Thursday, June 29, 2006

Flag Desecration Voting Results

I'm on vacation for the next couple of weeks, but I thought this was too important to pass up.

If you were wondering who voted for or against the Flag Desecration Amendment, here are the voting results:

Senators Voting For Amendment:

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Ted Stevens (R-AK) Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Richard Shelby (R-AL) Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Jon Kyl (R-AZ) John McCain (R-AZ) Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Wayne Allard (R-CO) Ken Salazar (D-CO) Mel Martinez (R-FL) Bill Nelson (D-FL) Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Johnny Isakson (R-GA) Charles Grassley (R-IA) Larry Craig (R-ID) Mike Crapo (R-ID) Evan Bayh (D-IN) Richard Lugar (R-IN) Sam Brownback (R-KS) Pat Roberts (R-KS) Jim Bunning (R-KY) Mary Landrieu (D-LA) David Vitter (R-LA) Susan Collins (R-ME) Olympia Snowe (R-ME) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Norm Coleman (R-MN) Mark Dayton (D-MN) Christopher Bond (R-MO) Jim Talent (R-MO) Thad Cochran (R-MS) Trent Lott (R-MS) Max Baucus (D-MT) Conrad Burns (R-MT) Richard Burr (R-NC) Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Ben Nelson (D-NE) Judd Gregg (R-NH) John Sununu (R-NH) Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Pete Domenici (R-NM) John Ensign (R-NV) Harry Reid (D-NV) Mike DeWine (R-OH) George Voinovich (R-OH) Tom Coburn (R-OK) James Inhofe (R-OK) Gordon Smith (R-OR) Rick Santorum (R-PA) Arlen Specter (R-PA) Jim DeMint (R-SC) Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Tim Johnson (D-SD) John Thune (R-SD) Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Bill Frist (R-TN) John Cornyn (R-TX) Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) Orrin Hatch (R-UT) George Allen (R-VA) John Warner (R-VA) John Rockefeller (D-WV) Michael Enzi (R-WY) Craig Thomas (R-WY)

Senators Voting Against Amendment:

Mark Pryor (D-AR) Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Christopher Dodd (D-CT) Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) Joseph Biden (D-DE) Thomas Carper (D-DE) Daniel Akaka (D-HI) Daniel Inouye (D-HI) Tom Harkin (D-IA) Richard Durbin (D-IL) Barack Obama (D-IL) Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Edward Kennedy (D-MA) John Kerry (D-MA) Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) Carl Levin (D-MI) Kent Conrad (D-ND) Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Charles Schumer (D-NY) Ron Wyden (D-OR) Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) Jack Reed (D-RI) Robert Bennett (R-UT) James Jeffords (I-VT) Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Patty Murray (D-WA) Russ Feingold (D-WI) Herbert Kohl (D-WI) Robert Byrd (D-WV)

While the Supreme Court has held that flag burning as a form of protest is consistent with free speech and is protected, I must disagree with those smarter than I. This is not a matter of free speech, but it's a matter of respect. Respect for the people for the past 230 years that have fought for, built up, and otherwise made this country one of the most powerful nations on this Earth. This country has freedoms that the rest of the world can only dream about. Is it too much to ask for respecting one of the symbols of freedom by not burning, stepping on, or otherwise showing disrespect?

Let's put this in perspective - whenever you see people in other countries burning the American flag, doesn't that get you riled up? I mean, how could they show such disrespect for this country? If you burned their flag in protest, how do you think they would feel?

I would like to say to those people who want to burn the flag, if you hate this country so much, please immigrate to another country of your choosing. I'm fairly sure that whatever country you choose will not have the opportunities or freedoms that the United States has. Otherwise, please show respect for your father, grandfather, or great-grandfather who busted their butts so you could have the freedoms and opportunities that you now have by finding some other form (preferably constructive) of registering your opinion.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

WMDs Found!!

Sometimes it's nice to be right. I've made the comments on this blog and others that it was absolute idiocy to think that Saddam got rid of all the WMDs in his inventory. Now there is a military report that 500 chemical weapons (including Sarin and Mustard Gas) have been found in Iraq since 2003.

The Liberal talking heads are making statements that since these weapons were pre-1991 weapons and some of them are in a degraded condition, they didn't count as reasons to depose Saddam. They also made the statements that Saddam didn't have any WMDs (of which chemical weapons are). Are they nuts? What part of WMD do they not understand? Debating that the definition of what a WMD stands for is like Bill Clinton debating what the definition of "is" is...

