Wednesday, June 20, 2007

World Citizenship Test

My previous test was unfair to all the people living outside the United States. In the spirit of fairness, I now give you another test ... The World Citizenship Test. Once again number 5 is a hard one.

1) What document, issued in 1215 became the basis of English Common Law?

2) Which clueless aristocrat when told that the peasants were revolting because they didn't have bread, declared "then let them eat cake"?

3) What was the former name of the country now called Zaire?

4) What was the Bastille?

5) The city, Kathmandu is the capital of what country?

6) The explorer, Leif Erickson was native to what country?

7) Why did Shah Jahan have the Taj Mahal built in Agra, India?

8) Though some have claimed that the first Europeans to discover Australia were the Portuguese, which Dutch navigator is credited with the discovery?

9) The Canary Islands, located off the coast of Africa belong to which country?

10) What King Of Ithica, was immortalized in the epic poems the Illiad and Odyssey?

Okay, no peeking or you will be banished from the planet

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Citizenship Test

They have been experimenting with a new Citizenship test and one of the places they are testing it is right here in Old El Paso. They are trying to take some of the memorization aspects out of it and ask questions that require the prospective new citizen to actually understand some of the concepts of the laws of the United States. Here is a challenge to all you citizens out there, can you pass a test that we require new citizens to pass?

Here are 10 questions from the new test ... how well can you do?

1) Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.

2) What is the supreme law of the land?

3) What does the Constitution do?

4) What do we call changes to the Constitution?

5) What group of essays supported passage of the U.S. Constitution?

6) What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

7) What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?

8 ) Where is the Statue Of Liberty?

9) Name one U.S. Territory

10) Name two U.S. National Holidays

Now you should get at least 9 out of 10 right ... enter this post to get the answers ... no peeking or we'll revoke your citizenship

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Just Because It's Not Illegal ... Doesn't Make It Right

There is nothing in Governmental Ethics Rules about hiring your spouse or family members and paying them with your campaign cash. The only stipulation is that it must be fair payment for services rendered.

72 members of our House of Representatives paid their relatives and companies owned by their relatives a total of $5.1 million dollars from 2001-2006. This is a rather nice way to pad the family paycheck. I will give you the biggest offenders:

Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca) paid her husband's company $263,168.00 and a second company owned by her husband $62,705.00.

Bob Filner (D-Ca) paid his wife's company $249,004.00

Buck Mckeon (R-Ca) put his wife on payroll and paid her $263,168.00

Ralph Hall (R-Tx) put his daughter-in-law to work and paid her $181,470.00

Now, this money was probably paid for services performed ... and though some may say that if they had to hire someone, why not keep it in the family? It just looks bad and the American people deserve better than this.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

I'ts Payback Time

After railing against Republicans paying back Big Business for their donations (and rightly so), the Democrats are now doing the same thing with Big Labor.

The "Employee Free Choice Act" is now being debated in the Senate (S.1041) after being passed in the House (HR-800). What this act does is require votes for forming a union to be public affairs. This means the old practice of having a secret ballot can no longer be used. This puts undo pressure on workers to vote for the union or be ostracized by their peers. In some instances it could be used as a basis for retaliation for voting against joining a union.

I thought America voted for change in the last election. Seems like the same old thing ... just a different bunch of political hacks in charge.

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Interesting News From Iraq

60 people were injured and 8 killed in Nasiriyah in fighting between Iraqi police and Madhi Army fighters (Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr). But here is the interesting part ... local tribesmen came into the fight, siding with the Iraqi police. Seems they wanted to help throw the militia out of their town. Seems like the Iraqi people realize who is hurting their chances and are now starting to actively support their security forces. I hope this sort of thing spreads.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Justice Delivered

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has been stripped of his license to practice law. Next step could be a civil proceeding by the young men who were accused.

We should hear by next Wednesday on the $54 million dollar pants lawsuit ... will we be 2 for 2 in June? ... I hope so.

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End In Sight On Duke Lacrosse Case

The ethics trial for Duram, NC District Attorney Mike Nifong is ending the "guilt phase" today. Nifong, in a desperate attempt to influence the "penalty phase", told reporters that regardless of the outcome of the trial, he will be resigning as District Attorney following the trial. He is hoping to avoid loosing his law license.

