter aircraft with no more capacity than 56 passengers.

OK, so the only benefits of this bill are American Airline’s and DFW’s profit margin.  Since American is based in Fort Worth, it’s easy to see whose lobbyists got the better of the legislative system.

Southwest has been putting up a small public relations campaign to repeal this anti-competition statute.  Check out Set Love Free, run by Southwest.

Anyway, in the first sentence of this post is a link to another blog that has lots of links to news that a transportation bill just signed by President Bush exempts Missouri from the Amendment, bringing the grand total states that Southwest can fly to out of Dallas to 9. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Slavery in Portland

As an addendum to my post on Honduras the other day, I read this long article in Willamette Week today.  Just sad.

      According to police and other observers, an increasing number of the mostly young men who sell drugs in Portland are victims of human trafficking. Most come from Honduras and Mexico, lured to the United States with promises of work. In exchange for safe passage over the border, they incur a debt that must be paid in labor—with fists and loaded weapons to back up collection. Their new jobs place them at the bottom rung of the local drug trade: street-level salesmen peddling $20 bags of smack along the MAX line.

Slavery is alive and well in the United States.

Yes, do recruit on campus.

Great argument in favor of the Solomon Amendment.

      Simply put: it is more important to the cause of freedom and justice that the U.S. Armed Forces be powerful than that they be just. Service is not a right of citizenship in the manner of voting. The purpose of the Army is to kill people and blow things up, period. That which makes it more effective in doing so should be mandatory; that which makes it less effective should be forbidden.

Read the whole thing.

Vote Hurricane Hugo

Robert Mayer has a great roundup of Venezuelan bloggers recording the events of the election down there.  They are noting that the voters, for the most part, are not participating.  The only ones who seem to are the military, who are under orders to vote.

From Lebanon

Michael Totten has a great set of pictures of the Lebanon-Israel border and describes what it’s like there.  The Lebanon side is Hezbollah controlled, the Israeli side is settled with towns and irrigated fields.  Check it out.

Also, Totten has had a guest blogger who takes on the question of what to do about Syria.  It is an interesting look into the mind of someone with a stake in the conclusion of events.  It’s quite different from most of the analyses I’ve seen on the conflict.

      The Bush Administration may want to spread democracy and peace in the Middle East, but regime change and the military option have yet to prove effective in this tumultuous region. There is great potential for further instability.

      The Bush Administration learned a lot from the Iraq campaign. President Bush, Secretary Rice, US Ambassador to the UN Bolton, and US Ambassador to Lebanon Feltman are brilliantly using diplomacy. The United States government deserves congratulations for the way it is deftly using international institutions to support America's agenda. This is highlighting the best attributes of American foreign policy - support for democracy, human rights, justice, and anti-terror - while regaining the trust of the international community. America does not appear as the bully.

      Key word: diplomacy. The US does not need to assert the military option because everyone knows it is there. A few brazen remarks every so often wouldn't hurt, but shouldn't be a quotidien habit.

My only comment is that everyone knows the military option is there only because the current administration has proven that the U.S. will actually use it.

Monday, December 05, 2005


The North and South American continents have always been pretty close to each other. Back in the day, when all the continents were apart of the giant landmass called Pangaea. North and South America then were more smashed together, Mexico City pretty much touching Columbia. After a very long time of floating around on an eternal sea of magma, the two land masses both drifted west, and slightly apart.
The North American plate continues to the north and west, slamming into the Pacific plate sliding along the San Andreas fault and sliding over the pacific plate somewhere off the coast of Oregon and Washington.
The South American plate drifts west and climbs over the Nazca plate. The subduction zone occurs just off the entire western coast, and results in all the volcanos.
The area in between the two continents consists of two smaller plates, both going in different directions. The Cocos plate extends from southern Mexico until Panama and is traveling east. The Caribbean plate is bordered by the Greater Antilles (Cuba and Hispaniola) on the north, the Lesser Antilles (Barbados, Grenada, etc..) on the east, the coast of Venezuela on the south, and the Pacific coast of Central America on it’s west.
Most of the countries of central America have volcanoes, due to the subduction occurring with the Cocos plate driving down under the Caribbean plate, but there is an area of Central America where the plates just bunch up the landforms. Unlike the north-south range of volcanic mountains running from Mexico down to Panama, and then continuing in the Andes, this area is a mishmash of ranges and ridges running every which way. That area is contained in the country of Honduras.

In this beautiful country, full of mountains and banana fields, is a small town with a boy named Luis, who gets support from an organization known as Feed the Children. We started sponsoring him about 4 years or so ago. It’s the coolest thing to know that such a small part of your income, even when you don’t have much to spare, can be such a shining light in a small child’s life. Especially when the people who give him the things he needs with that money are also sharing the words of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. He wrote us recently and expressed how beautiful his country was, so I thought I would learn a little bit more about it, and drop that knowledge on to you.