It does not matter how old the chemical weapons are - they are still dangerous! The term "degraded condition" can mean that the weapons may not be able to be fired out of a cannon, or the contents not be as potent as they once were. But I sure wouldn't want to be around them if the contents of these weapons were released!

What bothers me is that the Liberal politicians (and we know who they are) are discounting this information when it is so obvious that they were wrong! Saddam had WMDs in his country when he said he didn't. And yet the Liberals in the media and their political counterparts insist on minimizing the evil of this deceptive dictator and the damage that these weapons could incur.

What bothers me more is that the contents of these weapons could still be used by terrorists if they found them. At this point in time, we do not know if al-Qaeda has found any, or if there are any WMDs with Saddam's fingerprints are in other countries or buried in the desert. Sooner or later, and I hate to predict this, al Qaeda will attempt to use any WMDs they find against the US. Where they will attack is anybody's guess.

A final word: We do need to get out of Iraq, but only after the Iraqi government is stable and able to take care of itself. We cannot leave prematurely, not matter how bad we want the troops to come home. To leave and have Iraq fall into chaos or another dictator's hands would negate the sacrifice of the soldiers who have fallen. And that would be a tragedy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

US Under Economic Attack

Is there now any question that the United States is under economic attack from all corners of the globe including our own country? If you don't think so, here are a few things to chew over...

First on my list is the number of jobs that have been exported to countries around the globe in search of cheaper labor. Most recently, the country with the world's largest population (China, for those of you in Rio Linda) is now the hot spot for companies to invest and build factories in. So much so that Mexico is crying in their tequila & Corona over the loss of jobs as companies move their operations from Mexico to China. No wonder that Mexico is now exporting their people to the United States so they will send money back to the land of sombreros.

Many of the heavy equipment & machine tool manufacturers have closed up shop in this country and have moved to or are owned by companies overseas. It seems that the majority of companies supplying equipment to the automotive industry are now either Japanese or European owned. This does not bode well for long-term growth.

One of the reasons for the Euro currency was for the European nations to compete economically with the United States. In some respects, it has succeeded - the dollar has been devalued vs. the Euro, making it harder to sell United States made goods in Europe. But nothing like the goods made in China.

China, I believe, represents the real threat to the United States and the world. The amount of money being poured into this Communist nation is staggering. The question is now what isn't made in China? It seems that the majority of items that we need for everyday life comes from China. And here's the kicker - China could nationalize all the factories and industries that were built by foreign countries/investors, and get away with it! How, you may ask?

In short, China has everyone by the economic short-hairs. China owns a massive amount of US Treasury Bonds as well as in other countries. If China dumped (i.e., sold) these bonds on the market, the world's economy (especially ours) would go into a massive recession. Our currency would become almost worthless overnight. And to back that up, China has the world's largest standing army with the largest population. Technology-wise, they are not up to par with the United States, but Mr. Bill helped them a lot with missle-guidence technology. What they may lack in equipment, they will make up in human bodies...

Although I mentioned the previous Democrat administration in the above paragraph, this is not isolated to the various Democratic or Republican administrations. Neither one of these parties is particularly friendly to the American worker, no matter what the spin they put on it. Various treaties (like NAFTA) and granting of Most Favored Trading Status to China is not the domain of either political party. No, these parties are driven by power and greed, and they will sell us out for either or both.

I keep hearing the words "level playing field" but have yet to hear or see anything that our duly elected leaders have put into action. While I know that protectionism is not the right path to take, I do begin to wonder. Other countries bend over backward to protect themselves, but our politicians seem hellbent to giving ours away. One sign of this is the debate on immigration reform, to which I say, enforce the current laws!!! But I digress...

Our attention is consumed by the war against terror (manifested by Iraq), immigration, political & ideological turmoil, and yet the real backbone of this country is dissolving before our eyes. The very measure of our country's success is disappearing - the middle class, the American worker. Somehow, I don't think that the "service-based economy" is going to cut it.

Let your elected representatives know of your concerns, and also let them know that they need to earn your vote for this election and the next, and party lines be damned!! This is your country - VOTE!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Government and Your Money

If anyone should need any more convincing that the government is not a very good manager of your money should read the below:

FEMA funds spent on divorce, sex change

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Houston divorce lawyer Mark Lipkin says he can't recall anyone paying for his services with a FEMA debit card, but congressional investigators say one of his clients did just that.