A brief re-cap of what led to these proceedings: About 2 years ago, an exotic dancer (stripper) said that she was gang-raped by three members of the Duke Lacrosse team during a party at which she and another entertainer (stripper) were performing. Now, the first thing that got me thinking that the players were innocent was when the DA requested DNA samples from all the players, although their attorneys told them they didn't have to give the samples, the whole team marched down to the DA's office and gave them voluntarily (things that make you go hmmmm). There were quite a few other things like when one of the accused had a solid alibi for not even being there (he was caught on an ATM camera at the time the rape took place), the accuser changing her story 5 times, the photo line-up that the suspects were picked out from only contained pictures of guys on the team, the alleged victim had previously accused 3 men of gang raping her, none of the DNA samples taken being a match ... and it goes on and on. Finally, it came out that DA Nifong had exculpatory evidence that he never released. He sat on the fact that the DNA of three other men (none of which were Duke players) was found during the rape kit. Meanwhile, he continued to prosecute the young men in the press and legally. The North Carolina Attorney General stepped in, and cleared the young men, but not before they and their parents were put through two years of hell. Not to mention the Lacrosse team forfeited the season (they were ranked #1 nationally) and the coach lost his job.

Why would a DA do this you might ask ... well, the young men were white and came from affluent families and the young woman was black. The DA was in a tight race to retain his position and he needed the support of the African American Community to get it done. Of course the Rev Al Sharpton and Rev Jesse Jackson came down to put pressure on him as well. So someone that is charged with seeing justice done ... did the opposite. And for that reason, Mike Nifong should loose his law license. It is totally unfair that prosecutors can not be held legally liable for what they do in office (unfortunately it is the law), because he needs to spend some time behind the bars that he tried to put these young men behind.

One last thing ... why the hell was the accuser in this case, Crystal Gail Mangum never charged with making a false report or anything else?

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Friday, June 15, 2007

All Quiet In Gaza ... For Now

After 6 days of fighting, things are quieting down on the Gaza strip. This is probably because there are very few members of Fatah left to kill. Hamas is now in complete control. Meanwhile, Fatah now controls the West Bank and since these two are separated by Israel, there should be relative peace ... or at least what passes for peace in that region. Here are the results:

Gaza, under Hamas control will continue to be under US, EU and UN sanctions and the 1.5 million citizens will continue to suffer. The West Bank, now that Fatah is completely in control will have its' sanctions lifted (Fatah recognizes Israel's right to exist and has signed a peace agreement with that nation). The citizens of the West Bank will begin to thrive.

What should be done, as long as Fatah behaves, is that the world should pour economic, business, agricultural and cultural aid to that region. When the folks in Gaza see how much better it is in the West Bank ... they might rise up and get rid of Hamas. That is what should happen ... what will happen is any one's guess.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Palestinian Turmoil Spells Big Problems For Israel

There is a Civil War going on in the Gaza Strip. Let me give you a short history of what led to these problems. In 1948, the British gave up their mandate to govern Palestine and a Jewish state was established on that land by UN decree. Now, the Palestinians who lived there were not thrilled with this, but the nations of the world, being embarrassed by what they allowed to happen under Hitler did it anyway. Palestinians still lived in the areas of Gaza and the West Bank, but that was eventually annexed by Israel for security reasons after being constantly attacked from those territories.

Fast forward to 2005. Israel under Ariel Sharon, unilaterally left the occupied territories and a Palestinian Government began administering to these lands. In January of 2006, Hamas (a terrorist group supported by ... surprise ... Iran and Syria) won the Palestinian elections and took control of the territories. Fatah, the group founded by Yasir Arafat gave up power and became the "major opposition" party. Compared to Hamas, Fatah is considered moderate. The US has been supporting Fatah (money and arms). In March of this year, Fatah was brought into the governing coalition to quell the fighting between the two groups.

Well ... the fighting is no longer quelled. For the last couple of days, Hamas has been over-running Fatah positions and they have been kicking butt. Captured male members of Fatah have been dragged out into the streets and executed (often with their wives and children watching) They have been taken to the top of tall buildings and thrown off . But then again, Hamas is a terrorist organization, so what else did you expect. Did you really expect them to act like a legally elected national government? The infighting between Hamas and Fatah was one of the things giving Israel a break. Now that it looks like Fatah will be wiped out, Hamas can concentrate all its' resources on Israel.

