Friday, July 28, 2006

Baseball Standings

Well, the evil ones from Beantown continue to hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead over the Bonx nine, but we lead the wild-card by a razor thin 1/2 game over the current World Champ Chisox and the Twinkies, who both trail the crazy good Motor City guys by 8 1/2. Ouch! Oakland, Anaheim and Texas are neck & neck & neck in the West with Oakland 1/2 game up and Texas 2 back.

Over in the Senior circuit, the stupid Metropolitans continue to enjoy a HUGE 12 game lead over barely-breathing Atlanta, and the Cards have expanded their lead over Cincy to 4 1/2. The West is a dogpile, but the Dodgers 8 game skid may have left them out. SD, AZ (2 1/2), and SF (3) are all .500 or better, CO also appears to be fading a bit.

In fantasy land, my Yahoo squad continues to bash but with no pitching, I have little hope of getting up much further than my current 3rd. In the OH league, I have recovered a bit and lead the wild-card by a couple and trail the division leader by 2 as well. Pujols health is of prime concern, along with the mysterious group hot and cold starting pitching -- either they all get W's and quality starts or none of them do.


Anti-tax and spending group Club for Growth has started a sign-up sheet asking for bloggers to monitor their congresscritters. They also included a handy-dandy ranking sheet showing how the congress voted on 19 pieces of legislative bacon. My Congressman, Lee Terry (NE-2, R) voted against ten, and for nine. Not very good, but not horrible. Imagine my surprise, then, that he was ranked the best out of NE's three districts. Fortenberry (NE-1, R) was an 0-fer, as was coach Tom (NE-3, R). Unbelievable that neither gentleman would vote against even one of these budget-busters. And I wonder why federal spending is thorugh the roof -- with R's like these, who needs D's. And Coach, it's quite hypocritical of you to criticize the governor in the primary for the state budget increasing 7 % with a record like this.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NE Senate Race

I've been avoiding to comment on the finger-pointing between the candidates over TV ads, but did note a new poll out by Survey USA showing Nelson still among the most popular US Senators, but he has dropped down to a net 41% approve (from a high of +53%) and to a #9 among his peers. Survey results here, Nelson's tracking numbers are here.

The trend shows an almost imperceptable narrowing between his approval/disapproval, but nowhere near his low of 31% back in Sept 2005. I doubt it will be enough to let Ricketts into the race in a meaningful way. Pete has a lot of work to do, but he does have the money to do it. If he could ever get his campaign people to stick around, he might be able to narrow the race.

Poverty in the US

Tim Whorstell over at TCS makes an important point about how the government measures poverty -- and how much of the assistance given the poor isn't counted as "relieving" poverty.

" assistance in 1979 was $35 billion, in 1986, $32 billion. The non-cash part was $97 billion in 1979 and $136 billion in 1986 (figures in 1986 dollars). The craziness is that the 32 and 35 numbers are included in the incomes before we calculate those who are in poverty. The 97 and 136 are not. So we've actually had a rise of $36 billion in spending upon the poor but (that portion of their incomes that come from the Feds anyway) the incomes of the poor have fallen by $3 billion. Given the way these numbers are calculated, the way the official figures work, no wonder we haven't been able to eradicate poverty."

So food stamps, the earned income tax credit, housing assistance, medicaid, and any other program that assists the poor but doesn't give pre-tax cash doesn't technically reduce poverty.
Of course, most people being counted as poor own a car, a microwave oven and at least one TV, among other modern conveniences. Poor Americans have it better than most people on the planet.

Monday, July 24, 2006


While I don't usually quote fellow-bloggers, this gentleman is almost always worth reading, and sums up my feelings on this matter pretty nicely -- the US involvement in the
Balkan issue was one the reasons I chose to leave the US military. Captain Ed @ Captain's Quarters writes:

"People claim that the Bush administration had no plan for Iraq, but we helped the Iraqis form a representative government and held three national elections in less than half the time that the United Nations has sat on Kosovo. After bombing the Serbian army and forcing them to withdraw, the UN did nothing to address the status of the Kosovars for seven long years."