The $1,000 payment was just one example cited in an audit that concluded that up to $1.4 billion — perhaps as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in assistance expended after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — was spent for bogus reasons.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also was hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and a sex change operation, the audit found. Prison inmates, a supposed victim who used a New Orleans cemetery for a home address and a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel all were able to get taxpayer help, according to evidence that gives a new black eye to the nation's disaster relief agency.

"I do Katrina victims all the time," Lipkin, the divorce attorney, told The Associated Press. "I didn't know anybody did that with me. I don't think it's right, obviously."

Government Accountability Office officials were testifying before a House committee Wednesday on their findings.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee overseeing an investigation of post-hurricane aid, called the bogus spending "an assault on the American taxpayer."

"Prosecutors from the federal level down should be looking at prosecuting these crimes and putting the criminals who committed them in jail for a long time," he said.

To dramatize the problem, investigators provided lawmakers with a copy of a $2,358 U.S. Treasury check for rental assistance that an undercover agent received using a bogus address. The money was paid even after FEMA learned from its inspector that the undercover applicant did not live at the address.

FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said Tuesday that the agency, already criticized for a poor response to Katrina, makes its highest priority during a disaster "to get help quickly to those in desperate need of our assistance."

"Even as we put victims first, we take very seriously our responsibility to be outstanding stewards of taxpayer dollars, and we are careful to make sure that funds are distributed appropriately," Walker said.

FEMA said it has identified more than 1,500 cases of potential fraud after Katrina and Rita and has referred those cases to the Homeland Security Department's inspector general. The agency said it has identified $16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.

The GAO said it was 95 percent confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were much higher — between $600 million and $1.4 billion.

The investigative agency said it found people lodged in hotels often were paid twice, since FEMA gave them individual rental assistance and paid hotels directly. FEMA paid California hotels $8,000 to house one individual — the same person who received three rental assistance payments for both disasters.

In another instance, FEMA paid an individual $2,358 in rental assistance, while at the same time paying about $8,000 for the same person to stay 70 nights at more than $100 per night in a Hawaii hotel.

FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims, the auditors said.

Among the items purchased with the cards:

  • An all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.
  • Five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games.
  • Adult erotica products in Houston and "Girls Gone Wild" videos in Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio.

"Our forensic audit and investigative work showed that improper and potentially fraudulent payments occurred mainly because FEMA did not validate the identity of the registrant, the physical location of the damaged address, and ownership and occupancy of all registrants at the time of registration," GAO officials said.

FEMA paid millions of dollars to more than 1,000 registrants who used names and Social Security numbers belonging to state and federal prisoners for expedited housing assistance. The inmates were in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

FEMA made about $5.3 million in payments to registrants who provided a post office box as their damaged residence, including one who got $2,748 for listing an Alabama post office box as the damaged property.

The GAO told of an individual who used 13 different Social Security numbers — including the person's own — to receive $139,000 in payments on 13 separate registrations for aid. All the payments were sent to a single address.

Now after reading this, do you want to trust the government with your retirement and health?

Monday, June 12, 2006


I was listening to the radio today, and it is absolutely amazing how the media and Democrats seem to be talking out of each side of their mouths. For instance:

Last week, al Zarqawi was killed in a bombing raid. One of the comments that I heard in the MSM was that we should not be rejoicing over the death of a human being. Now considering that this person sent other people out on suicide bombing missions on US military & Iraqi civilians alike, orchestrated the kidnapping & beheading of innocents (of which he is suspected of actually committing), and has generally created as much death & chaos as possible in a country that is not his own (he was from Jordan). He has been called an absolutely evil person for his planning and participation in these atrocities. I ask you, exactly what are we supposed to do at news of his death? Mourn? And yet, for all this person's misdeeds, are we supposed to feel sympathy for him since he got a couple of bombs dropped on him? Get real!!

We have seemingly forgotten what terrorists really stand for. They stand for murder & chaos wherever they go and commit their foul deeds against the innocent. Our media has started calling our soldiers terrorists because of a few isolated incidents which seem to have been justified from the soldier's perspective. Let's compare terrorists and our soldiers for a couple of seconds:

  • Terrorists target the weak and innocent, soldiers target the enemy.
  • Terrorists seek to maximise casualties among non-combatants, soldiers try to minimize non-combatant causualties.
  • Terrorists will sacrifice themselves for a higher personal cause (entry into Paradise), soldiers will sacrifice themselves to save their buddies, the civilians around them, and their country.
  • Terrorists thrive on the chaos their actions cause, soldiers seek to prevent it if not avoid it.

Need I go on?