So the breakdown goes like this. Israel will have Iranian backed Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and Syrian backed Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Once again they have strong enemies on all sides. Good luck to them.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CDC Shinanigans

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), a practicing physician and ranking member of a Senate oversight committee, just released a report on out of control spending and waste at the Center For Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. The report questions the CDC's spending on things such as $200,000.00 for equipment at the employee fitness center that includes things like zero-gravity chairs and mood-enhancing light shows. The CDC has also spent $1.7 million dollars advising TV shows (such as ER and 24) on how to make their programs medically accurate.

Coburn's report on the CDC provided details on a massive construction project at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta that has exceeded $1 billion (that's 1,000,000,000.00 dollars ... it looks so much bigger this way). The new buildings include a $106 million communications center with a 70 foot by 25 foot wall of plasma video screens for visitors. The Center is named after Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA) who surprisingly was the ranking member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee overseeing the CDC. The new $110 million headquarters building (with $9.8 million in new furniture) is named after Sen Arlen Spectre (R-PA) who is the former chairman of the Senate sub-committee shaping the CDC budget.

If you were to ask me, if they were going to spend all of that tax-payer money ... I would have preferred them to put it into R&D and maybe find a cure for something ... but that's just me ... maybe they really needed all that stuff.

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Pants Suit

Dateline Washington, DC:
Judge Roy L. Pearson has taken the term "frivolous lawsuit" to new heights. The Judge is suing his dry-cleaner for $54 million dollars for loosing his pants. Judge Roy was suing for $67 million, but lowered it after public outcry over the excessive amount (I guess $54 million is not excessive).

Seems Judge Roy dropped his pants off at the cleaners to be let-out (middle-age spread will cause this), and when he came back later that day, the cleaners couldn't find them. The pants were found a couple of days later (the ticket matched the one the Judge had ... so I am assuming they were the pants), but Judge Roy said they were not his. Judge Roy says he is suing because signs in the window said "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service" and he was not satisfied. The owners of the dry-cleaners tried to settle with him, offering him $2000.00 for his pants ... but the judge would have none of that.

The trial started yesterday ... and hopefully will end today.

Does anyone else see the ridiculousness of this entire waste of judicial time?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Toilet Paper Caper

Normally I just write about news events that piss me off, butt in this case I have to make an exception ...

Dateline Marshalltown, Ia ... Suzanne Marie Butts has been charged with stealing 3 rolls of toilet paper from the Marshall County Courthouse utility closet, and may face up to 3 years in jail. Police Chief Lon Walker couldn't keep a straight face at a news conference announcing the end of this crime spree. Employees at the courthouse noticed that they were going through toilet paper at a quicker rate than usual and "staked out" the utility closet. Ms Butts was nabbed "red-handed" when an employee caught her stealing 3-rolls of 2-ply tissue. Ms Butts insisted this was the first time that she had ever pilfered toilet paper, but refused to answer any further questions on the advise of her attorney. The only thing that would make this story any better is if the courthouse employee that caught her was named George Wiffle (of please don't squeeze the Charmin fame).

Congratulations to the Marshalltown PD in solving the "Toilet Paper Caper" (I seem to be on a roll).

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Rockstar Bush

After enduring thousands of protesters at his other European stops, it must have seemed almost heavenly for President Bush as he got a hero's welcome in Albania. Crowds in the thousands turned out to greet the President as he visited this small nation for the first time. The streets were lined with Albanian and American flags and besides a few communists, good karma reigned. The Albanian people love the US for several reasons:

1) We are supporting them in their quest to gain membership to NATO
2) We also support their membership in the EU
3) We support Independence for Kosovo (predominantly Albanian)

It's kind of weird that the majority of Albanians are Muslims.

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Are We A Vindictive Society?

It is with great consternation that I seem to be inundated with news about Paris Hilton in all media outlets as well as the blogosphere. There seem to be a great many people who are over-joyed at her recent mishaps. Now, I am no fan of the girl, but she has never wronged me (and probably has done nothing to the millions of people who seem to hate her). I feel she is a vacuous person, but the point is ... she is a person with emotions and feelings. She also has friends and family who love her ... who must also be hurting.

