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Showing posts from 2009

The Electric Car

As you may know, I'm a bit of a technology nut and I love the new electric cars coming out from Tesla, Chevy, Nissan, etc. However, I recently stumbled upon one that is very unique.
The good folks at the British car review show, Top Gear, were complaining that it was taking too long for the major car manufacturers to bring out their electric cars. To prove their point, they assembled and electric car from spare parts in about 18 man-hours of labor. Here is their result:



On second thought, maybe it's a good thing that the other car companies are taking their time...

Another Option For Healthcare Reform

It's interesting that all we hear about is the Democrats plan to create government healthcare vs. the status quo (which is definitely broken). In fact, most of the time I hear the media saying that the Republicans don't have anything - no new ideas, no alternatives - and are left to boo the Democrats plan. Well it seems that's not the case.
The following is a letter from Representative Tom Price that outlines a Republican plan for reforming healthcare:
Perhaps the most blatant “disinformation” being promulgated in the health care debate this year is that there are only two choices for American health care: putting the federal government in charge or allowing insurance companies to run the show. While the President, congressional Democrats in charge, and, to a degree, the media have done all they can to shut out Republican ideas, the truth remains that there is a third path, a correct path.

Republicans have put forth bold ideas that can transform American health care in a po…

Swing Vote

If there ever was a great commentary on our apathy as a nation, it's the movie Swing Vote. I just watched and I have to say that I was impressed with the message.
On the surface, it's played as a comedy where a total loser somehow ends up deciding the next president. There's a bit of song and dance - played for laughs - where each candidate immediately takes a position in support of whatever he says (whether or not he even understands the issue). Then he decides and the movie ends.
From that perspective, it was a terrible movie. I never laughed, his lifestyle made me really pity his daughter, and he had no redeeming qualities until the very end. They don't even tell you who he voted for.
However, it was the end that put it all into perspective. The undertone of the whole movie is the media circus that is a presidential election and how the candidates bend over backwards to appeal to people who just don't care.
In the beginning of the movie, the main character&#…

Our Rights and Not-Rights

I stumbled upon a great little rant against liberalism. While I don't necessarily agree with everything on there, it made me smile and made me think.
Here it is:
NEW PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTIONThe following has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from GA."We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other liberal bed-wetters. We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of NON-Rights."ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to…

AZ Budget Gets Bigger Spotlight

It seems that it's not just Arizonans that are interested in the State Budget. The New York Times is running an article about it as well. I guess the fact that a Republican governor with a Republican legislature can't seem to agree on a budget is a great news story.
The worst part of this whole fiasco is that we're so close. It seems like we're one State Senator away from passing the budget. However, the three Republican holdouts have stopped the whole thing. Then there's the Democrats who are quick to heckle the Republicans but are so angry at being sidelined that they've taken their toys and gone home (perhaps they're justified as they haven't been treated well by the Republicans).
So where do we go from here?

What We Need for Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform is big news right now. Congress is hard at work trying to overhaul our healthcare system to make it less expensive and cover more people. These are admirable goals and they will be extremely hard to accomplish. The ideas that Congress has come up with seem to revolve around a government healthcare plan paid for by taxing the rich. I'm not confident that this will be a good thing in the long term. It simply creates another government plan that will probably underpay (I've heard that doctors are dropping out of Medicare because it doesn't pay enough to cover the costs of the service).
In my opinion, we need to focus on what makes other services better and cheaper and try to adapt those principles and models to healthcare. So, in my opinion, healthcare reform should include the following: Encourage Competition: There should be no captive markets (how many insurance options does your employer give you?). Insurance carriers need to work to win over peopl…

Winter Soldiers needed for Arizona Summer heat - Budget

America has passed through several time periods that "have tried mens souls" and in Arizona we stand again at that precipice. In the past it has been both physical as well as ideological; now while it is still ideological it is also financial. We wait to see what the leaders will decide for Arizona and her people. Just like in centuries long past, the decisions that are made will determine not only how Arizona is shaped by also how her people will fare. This is when we will see if our trust in our leaders are well placed or if they will simply use their power to move ahead their agendas. As a parent sometimes I am faced with what I feel is best verses what is best for my family. At these times I defer to what is best for my family because I know not only is that my higher priority, but it is also the resposibility I have chosen.

