Archive for April, 2010

The local political season is heating up, and this is the time we get to see those oh so wonderful local politician commercials.  Being as I’m in Alabama, most politician commercials that run here attempt to tie the opponent to Obama, Pelosi, or some combination of the two in any way possible.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  But you also get commercials like this gem by Tim James who is running for governor.

Wow!  Looks like somebody wants Alabama to give Arizona a run for its money.

Now I do hear of cases from time to time where I do believe that maybe we are bending over a little too much for non-English speaking residents.  However, it is important to note that we do not have an official language in this country, English or otherwise.  And also since this is a free nation, I would think that would include the freedom to speak any language you would like.

But I would also point out that the purpose of the driver’s examination is not to test English proficiency, but to test vehicle operators’ understanding of the rules of the road.  Given that non-English speaking people may occasionally operate motor vehicles, it might not be a bad idea to check to make sure they know what they are doing.  So I think it is OK to try to accommodate that if you can.  Also, getting a job can be difficult without the ability to drive.  Getting a job helps people assimilate into our society, and it’s a good chance those who have immigrated will start picking up English just by doing that.

I also wonder if we would actually save any money by offering the exam only in English, rather than in the “12 languages” (actually it is 13, but in fairness to Mr. James, he never made any claims about this state’s mathematic skills! ).  There may be costs to change the system from what it is currently.  I don’t know.  Mr. James probably doesn’t either.

Oh, check out the awkward pause at the end!  He has another commercial too.  The awkward pause is apparently his trademark!

4/29 UPDATE:

Found some interesting information at this blog:

Tim James Might Want To Learn The History Of “English Only” Driver’s License Examinations In Alabama

So it turns out that we tried the “English Only” route before as a state and was rewarded with a lawsuit.  The Supreme Court technically said that the individual suing had no standing to enforce Title VI, but also explicitly said that the federal government could withdraw federal funding if a state is found in violation of Title VI.  So the state decided it wasn’t worth that risk and went back to offering the exam in multiple languages (as it was originally).

OK, here’s the thing.  If we only offered the test in English, I wouldn’t necessarily think we should be obligated to offer the test in multiple languages.  However, if it wasn’t that cost prohibitive to do so, I wouldn’t have a problem with doing it.  That said, we already offer the test in multiple languages.  It’s done.  If we want to do away with it, then I think it has to be based on a cost/benefit analysis.  The costs have to include a provision for the risk that we lose federal funding.  As far as benefits go, I really just don’t see many.  I just don’t see how inconveniencing Pedro at the driver’s examination center is going to make my life better.  Really, at the end of the day, what’s the point?

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Yes, the wonderful Jefferson County sewer system, the one that has left the county in over $3 billion of debt.  But hey, at least it is the finest sewer system money can buy.  It’s just like being enrolled in the “Jelly Of The Month Club” (or what I keep wanting to call it, the “Ham Of The Month Club”, for some odd reason).  It’s the gift that keeps on giving all year!  Or years.  So at least we have that……..

Flawed Sewer System Can Treat Only Half Its Designed Limit, Jefferson County Officials Say

Oh you have to be kidding!  Son of a b…..ok, cursing will do no good here.  But geez louise!  We spent all this money for a super-duper sewer system and this is what we get?

The Five Mile Creek plant has the capacity to push 27 million gallons a day through the facility, not 60 million gallons as originally designed, according to county officials.

The County Commission approved a $52.4 million contract in 2005 to double the capacity of the Five Mile Creek plant, which was nearing capacity.

OK, so since I do actuarial work, I am going to use some math skills here.  The plant was nearing capacity, so a contract was rewarded to double the plant’s capacity.  That plan design called for a capacity of 60 million gallons.  If that is double the original capacity, then the original capacity would have been 30 million gallons.  But instead of 60 million gallons that the plant was suppose to have capacity for, instead the plant capacity is actually 27 million gallons.  So, let’s see, instead of picking up 30 million gallons of capacity, the plant actually LOST 3 million gallons of capacity?  The county spent over $50 million to have a plant that is LESS capable than it was previously?  And just when you think you have seen it all when it comes to this darn sewer system.

I have been lucky enough to get a picture of the man behind this wonderful sewer design showing off his full proof system of sewer treatment.

Well that explains it!

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Arizona has just signed a law that requires Arizona local police to question anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being an undocumented immigrant.  Upon questioning, the questionee would be required to produce paperwork proving their status or face being arrested for trespassing.

Here’s a link to the actual law:  http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf

Now first I would say that we as a nation have done far too little to address the immigration issue.  President Obama commented that the failure to act at the federal level has led (and will continue to lead) to other states taking similar actions (which he calls “misguided”).  Obama is absolutely right about that.  It is long past time that we had a debate in this country about how we should handle immigration, both legal and illegal.  In my opinion, this is because the powers-that-be have been happy with the status quo, because it ensures cheap labor.  Therefore, we have a system that really doesn’t do that much to effectively police illegal immigration on the one hand, while on the other makes the legal process for immigration so ridiculously troublesome that it simply incentivizes going the illegal route.