It seems that most people dislike her simply because they don't think she deserves everything that she has. Maybe she doesn't, but what does that say about this society, that they feel they should pass judgement on this girl.

Judge not ... lest ye be judged.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

The New Warsaw Pact

El Presidente Hugo Chavez is at it again. He has called for the creation of a common defense pact among the countries of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia. This Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) started as a socialist trade group, but Chavez wants it to become a Military Group to act as a counter to the United States. Since all four governments hate the USA, he should be able to do it. But how effective will this Pact be? The only country with the financial wherewithal to build a strong military is Venezuela. And though the governments hate the USA, the people (except for maybe Nicaragua ... and they have a good reason) don't. When Chavez, Castro and Morales are finally kicked out of power, the Pact will collapse. Not much to worry about ... or am I wrong?

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kudos to Nigeria ... Sort of

On Tuesday, for the first time since getting their independance from Britain in 1960, an elected civilian president transferred power to another elected civilian president.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous and richest nations and this should set a standard that their neighbors should try to emulate.

Now, the election of President Umara Yar'Adua was not quite what we would see in Western countries. Ballot boxes and voter cards were stolen (while police watched and did nothing), and international observers documented it all.

But still, in a nation with a history of military rule, punctuated by coups and counter-coups, the peaceful transfer of power is noteworthy. My best wishes to Nigeria and her new President. Perhaps with practice, voting will get better.

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By George ... Putin's Idea May Work

After many threats and much saber-rattling in the past few weeks, Vladimir Putin has come out with a compromise on the missile shield that just might work. During meetings with President Bush, President Putin remained vehemently opposed to placing portions of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, but said that he would have no objection to putting the system in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a democratic, secular government that borders Iran on the North, it is located in the Caucasus Mountains. It also borders Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Georgia.

If the US (and the Azerbaijan) government agree to this, then Putin shows Russia that he still calls the shots in what may and may not happen in the former USSR (it is after all election season in Russia).

Strategically, this may even be a better location for the sites. You can put the radar installations on top of one of those 4000 meter tall mountains and put the missile sites behind the mountains where they would be protected from attack. This site would also allow more territory to be protected, extending protection to most of Asia as well as Europe. This is all based on a missile attack coming from the Middle-East, but it should work for missiles fired from Southeast Asia too.

It would however be less effective on missiles fired from Russia and China ... but supposedly these two countries weren't the reason given for the shield. We shall see.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Turkey Invades Iraq

Thousands of Turkish troops crossed the northern border of Iraq this morning. They are chasing (Turkish) Kurdish insurgents that have been operating out of bases in the northern part of Iraq. These insurgent groups (part of the PKK or Kurdish Workers Party) have been conducting cross-border raids.

I do not blame Turkey for this, just as I do not blame Israel for going into the Gaza strip to blast insurgents hiding over there. Turkey must be allowed to defend itself. The blame falls squarely on the Kurdish separatists and the Iraqi Kurds that allow them to operate out of their territory (just as the blame in Afghanistan falls onto the Pakistani government for Taliban operations coming out of their country).

If the Turkish Kurds don't like living under Turkish law, they should move to Northern Iraq. Sounds pretty simple, and in my way of thinking, it is. Just as if 18% of Vermont wants to leave the US ... let's buy them plane tickets to the country of their choice. The Iraqi Kurds should have a zero-tolerance attitude about these separatist's operating out of their territory. That portion of Iraq is the biggest success story of the war ... so why screw it up?

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Jefferson Indicted

Representative William Jefferson (D-La) was indicted on Monday of federal charges of racketeering, money-laundering, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and soliciting bribes of more than $400,000. Everyone knew that when federal investigators found $90,000 in cash in the freezer at his Washington home, that something would be happening. Everyone that is, except his constituents in New Orleans, that re-elected him last November.

Now his constituents are worried that they won't be represented in Congress at a time when they can use all the help they can get. They should have thought about that before they voted for him. Then again, it actually seems like more of a slap at Republicans that couldn't field a candidate that was preferable to a criminal to they citizens of New Orleans. For that matter, they couldn't even un-seat Ray Nagin as Mayor.