See my preceding post on how I feel about the UN.

Friday, July 21, 2006

UN Ambassador Bolton

via the gents at Powerline, quoting the US UN missions transcript:

"Reporter: The news for the last 48 hours from the Middle East, it is more and more apparent now that many in the Middle East, Lebanese and others, are accusing the U.S. and the Security Council of being the obstacle to a real ceasefire immediately because that’s what they need. Could you explain in a couple words what is really your position about this?

Ambassador Bolton: Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah. How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained. The government of Israel, everybody says, has the right to exercise the right of self-defense, which even if there are criticisms of Israeli actions by some, they recognize the fundamental right to self-defense. That’s a legitimate right. Are there any activities that Hezbollah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of its activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire. You know in a democratically elected government, the theory is that the people ultimately can hold the government accountable when it does something and doesn’t live up to it. How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire? What does a terrorist group think a ceasefire is? These are - you can use the words “cessation of hostilities” or “truce” or "ceasefire.” Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire. "

All I can say is WOW. The President certainly picked the right guy for the job in this case. I only hope that he winds up getting it permanently, as he was a recess appointment. OH Senator Voinovich wrote an op ed the other day stating that he had reversed his opinion and now supports the ambassador, see here. I personally wrote the Senator asking him to support the nomination --- I voted for Voinovich when living in OH.

"“I believe Bolton has been tempered and focused on speaking for the administration. He has referred regularly to “my instructions” from Washington, while also displaying his own clear and strong grasp of the issues and the way forward within the Security Council. He has stood many times side by side with his colleagues from Japan, Britain, Canada and other countries, showing a commitment to cooperation within the United Nations. ......... For me or my colleagues in the Senate to now question a possible renomination would jeopardize our influence in the United Nations and encourage those who oppose the United States to make Bolton the issue, thereby undermining our policies and agenda.
“Should the president send his renomination to the Senate, I will vote to confirm him, and I call on my Democratic colleagues to keep in mind the current situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world should the Senate have an opportunity to vote. I do not believe the United States, at this dangerous time, can afford to have a U.N. ambassador who does not have Congress’s full support.
“For the good of our country, the United Nations and the free world, we must end any ambiguity about whether John Bolton speaks for the United States so that he can work to support our interests at the United Nations during this critical time.” "

Voinovich was instrumental in blocking Bolton earlier in committee, doubting his "interpersonal skills" and voting wiht the Democrats against him. But it takes a big man to admit he was wrong, and he makes several good points here. I sincerely hope that Ambassador Bolton is renominated and confirmed in a speedy and non-confrontational manner. But I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Concealed Weapons in Omaha

OWH -- City council passes a veto-proof 5-2 law allowing concelaed weapons in the city, overturning the previous ban and coming into line with the state law going into effect Jan 1. Another win for Second amedment advocates.

"Councilman Dan Welch said that from a young age he was taught that guns are bad, that guns injure people.
But after conducting his own research - he cited Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and other sources - Welch said he hasn't seen how allowing concealed weapons would increase crime. He said the 47 other states with concealed weapons laws on the books don't seem to have the kinds of problems opponents fear. He cited 1992 FBI data that showed that crime was lower in states that had concealed weapons laws.
"I don't think the statistics lie," he said."

Pretty much sums it up for me. There are restrictions -- 21 or older, training class, no felony convictions, etc. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shuttle Landing

Dsicovery lands in Florida after a "nearly flawless" mission. NASA intends 2 more missions this year. Atlantis is already prepping, due to fly next month to resume contruction of the ISS.

"The shuttle Atlantis is already being prepared for next month's mission, which involves the installation of a truss segment and additional power-generating solar arrays on the international space station. And in the next week, NASA will start getting Discovery back in shape for its own next mission in mid-December. "

There are also plans in the works for a Hubble maintenance mission, which is pretty cool.