I believe the action that should be taken probably should include a) strictly punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants, to the point where it is cost prohibitive to do so and b) streamlining the legal immigration process to make it much easier.  Arizona has chosen to go a different route, and I find it problematic.  First, how in the heck can anyone “reasonably suspect” someone of being an illegal immigrant?  Do people do “illegal immigrant” things?  Maybe an “illegal immigrant” dance?  I just don’t see how that can be done in practice.  I can’t help to believe that it is going to revolve around race.  And two, I don’t like the idea that if you are accused by police of being illegal, you have to produce papers or go to jail.  Isn’t that presumed guilt until proven innocent?  What if you are not an immigrant at all?  How do you produce papers you are not required to have?

I understand the desire to do something, especially when nothing has been done in years.  Of course, I can’t help but think that the passage of this law may have a lot more to do with political pandering in an election year than actually addressing the problem.  Oh wait, what am I saying?  Nah, politicians would never, ever do that.  I mean, if Arizona was into pandering, they would seek to pass a bill to appease, say, the “birther” movement.  But that would just be silly.

Arizona Birther Bill Would Require Obama’s Birth Paper

Really Arizona?  Really?  This actually passed your state house?  Something to appease the…birthers?  At least the immigration thing is a real actual issue.  The “birther” movement is motivated by a sad illusion by people with too much time on their hands.  Yet Arizona legislators not only found the time to debate this, they actually passed it?  Good grief!  I don’t know which is more sad, that Arizona legislators wasted time doing this or that the “birther” movement has apparently enough momentum in Arizona that politicians feel the need to pander to those for that…er…cause?

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OK, this time I’m going to post some clips from the event.  Before I do, I did want to share one thought about one of the themes that kept popping up during the speeches I heard.  There was much talk about political correctness and diversity.  At one point, a speaker said that diversity and political correctness caused the Fort Hood  killings.  Now me, I think it was the crazy guy with the guns.  Now I am not going to argue that perhaps based on the shooter’s prior behavior that more shouldn’t have been done.  But I wouldn’t necessarily blame political correctness for the lack of action.  Look at the Virginia Tech shooter.  Plenty of signs were there for that guy too, but not enough was done.  I think it really goes back to a couple of things.  One, it is way easier to put together the pieces of something after the fact than it is to predict what is going to happen in the future.  And two, I think it is human nature to not believe that a fellow human is a homicidal maniac.

So anyway, the implication of the speeches seemed to be that we needed to have litmus tests based on race and religion for participation in certain activities (ie military).  It’s kind of scary thought.  Also, hilariously (to me anyway) the speakers would keep mentioning the diversity in the crowd and how “this is what American looks like”.  Well let me tell you then, American is very, very white; pretty darn old; and a little bit angry!  (I did spot one African-American in the crowd.  I tried to snap a picture of him so I could post “evidence”, but there wasn’t enough light where he was standing to make anyone out.  I did also notice that he was a young African-American and he also had a camera and was filming.  So I couldn’t help but wonder if he was just observing as I was!  But he could have very well been a supporter of the movement.)

Anyway, here are some clips.  The first couple represent some of the criticism of churches that I heard.  Now once again, I must say the speakers made it clear that God is a Tea Partyer and that this group is the most christian-y Christians that has ever existed.  But apparently pastors and churches are failing this country.  The funny thing is the implication that if only churches and pastors were more active in the political process that clearly they would push for the Tea Party agenda.  It doesn’t appear to occur to them that the views of churches and pastors would certainly range across the whole political spectrum.  Not only is there not a single monolithic world viewpoint among all the churches, there is not even a single monolithic world viewpoint within any given church!

Second clip:

In this next clip, the speaker apologizes for any glitches or shortcomings during the event.  He then mentions that the people who are running the event are NOT community organizers!  YEAH!!!!!  Community organizers suck!!!!!!:

Oh wait…..isn’t the speaker saying that the event would be better ran if it were ran by community organizers?  Wouldn’t that mean that putting a community organizer in charge of something is not that bad of an idea?  I would think that we wouldn’t want “glitches” and for things to “not quite work right” in our country.  But maybe that’s just me! 🙂

Now I was actually ready to leave at this point.  But then I thought if I went through the trouble of actually showing up, I needed to at least wait to see the main event, the Palin family.  So I did.  Here is daddy and brother Palin getting introduced.  The speaker mentioning that these two may eventually become part of the First Family was probably the scariest thing said all night!:

Here’s a clip of Sarah Palin’s dad talking about whether they saw any signs of Sarah Palin’s future “political greatness” as she was growing up:

Ha!  See, even when she was in the third grade, when it came to newspapers and magazines, she read “all of them”!  (Given that newspapers and news magazines are generally written at a higher than third grade level, it is pretty extraordinary that Sarah could read all of these things cover-to-cover, much less even take an interest in such things.  Really, Mr. Heath, even at the time this should have been a sign!  Wait, you wouldn’t think he would make something like that up, do you?  Nah!)