What are we calling upon our leaders to do now? We want a responsible budget that will not sacrifice our future or make our children pay for…

Politics and The Law of Unintended Consequences

Politics are complicated. Our country is a large, very complex system of services, mandates, checks and balances, power struggles, perceptions, economics, etc. No matter what the election time commercials may say, there are not easy, 30 second soundbite answers to the country's problems. Just look at Obama's problems.
A couple of months ago, President Obama was pushing to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. This was supposed to help with the housing crunch. Well here it is a few months later and has it helped? As near as anybody can tell, there's been no effect. He gave boatloads of money to GM and Chrysler - around $60 billion I think (which is about $200 from every man, woman, and child in the USA) - to keep them from going bankrupt. Didn't work out so well. He got a stimulus bill passed in order to prevent unemployment from going over 8.4% - now it's at 9.4% and still rising. And that's just the beginning.
Now I'm not saying that Obama is …

Partisan Politics

What ever happened to the focus on serving the people?  You know, it's difficult not to get extremely frustrated watching the AZ State Legislature "work" on the budget.  The governor releases a budget that the ultra-conservative Republicans don't like.  What happens?  Do the Republican leaders point out where it will hurt the state?  No.  Do they articulate a coherent rebuttal based on economic data, etc?  No.  What do they do?  They complain that the governor's budget isn't Republican enough.  That the governor is not supposed to raise taxes because that's not Republican.  That she's not supposed to protect social programs like aid to the disabled because that's not Republican.  Not Republican?  Not REPUBLICAN?  Aren't our officials supposed to be working for the good of all Arizonans?  Shouldn't reality take precedence over ideology?If Governor Brewer's budget is bad, then I expect the State Legislature to spell out why it's bad …

Ethics

I just finished by Master's Degree in Information Management at ASU - congratulations to me! - and was a little surprised at one of the convocation speeches.  If I remember correctly, it was the Dean of the School of Business, and what was surprising was how many times he talked about ethics and being ethical.  He spoke of President Obama's commencement speech that blamed the current financial crisis on Wall Street and urged all of us to conform to ethical standards so that we do not have these sort of crises in the future.
I was struck at how true those statements were.  Many on the left are blaming our problems on under-regulated capitalism.  Their solution is more regulation.  I don't think that's the case.  Our current financial problems have been caused by greed and lack of ethics.  More regulation may or may not have slowed the descent but as long as greedy and unethical behaviour continues, we will continue to have these issues.  Capitalism, like democracy, can o…

When Government "Rescues" The Auto Industry

There is an excellent column today in the Arizona Republic by Robert Robb. It's called The Chrysler Power Grab. Don't get confused, this is not about Chrysler grabbing power but the government using its "bailout" to benefit the union.

Mr. Robb points out that the terms that the government is forcing Chrysler to ask for are as follows:

The Obama administration is attempting to muscle past this law. Under its proposal, the health care trust of the auto workers' union, an unsecured creditor, would forgive 57 percent of what Chrysler owes it, and receive 55 percent of the company's equity in exchange. The federal government would forgive about a third of what it would loan Chrysler and receive 8 percent of the company's equity. Fiat would pay nothing for its 20 percent initial ownership.The secured creditors, with the first claim on Chrysler's assets, were asked to forgive 70 percent of what they are owed and receive nothing in equity. When they refused a…

Government Shortfalls And Their Effect On Disabled Children

A week or so ago my State Senator emailed a message to his constituents (including me) in response to the growing support for raising taxes to help with the budget shortfall.  In that message, he recounted the following:
“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine, great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a hand-out.“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in p…

Who's Responsible For The Mortgage Crisis?

OK, there is an awful lot of finger-pointing regarding who is responsible for this mortgage meltdown. The Democrats are blaming the Republicans for loosening up bank/finance regulations. The Republicans are blaming the Democrats for encouraging the sub-prime mortgage market (loaning to people who wouldn't ordinarily qualify for a mortgage). Lots of other people are blaming the CEO of the large financial institutions for being so greedy. It's funny but everybody has somebody to blame but nobody blames themselves.