Honduras is the original banana republic, in that it is very poor, lacks many of the physical resources that the countries around it have, and yes: has a very large banana industry. Honduras is about 112,000 square km, about the size of Tennessee, and had an upside down triangular shape. The north side of the triangle faces the Caribbean sea, the SW side abuts Guatemala and El Salvador, and the SE side is shared with Nicaragua. At the southern apex of the triangle, Honduras has some coastline on the Pacific, in a gulf, Fonseca, shared with El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Honduras is mostly mountainous, with thin, flat plains near the coasts. The weather, as you might expect, is sub-tropical at sea level ranging to temperate in the highlands. The country was at one time heavily forested, but deforestation has been great, and much of the forests are gone, pushed aside by agriculture.
The area is frequently hit by hurricanes, like Hurricane Mitch in 1998, a category 5 storm which, because of how storms travel in the Caribbean, hung over Honduras for several days, causing massive flooding and killing thousands.

Honduras was a part of the Mayan Empire for a while starting in about 100AD, but the Mayan Empire centered in the Yucatan peninsula, and mostly had influence in the region. They build a city and temple in the area of Copan, near the modern day border with Guatemala. After the Mayan culture collapsed in the 900s, Honduras became an area of several tribes and cultures.
The Spanish came at the dawn of the 1500s. Columbus himself walked along the north coast of Honduras, but the region was largely ignored for many years. There was rumor of gold in the hills, and for a while colonization meant the search for gold. But gold has never been plentiful, and it eventually dried up.
Constant fighting with the Spanish until 1539 and European disease nearly wiped out the native populations in the 40 years after the Spanish first took control of the area. Honduras became a colonial backwater after the mining was depleted. Agriculture was not easily developed, as it lacked the fertile volcanic soils of it’s neighbors. Some tobacco and coffee was exported to Europe, but not nearly as much as the surrounding colonies. Most of the economy consisted of local grazing land. The north coast was also a frequent target of the infamous pirates of the Caribbean.
The colony collapsed in the early 1820s, and the Central American nations quickly declared independence and settled on a plan for a unified federation. Unification is hard, though, when there are local rivalries, suspicions, sectarianism and a strong divide between liberal and conservative trains of thought. By 1838, all the provinces became independent nations.
There’s an interesting tale of one Honduran who rose to become the leader of the Unified Federation and desperately held it together. He is like the George Washington of Central America. His name is Francisco Morazan, but I won’t go into his tale here.
Between independence and about 1875, there was a period of instability in Central America (you think: what, it wasn’t unstable at some point?). Squabbles between the political strains of thought dominated government and economic development was stagnant. To add to that injury, U.S. and European powers, mostly private, which either wanted to take over altogether or drive the area into debt by loaning money of which only a slight amount ever made it to the country. Most of it ending up in hands with sticky fingers, if you get my drift.
Between then and 1891, President Marco Aurelio Soto attempted to change all this by regulating state finances, reforming the legal code, and encouraged U.S. investment in mining. With that taste of success, large banana companies drove out the smaller producers and basically ran the government through bribes and financing private armies. One historian notes:
“North American power had become so encompassing that U.S. military forces and United Fruit could struggle against each other to see who was to control the Honduran Government, then have the argument settled by the U.S. Dept of State.”
Needless to say, government officials right up to the president ran things more like political “bosses” than elected officials. The worst of which was Tibercio Carias Andino of the National Party, who professionalized the military, suppressed his opposition and the media and let the banana companies run free.
All this led the U.S. to put pressure on the country after WWII, causing succeeding presidents to begin reform, modernization and liberalization. 1954 saw the birth of Honduras’ first labor movement, in the form of a banana strike. THE Banana Strike was the first one that the government could not put down with force or bribes, and grew to over 40,000 fruit workers and was widely supported. The government gave minimal concessions, but recognized the union’s right to exist – something that was unthinkable in other Central American countries.
But government officials were, on the whole, still quite corrupt and incompetent. 1956 saw the rise of military power in Honduras when Colonel Lopez Arellano and a group of soldiers threw out the government, and in a move not unlike what happens in Turkey, threw out the leaders, held new elections, and then turned the government over to the civilians again.
This occurred several times, and for the most part the military was in charge until the 1980s.
It was during this time that Honduras had what was called the Soccer War with El Salvador. It wasn’t much of a war really, but it’s quite interesting.
The military still held much control over things after that, but the 80s were mostly marked by the USA’s intervention in Nicaragua, by using Honduras as a base of operations for the Contras that conducted war with the Socialist governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Each president subsequent to the disbanding of the Contras in 1990 has attempted to bring Honduras further and further away from banana republic status. Rafael Leonardo Callejas (N) was elected in 1989 by a large margin. He began a program of privatization, selling off public industries and laying public employees off in an attempt to put Honduras’ books in order. Mostly what it did was drive the unemployment and poverty rates higher, and the industries were sold to cronies and persons in the military. Carlos Roberto Reina (L) was elected in 1993 and promised a “moral revolution” to clean up the corrupt political system, which only slowed it down really. 1997 saw the election of Carlos Flores Facusse (L), who attempted to negotiate with all the governments and institutions that Honduras owed money, in an attempt to finally bring the country out of debt. Any chance of this happening ended with Hurricane Mitch, after which the government was in a constant state of crisis management.
Ricardo Maduro (N) was the victor in the 2001 elections, representing the first time that voters could vote for different government posts (parliament members, president) from different parties, and the national congress for the first time is controlled by a different party than the president.
Also a first, Maduro was elected on a platform of crusading against the growing fear of crime. People didn’t, and still don’t, feel safe in the streets. In fact this issues still dominates the political landscape today, and the current presidential elections, which were held a couple of weeks ago, pivoted on this issue.
The two candidates took different sides to the issue, but while the Liberal and Conservative labels don’t really mean much beyond historical tradition, the main difference on the topic of crime was that one supported the death penalty and the other life in prison for violent crime.