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Iranian Involvement In Afghanistan

It has been reported that over the last few months, Iranian weaponry has found its' way into Afghanistan. Of course it has ... Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terror in the world. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has stated that he is unsure if the Iranian Government is behind it, or if it is just smuggling. Wake up SecDef Gates ... If the same types of advanced weapons are showing up in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iranian government must be behind it. The international community is going to have to do something to smack Iran down, or someone else is going to do it unilaterally. Would that be such a bad thing?

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Another Terrorist Plot Foiled

Once again, a terrorist plot has been thwarted in the planning stage. Seems a small group of Islamic extremists with ties to Guyana and Trinidad wanted to blow up JFK airport in Queens (a borough of NYC). The plan was to blow up the Buck-Eye pipeline that takes jet fuel from a storage facility in Linden, NJ to the airport. This pipeline also runs under heavily populated sections of Queens. The resulting explosion would have taken out the airport and some of those neighborhoods. The mastermind of the plot, 63 year old Russell Defreitas, a US citizen and native of Guyana wanted to destroy the airport which was named after John F Kennedy. "It's like you can kill the man twice", Defreitas said.

I suspect that this plot may have been foiled by listening in on the conversations of US Citizens, when suspected terrorists call-in ... why would anyone be so dead set against this policy?

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Another G-8 Summit ... Another Protest

The G-8 Summit is being held in Rostock, Germany this year. The G-8, or Group of Eight is a meeting of the 8 World Economic Powers. The nations included in this summit are the United States, Canada, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and Italy. During the Summit they will be discussing solutions to Global Warming, Aids, African poverty and World Economics.

Every Summit, we see thousands of protesters. They come from a number of groups and include anarchists, communists, environmentalists and others. These protesters show up at every G-8 summit and cause lots of damage to the host countries, as well as extreme costs. Germany has 18,000 police officers currently in the city for security purposes and the Summit doesn't even start till next week.

The very problems these protesters are marching for are the problems being discussed ... so why are they even protesting? Well the anarchists don't care, they just want to cause chaos, but the others should be applauding the attempt to help solve the worlds' problems, not protesting.

Finally, why do the host countries even let these people in? I'm sure their names must be on a "watch list". Whenever I travel to a different country, they always ask, "and what is the purpose of your visit?" ... Do these people actually say, "to protest and riot", and then are allowed in? Seems like a poor way to run border security to me.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Hip Hip Hoorah ... For The Sheiks

Looks like a group of Sunni Sheiks have finally decided which side of the war on terror they want to be on. It seems that in one western neighborhood of Baghdad called Amiriyah, the Islamic Army and the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution are taking on (and killing) the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq.

My first take on hearing this was "what???" so let me break it down for all of us. The Islamic Army and Brigades of the 1920 Revolution are nationalist groups led by former Saddam supporters and the Islamic State of Iraq is an Al-Qaeda led force. The two nationalist groups are fighting as part of a coalition put together by some Sunni Sheiks called the Salvation Council ... and all these new names just as I was starting to figure out the difference between the Sunnis and the Shiia ... my brain hurts.

Seems these Sheiks have finally decided that the "clear and present danger" to them and their people are not the coalition forces (though they sure as h*ll don't embrace the US), they have decided that they have had enough of the Al-Qaeda terrorists killing tribal leaders and civilians. Most of these fighters were once attacking coalition forces, their change of heart should lift a little of the burden on coalition forces. The Salvation Council has announced a willingness to enter into a truce with the Iraqi government and Coalition.

What took so long?

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Dateline ... Tripoli

Who would have thought that a front on the "War On Terror" would be fought near a city made famous in the Marine Corps Hymn (from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli), but that is exactly what is happening right now. The Lebanese army has surrounded a Palestinian refugee camp, housing radical Fatah militants who have been holed-up there for 13 days. The Lebanese troops have started tightening the noose, going building to building, and attempting to clear the roughly 400 militants there. Last night they wiped out a unit of these militants, trying to escape the cordon.

Seems that the Lebanese Army seems to know how to deal with terrorists ... Can anyone say Sadr City?

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