"A successful end to Discovery's mission not only opens the way for the resumption of space station construction, but also makes a final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope more likely. Informally, NASA already has begun planning for such a servicing mission in 2008"

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shuttle Mission


Sapcewalk repairs to the ISS are completed, although not without a few tense moments and a some difficulties.

"Astronauts Piers Sellers and Michael Fossum started their 6 1/2-hour spacewalk by removing a severed cable reel from a crucial railcar on the space station with a simple pull. The cable provides power, video and data to the car. "We're getting a workout," Fossum said.
But then Sellers had problems placing the removed cable reel into the shuttle's payload bay. Next, a gun device that anchors spacewalkers nearly came loose; Sellers and Fossum were able to repair it in about half an hour. Finally, Fossum had trouble installing the new cable reel, even with Sellers helping. After much wrangling, the astronauts completed their tasks and started the lengthy process of cleaning up just under six hours into their spacewalk."

The shuttle mission is now eight days into its planned 12 day mission, has accomplished all of its major mission objectives, and the orbiter has been cleared by space agency engineers for a landing planet-side scheduled for July 17.

Concealed Weapons in Omaha

I haven't previously commented on the big debate here in Omaha about the recent passage of a "Concealed Carry" law in the state. Of course, not just anyone can get a permit -- you have to undergo a class and a background check, etc. Omaha and Lincoln, and possibly other cities, have laws on the books against concealed weapons and the new state law lets cities decide whether or not to opt in to the state law or restrict as previously inside their limits, while still allowing the practice state-wide. Of course, previously, Nebraska was a state where you could carry "open" anywhere in the state outside city limits with weapons restrictions.

So you could have the scenario where you can carry concealed up until the city limits, where then you have to either show your weapon or somehow "put it away". I'm a little torn about this and wish the Unicameral would have just gone one way ot the other and not passed the buck and let the smaller (and likely easier to influence one way or the other) jurisdictions to decide.

Naturally, the anti-gun lobby is painting the picture of a dramatic increase in gun deaths and violence, but don't throw any facts and figures at you, just scary rhetoric. I've seen some figures that purport to show crime going down with concealed carry laws going into effect, but crime's been going down anyway so I don't see a causality link in general. On the flip side, I've read MANY accounts of potential victims dissuading attackers with a weapon, so having a weapon can make a significant difference at the correct time and place.


Interesting article on ethanol. While criticisms of the fuel alternative have some merits, I don't know of anyone that is saying that we could replace all of our gasoline consumption with it. All I (along with many others) have said it that it is better than using even more oil, and that its primary use is to complement, but not totally replace, refined hydrocarbon-based energy sources.

"We definitely believe that biofuels (such as ethanol) have a significant potential," said Jason Hill, lead author of the University of Minnesota study. But he added that ethanol should not be viewed as "a savior" to our energy problems and its rapid expansion as a motor fuel has its drawbacks, especially if it is dependent on food crops such as corn and soybeans as feedstock.
If every acre of corn were used for ethanol, it would replace only 12.3 percent of the gasoline used in this country, Hill's study said, adding that the energy gains of corn-produced ethanol are only modest and the environmental impacts significant. "

I'm not sure what the environmental impacts are, given that the corn would be grown anyway, either for food, livestock feed, or agro-industrial uses like fructose. The cool thing about ethanol is that you can get your fructose, then make ethanol out of what is leftover and used to just be disposed of, so I'm not so sure the energy inputs they are claiming are all that accurate -- I've seen studies showing up to a 67 % payoff, but even this one shows 25 %.

Monday, July 10, 2006

NAFTA nations

Also at RCP, Michael Barone discusses the similiarities between the three leaders of the NAFTA nations - the US, Canada and Mexico. In short, they all won very close elections thanks in large part to overwhelming support from the areas of their respective nations where growth is occuring, and notably, the areas from which they lived and worked.