Now it appeared that the Liberal candidate, Manuel Zelaya, who ran as the more Catholic “life in prison” candidate was defeating the National candidate Porfirio Lobo, who was the death penalty candidate. Exit polls had him ahead, but the count was close and there is a recount going on.
Honduras was one of the first Central American countries to sign the Central American Free Trade agreement. Which is no wonder, as they stand to gain quite a bit. The last hold out was Costa Rica, the smoothest economy on the isthmus.

Christmas trees and Holiday Wreaths

OK, so there’s some discussion going on about how anti-Christmas activists are trying to eradicate the word “Christmas” from everything and replace it with “Holiday” or something equally as bland.  Note Fox has been calling this the “War on Christmas.”  And the left is just reminding us that the Constitution says that the government isn’t supposed to promote any particular religion, even if all that doesn’t apply as Christmas appeals to all the Christian denominations.  Heck, Christmas has become so secular that atheists too can worship at the alter of Santa Clause and decorate their houses for the fun and tradition of it all, without ever mentioning what it was originally supposed to mean.

However for me, it wouldn’t bother me one iota if the secular world gave up on the holiday all together.  Then the Christians could take it back as their own and recall what it is we are supposed to be celebrating.

Plame the sequel

Tom Maguire, who has been about as all over the Plame/Wilson affair as anyone, notices that there is another report of a CIA agent being outed by the press.  This time the journalist is not nearly as well known as Robert Novak.  The agent also doesn’t appear to have a husband who has a political axe to grind with the administration.  So you think this one is going to get any traction?

Pilots Win!

Congratulations to the University of Portland Pilots’ Womens Soccer team.  They beat UCLA yesterday for the College National title.  I got to watch that game, as well as the semi-final over Penn State.  It was a phenomenal game, and after a tough battle with Penn State, they made UCLA look like they had no business being in the final.  The final score was 4-0.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Airport insecurity

It’s about time:

      Airline passengers soon will be able to take small scissors and screwdrivers aboard planes again, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley announced Friday.

      Hawley said the change will take effect Dec. 22 and is part of a broader effort aimed at having screeners spend more of their time searching for explosives rather than small, sharp objects that don't pose as great a risk. The small implements were banned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Holy cow.  I could have told them that years ago.  I don’t mean to be conceded about that, think about it.  Before 9/11 most people flying airlines pictured hijackers as folks with some request, like get our comrades out of prison, or take us to Cuba.  Something like that.   After 9/11 potential passengers realize that there are people in this world willing to kill themselves and a whole host of other people in order to get their point across (or perhaps just take several infidels with them).  At the time, the hijackers were brandishing box cutting knives.

But look what happened when people on board the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania got wind of what the hijackers were planning.  They fought back.  Is it possible for hijackers to take control of a plane now with anything less than an Uzi and a blowtorch (for the locked cabin)?  I would opine that it’s impossible now, considering the extra safety measures and the consciousness of modern passengers.

And yet up until now federal standards for things you can't take on planes borders on children's toy kitchen knives.  A couple of years ago I took a flight and forgot I had an old wine key in my bag.  It had a corkscrew and a small knife, the kind you use to tear the foil on a bottle of wine.  And yet the security guy told me that if the knife hadn't been there it would have been fine.  I could barely cut a sliver of cheese with that knife, and would have been more afraid of an antagonist brandishing the corkscrew than the inch long knife part.

So what took the feds so long?
Glenn Reynolds says: A SHOCKING SIGN of Intelligence in the Homeland Security area.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It gets worse

Whoaaaa!  Interview with a terrorist, reveals all sorts of things.  Like it’s highly likely that Al-Qaeda has the means to build a dirty bomb and how easy it is to get into Iran from Afghanistan.