In my opinion, there are many factors that contributed to the issue. Decreased regulation made it easier to get away with some questionable actions. Encouraging the sub-prime market got banks to loan to people they normally wouldn't loan to (the same people that are defaulting left and right). However, even with all of that, it comes down to one thing: greed.

It seems that everybody is after easy money. Buy a house you can't afford and, in a couple months…

If Oil Is Getting Cheaper, Why Isn't Gas?

The problem with our world of fast politics and 30 second sound bites is that they make complex issues look simple.  Just look at oil prices.  The price of oil keeps dropping but the price of gas is going up.  Huh?  How is that possible?
I've heard a lot of conspiracy theories but found a far more credible article about it the other day.  The reason that gas prices are going up is because oil prices are actually going up.  It seems that the oil prices you see in the press are for one specific type of oil (West Texas Intermediate).  So while that oil price is going down, the rest of the world's oil prices are going up.
Maybe they should change to an average of oil prices...

Do The Speed Cameras Help?

There has been a lot of back and forth on whether the speed cameras are a safety measure or a revenue generator.  Most people that support cameras say they're a safety measure, most that oppose them say they're simply revenue generators.  So who's right?
In my opinion they're both right.  No one can argue that they've brought in quite a bit of revenue since they were installed.  However, there seems to be some back and forth as to whether our highways are safer since they've been installed.  The Arizona Capitol Times has an article (membership may be required) that kind of presents both sides.
First it takes the DPS statistics (from an ASU study) for the loop 101 since the speed cameras were put in:
The ASU study, officials said, showed a 58 percent reduction in side-swipe crashes, a 71 percent reduction in single-vehicle crashes and a 40 percent reduction in accident-caused injuries as a result of speed cameras.
However, the statistics reported by DPS didn't i…

Gilbert Mayoral Race

Those of us who live in Gilbert have an election coming up.  While its not getting national attention and we're not being bombarded with constant TV ads, I submit that this election will have a far more direct effect on Gilbert's citizens than most others.  Why?  Because the Mayor and Town Council determine things like sales tax rates, property tax rates, how many police officers we have, how many firefighters we have, etc.   They determine things that affect us directly.
The Arizona Republic site (azcentral.com) has a section devoted to the mayoral and town council candidates.  If you are a citizen of Gilbert, I encourage you to read them and then go out and find more information on the candidates.  I, myself, have not found a favorite candidate yet (though I like Lewis and Turner and Skousen for mayor) so I'm still doing research.
This is where the rubber hits the road and where individuals have the most influence (who do you think cares more about your opinion/vote, the m…

Measuring Success

One of the blogs I follow is run by a man named John Halamka.  I stumbled across him from a case study I had to analyze for one of my graduate school classes.  He struck me as very intelligent and also very pragmatic (two qualities which are important to me) so I looked up his blog and have been following it for a while.
Today he blogged about measuring success.  I found it very refreshing to find somebody as successful as he is being so pragmatic about where happiness (true success) really comes from.  When people have asked me for career or education advice, I tell them to find what they enjoy doing and pursue that.  I say that because, no matter how much money you make, if you don't like your job, you will be miserable.  So find what is important in your life focus on that.  
In his blog, Halamka says that but a lot more eloquently.  Give it a read, I think you'll be impressed.

How Readable Is My Blog?

I found a readability test recently and thought it would be interesting to find the reading level of my blog.  I expected to get a high school or maybe undergrad level.  So I was really surprised to get genius (I actually thought it was broken - I had to check a bunch of other blogs to make sure it didn't say genius for everybody).  Does it really take a genius to understand what I'm writing?  I always thought that politics was a fairly simple topic.  You simply take a logical look at various issues and, applying all of the known variables, find a solution that best fits the...
OK, maybe it's not so simple but it is important.  What's the point of electing representatives if we have no understanding of what it is they do?  How do we hold them accountable?  We live in a complex world full of complicated problems.  Simple rhetoric and campaign slogans are not going to solve our problems.
I sincerely hope you don't have to be a genius to understand my blog or politics i…

If You Have About A Trillion Dollars, What Do You Spend It On?