"All three won thanks to huge margins in economically vibrant hinterlands--George W. Bush's Texas, Stephen Harper's Alberta, Vicente Fox's Guanajuato. Calderon carried the Mexican states north of metro Mexico City by 47 to 22 percent over Lopez Obrador. These are the states where you find giant new factories, glistening shopping malls, rising office buildings, new middle-class subdivisions, Wal-Marts, freshly paved highways. This is the Mexico that NAFTA has brought into being. Just as Bush carried most of our fastest-growing states and Harper's Conservatives carried Canada's fastest-growing province, so Mexico's northern states, which produced more than half the nation's population growth from 2000 to 2005, voted PAN. These center-right parties all stand for change--change in the sense of allowing a vibrant private sector to grow and alter our ways of living and making a living. "

The opposition, of course, says it stands for change, but nothing could be further from the truth.


via RCP.

Col. Ralph Peters in the Post argues the only good terrorist is a dead one. Can't say as though I disagree.

"Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom."

The Geneva Convention does not, nor has it ever, applied to terrorists. Many, many, many people think it does for some ungodly reason. You would think that eventually, once it was explained, or god forbid, someone actually read the conventions, a reporter or two would get it right. Apparently, if you repeat the words, "But what about the Geneva Convention?" enough times they think it must be true that it applies -- even though, in this case, it doesn't. Makes me want to do a Howard Dean scream.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shuttle Mission

Shuttle docks with the ISS.

"Space shuttle Discovery docked with the international space station on Thursday morning and then the two ships opened their hatches about 100 minutes later. Discovery delivered its newest inhabitant -- German astronaut Thomas Reiter, who will return the orbiting complex's crew to three for the first time in three years."

The shuttle did a flip so the station crew coulod photograph the underside of the orbiter and look for possible damage. The plan tomorrow is to install the cargo module the shuttle is carrying. At least two spacewalks are planned later in the mission, one on July 8 and the other on the 10th. coverage here.

Mexican Election

It appears that Calderon has hung on for the victory, which is excellent news.

"With 99.59 percent of the vote counted, Felipe Calderon would win even if all the remaining votes went to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party. He had 35.83 percent of the vote, compared with 35.36 percent for Lopez Obrador.
Less than 200,000 votes, out of more than 41 million cast, separated the two."

Obrador is still protesting and asking for a manual recount, but Mexican law is pretty clear:

"Lopez Obrador demanded that electoral officials carry out a manual ballot-by-ballot count, instead of just tallying vote totals as they have been doing.
But Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the Federal Electoral Institute, said that was not possible.
"Mexican law is very clear on when a ballot box can be opened: only when there are problems with the vote tallies, when the tally sheet has obviously been changed, or when the box has been tampered with," Ugalde said."

Calderon has offered Obrador a cabinet seat in an effort to create a coaliton government, but it isn't likely he would accept. Obrador may threaten street demonstrations in the capital, and is promising to bring a protest to the Mexcian election tribunal.

Government Debt

Steve Conover explains the debt-rollover process in his on-going series on economic matters; he also adjusts the "debt clock" with the new, higher Q1 figures for GDP growth, lowering the US debt burden to 64.58%.

"the way some politicians talk, it’s as if they’ve never heard of the debt rollover process. Why else would they always be wondering, in their speeches, how our grandkids will ever “pay back the debt”? If they understood debt rollover, they’d understand that if our economy continues growing at a sufficient pace, our grandkids will never have to pay it back. Never. Nor will our grandkids’ grandkids, either. "

If only reporters and politicians were capable of understanding basic economics......well, and the average Joe Citizen, too, perhaps.

Oh, yeah, Kudlow pops demand-siders in the mouth today, too.

"Conventional demand-side economists keep talking about an economic slowdown. (See today’s WSJ front-page story).These folks are stubborn if nothing else. They ignore the huge success of supply side tax cuts that lowered the marginal tax rate on capital to the lowest level in history. Private business investment continues its surge. It remains an explosive engine of growth creating jobs, incomes and consumer spending. "

Gotta love Larry. He goes for the jugular.