In principal, I agree that rejoicing over a person's death is not right. That would put us on par with the Arabs that were rejoicing in the streets when 9/11 happened. I think relief would have been the proper thought in this case - this person would not be able to plan or commit any more murders. And perhaps that corner of the world would be a little bit safer for everyone.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why A Debate on Marriage?

How ironic is it that on this date (06/06/06) the Senate is debating whether or not an amendment is necessary for defining marriage between a man and a woman instead of some "other" arrangement? Everyone has their opinions, so I might as well throw mine out there.

The real fact is that homosexuality has been out there for a long time. It has been banned socially as being abnormal behavior, and quite frankly, it is. If the general population became homosexual, then the species (us) would become extinct within a very short time. While the proponents have stated that up to 10% of the population is homosexual, I have heard that the actual figure is much lower - like 2%. But why the recent push for acceptance, and now legality? In short, I believe it's money.

The homosexual rights movement seemed to take off after AIDS became the number one disease of concern for the gay population. It became rapidly apparent that insurance companies (and employers) would not cover expensive treatment resulting from diseases that were linked to homosexual behavior. So how else can the costs of treatment be covered? Answer - make such behavior socially acceptable and legally permissible. And it is halfway there.

How many times during movies and TV shows is homosexual behavior shown to be "normal" or "natural?" Are you even aware of it now? Have you become desensitized to it? That's the social component. If the normal population tolerates abnormal behavior, then the legal component has a much better chance of success.

The legal component is, at the moment, based on discrimination laws. Already, many companies (like mine) cover "life partners" whether such partners are of the same sex as the employee or not to avoid violating these laws. But there is still resistance from both social and legal sides.

So the answer is to make gay marriages legal. That way, there is no more problems for these partnerships to be acceptable - it becomes the law of the land. Health & retirement benefits would then be shared between partners.

Where do I stand on all of this? Marriage is, legally and morally, between a man and a woman. Do I hate homosexuals? No, I do not. I hate the sin, not the sinner. And people should not be discriminated against for whatever reason, no matter what their circumstance might be.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Privacy? What Privacy?

My apologies for not posting for a while. A semi-insane work assignment covering for a fellow engineer on vacation and an aggressive workout schedule have not left much time for blogging. But that doesn't mean that I've quit thinking about stuff! So without much more delay, here goes...

Some time ago, much ado was made about the NSA's program for searching for patterns in phone records and tapping known overseas terrorist phone lines. Opponents stated right to privacy, which shouldn't be a concern unless you are doing something, well, more than stupid. But still, what privacy do you think you have? Damn little, and I'll explain why.

Let's start first with the computer. Every site you visit (including this one) has the capability of recording your IP address, server you're accessing the internet through, general location, and other information. Some sites could even backtrack to your home address and phone number. Sure, there are utilities that would mask all of that, but your service provider would still keep a record of your access times and sites visited. This is to aid any legal law-enforcement agency in a criminal investigation, and for the service provider's legal protection. So anonymous surfing really isn't so anonymous unless you are at a public computer or access point. Of course, this doesn't include any spyware, tracking cookies, and all the other "fun" stuff that's out there, but you get the idea.

Next on the list are applications. For instance, a loan application. How much information do you really put down? Social Security number, income, job history, credit cards, past loan history, past residences, etc. are all pieces of information about ourselves that we semi-freely give out. Of course we hope that the company and its employees are trustworthy, but who really knows?

Do you know what your credit score is? In today's world of loans and credit, this is the question that we are hit with day in and day out. Buy now & pay later with a low interest. Always a thought, but do you realize that three companies keep track of your credit? And if they make a mistake, it's absolute Hell to get it corrected. And since they have your credit information, they also have tons of your personal information. How else can they calculate your credit score?

How about those credit cards? Besides furnishing information to apply for one, every time you make a purchase, that sale is recorded. Buying habits are recorded, and sometimes sold to marketing researching or sales concerns. Same goes for those barcode keyfobs that often come with membership into discount clubs like Sam's Club or Costco. This information is also used to build a profile of your interests and buying habits, and you then become a target for specific sales advertising & promotions. And you thought that the dinner-time telemarketer phone call was totally random...

Of course, what dissertation on privacy wouldn't be complete without a mention of everyone's favorite yearly thrill - the tax return. Think of the kind of information that you must provide. Enough said...

Quite frankly, I'm more concerned about my personal & soon to be medical information floating around on the internet and various businesses than I am about some lousy phone records. And by the way, I'm not paranoid - I know the world is out to get me...