The stimulus plan is coming.  $875 billion of government goodness.  Will it save our economy?  Well, we won't really ever know.  After all, we don't know what would happen if it fails, we'll just have to see what happens when it succeeds.
So what is of that mo all  ney spent on?  Over at the Republican Cloak Room, is the Republican Party's official statement on the stimulus plan.  It makes some pretty serious assertions.
"Supporters of H.R. 1 have described this legislation as a transportation and infrastructure investment package. However, the bill only includes $30 billion – a mere 3 percent of the funding – toward “shovel ready” road and highway spending.""H.R. 1 provides funding for 32 new programs totaling $137 billion or 38 percent of all discretionary spending in the bill."OK, there's lots of others that I don't have time to go over.  Give it a read.  It may just give you pause about what we're about to jump into.

Government Organization

I know it sounds like an oxymoron but there really is a government organization.  It's just such a mess that it's hard to keep track of.  Well, in honor of inauguration day, here's a link to an organization chart that shows what our new president is getting into.  It's a little java program that lets you click on any position and move it around to see who it reports to and who reports to it.  I thought it was really cool.

Atlas Shrugged - I Need To Read This Book

I've heard of the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand but I never really knew what it was about.  Well, I just read an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal that compared our current economic crisis with the events portrayed in Atlas Shrugged.
It was frightening.  The gist is that the more government tried to help, the worse things got.  The author of the article even made some fairly direct correlations from events in the book to things the government has already done (bank bailouts, auto bailouts, etc).  True enough, for all the money government is spending, things don't seem to be getting any better.
I think I really need to read this book.

Thank Goodness For Comments

Have you ever wondered how biased the news you get is?  I try to look at both sides of an issue and find the truth that's usually somewhere in between.  However, I have also found that both sides of an argument can present their cases so well, that it's difficult to tell where the truth really lies.This came up as I was trying to get more information on the fighting in Gaza.  Most of the information I had painted a picture of an Israel that had been hit by so many rockets from Gaza that it just couldn't take it anymore and invaded.  Then I read an article from Al Jazeera that paints an entirely different picture.  The article was well written and convincing enough that I had to wonder what was really going on.  Then I read the comments.The article made several assertions about Israeli involvement in the violence and accused Israel of being the aggressor.  The comments, on the other hand, both supported and criticized the article (as most comment sections do).  The critical…

Here Come The Cuts!

The State Legislature is meeting and something, probably many things, are going to get cut. The Arizona Capitol Times, the Arizona Guardian, the Arizona Republic, etc. are all running articles about people and groups trying to protect their funding.  First in line is our soon to be former Governor, Janet Napolitano.  She is pleading to save all of the programs she started when it seemed like Arizona would have an endless money supply.  Next in line is education.  Schools are forecasting doom and gloom if their budgets get cut.  Then there's social services.  In a bad economy, more and more people sign up for government services.
So my question is:  what do they cut?  Emergency services?  No, that's unacceptable.  How about, um... what's left?  The unfortunate truth is that all the things that governments pay for benefit society (well, depending on who you ask).  So, if all the government programs are good, how do you justify cutting any of them?  That's the problem.  N…

They're Not Stupid, Just Different

Apart from my political leanings, I work in information technology. This is a profession that is full of smart, but often misunderstood people. Many people look on us as having some sort of magical rapport with computers. I have spent a lot of time troubleshooting computer problems (in fact it started taking so much time, I started charging for it so people would quit bothering me) as well as giving advice. Usually I don't mind. I enjoy helping people. However, every now and then it gets frustrating when I see the same problems over and over again. It even gets to the point that I wonder how people can not understand what, to me, are the simplest concepts.

This frustration pervades among the "computer geeks" of the country. Many of the forums complain of how stupid people are. They rail against businesses, politicians, and any other profession they see as severly misguided. I fear, however, that this may give them the idea that they are smarter than everybody el…