Scott Ott comments on North Korea missile launch. Effin' hilarious!

N. Korea Launches Attack Against Sea of Japan
By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief, ScrappleFace.comNews Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.
(2006-07-05) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il today acknowledged that he had ordered yesterday’s missile strikes against the Sea of Japan in response to what he called “threatening and provocative movements” that the body of water had made against his nation’s coastline.
U.S. sources said that as many seven missiles, including one long-range, short-flight Taepodong 2, penetrated the surface of the sea in a terrifying display of North Korean ballistic technology prowess.
“This clearly demonstrates our status as a global superpower,” said Mr. Kim, “The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is quite capable of raining fire from the sky upon any body of water that approaches our shores, or even thinks about it.”
The North Korean leader said the attack should “put other seas on notice that our precision-guided munitions can strike you at any time.”
Meanwhile, China made a “goodwill gesture” aimed at gaining Mr. Kim’s trust and ending the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula by offering to provide replacements for the expended missiles.
“The people of North Korea can barely eat,” said an unnamed China spokesman, “So where would they get the money to buy new missiles? We consider this a humanitarian offer.”

The man is a genius, to be sure.

Noah's Ark in Iran?

"High in the mountains of northwestern Iran, a Christian archaeology expedition has discovered a rock formation that its members say resembles the fabled Noah's ark. "

They also believe an ancient shrine is located on the same mountain.

Or maybe they are wrong.

"The boat-shaped structure can also be explained geologically, says retired British geologist Ian West, who has studied Middle Eastern sediments. "Iran is famous for its small folds, many of which are the oil traps. Their oval, ark-like shape is classical," he said.

Meanwhile, ancient timber specialist Martin Bridge, of England's Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, is doubtful that a wooden structure would have lasted long enough to petrify under ordinary conditions. "

What is most interesting about this is that everyone has always assumed the ark, if it exists, is in Turkey -- Mt Ararat. But this outfit points out that the Bible says that the ark's passengers traveled east into Mesopotamia. May have to look that one up in Genesis, but they would be in the right region if it's true.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Canadian Oil Sands

USA Today.

With oil over $70 a barrel, Canada is planning to go full steam ahead on developing its oil sand resources, the biggest hurdle being a shortage of workers to develop the area. They estimate a need for up to 30,000 people willing to work and live in the Great White North to get up to speed. Candian oil firms expect to quadruple their production in the next decade and a half, to 4 million barrels a year, and will probably have to look for their workers in the US in order to get there. It is estimated there may be as much as 175 billion barrels of oil in these Canadian sands, reserves second only to Saudi Arabia.

Mexican Election Still in Doubt

It appears that Felipe Calderon has won the Mexican presidential election by about a percentage point, but his leftist opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is vowing to challenge the results and demand a recount in a scene reminiscient of the US 2000 election. Official results how Calderon about a half million votes ahead, but Obrador claims that thousands of voting places registered more votes than were registered, somewhat like Milwaukee, I guess.

It will be ineteresting to see how this one pans out, but it is likely that Calderon will eventually be declared the official winner and the US administration can breathe a sigh of relief.

Discovery Lifts Off

Space shuttle Discovery lifts off on July 4 in a "flawless" launch, according to NASA. Today the crew inspects the vehicle for possible damage from foam dropping off the external fuel tank, then will dock at the ISS on day 3 of the mission to deliver supplies and equipment. If I recall correctly, 3 space walks are planned.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Shuttle Launch

Delayed due to weather. While it looked clear at the launch site, there was concern about lightning or electrical discharges at higher altitudes. Disappointing, but understandable given the spotlight on this launch, which would be the first in about a year. Interestingly enough, I was watching simultaneously on NASA TV (thanks Dish!) and via Webcast at the NASA site, and the web broadcast was considerably delayed -- something on the order of 90 seconds.
While some delay is probably inevitable, I find one of that duration quite odd. The launch team will try again tomorrow.