This clip, Sarah Palin’s dad tells the one thing he did not teach to Sarah:

Oops, my guess was that he didn’t teach her how to pronounce the word nuclear.  But I guess that’s actually not a thing of nature.

In this clip, Sarah Palin’s dad gives examples of letters with vague addresses that manages to make it to their house anyway (funny thing, this would seem to speak well for the U.S. Postal Service, but later Mr. Heath would go on to criticize the performance of the same service):

Well it is good to know that Sarah can see Alaska from her house too!  By the way, this is what Sarah Palin actually said in regards to her insight into Russia: “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”  So no, she did not actually say “I can see Russia from my house”, but it was pretty darn close!  That’s why Tina Fey’s line was funny.

Finally, here is what Sarah Palin’s dad has to say about Fox News:

Good to know that God enjoys O’Reilly, Hannity, and Beck!

I didn’t have a watch, but my internal clock was telling me that it had to be like 10:30pm or something so I decided to head out.  So I didn’t get a chance to hear what brother Palin had to say.  As it turns out, once I got back to my car, it was only 9:30pm or so.  It just seemed that I was there longer than I really was.  But I think I caught enough of the event.  I have more video that I may dig through one day and post (don’t count on it!).  But anyway, I went.  I posted pictures.  I posted video.  You’re welcome!  (It’s not going to happen again! 🙂 )

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So I can say that I have attended a Tea Party (OK, part of a Tea Party).  Actually, having heard the same song and dance often enough, it was pretty boring.  Blah, blah, blah…ObamaCare this….blah, blah, blah…..socialism that…..blah, blah, blah…..pry it from my cold, dead hands the other.  Probably the only thing that caught me a little off-guard was how anti-church the speakers were.  Now don’t get me wrong, the speakers let it be known that they were all Christians and God was undoubtedly on the tea party’s side.  But the speakers were outright angry that churches and pastors were not more actively involved in the political movement (which apparently would certainly be in line with the Tea Party).  I had heard that Glenn Beck had floated the idea out there that churches may be a problem (with the evils of promoting “social justice”).  But I really didn’t think it would take hold, particularly in Alabama.  But there it was.

Anyway, I got some pics and video from the event.  The video is going to take a little time to get out there.  I will need to do some editing.  But I’ll go ahead and post some pics.

Big ol' American flag on stage? Check. We are more American than you, we have a big flag!

Just to give you some idea of the size of the crowd. Not exactly huge. Newspaper said there was about 800. Seemed closer to 200-300 to me. Daddy and brother Palin are obviously not the draw that Sarah is!

OK, not too crazy. A little wordy for a sign. Now if you have insurance, you are already into cost sharing and not exactly just paying for "my" health care. But I get it.

OK, more scary! Tried to stay away from the guy who doesn't "dial 911". By the way, "wolf bandit" sells a biker mask. I also think he likes guns, but that's just a wild guess.

You probably are not a racist. Then again, if you have to say that you are not a racist...(and racists probably pay taxes too).

Not exactly right. 47% of Americans do not pay federal income tax. Of course, they pay many other taxes. Payroll taxes, taxes on investments, and state and local taxes. In fact, when taken in total, thanks to the massive sales tax here in Alabama, the poorest 20% pay about 10% tax as a percentage of income, while the richest 1% pay about 5% tax as a percentage of income. But let's just pretend that half the country is getting a "free lunch".

First, we'd all be equal? Not sure I like the connotation there. Second, once again, we pretty much all pay taxes. And those that don't, I don't think anyone wants to trade lifestyles with them. I do wonder how many people in the crowd was actually part of the 47% and just didn't know it.

Of course, you also saw signs complaing about how high taxes were too. I am not sure how you get the 47% "not paying taxes" to pay taxes without a tax increase.

Oh....I see what you did there.

And here is a short video I will post now.  The speaker is giving some sort of oath for the folks.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see something strange to my right.  The guy standing right next to me doesn’t have his right hand up.  So I take a few steps back so I can get this guy in the shot.  Now you all tell me, isn’t that guy giving the “black power salute”?

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OK, I just want to let you all know I took one for the team (or something).  I went to the tea party (not the whole thing, but trust me, I was there long enough).  I learned that not all “parties” are fun.  Geez!  I will post a full report (w/pics and video hopefully!) later.  Right now, I am tired (tea party = cure for insomnia).

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You know, in the Bush/Cheney years, there was a lot of talk about the abuses of the executive branch, particularly in relation to the Constitution.  So in that light, I read this article with interest:

U.S. Approves Targeted Killing Of American Cleric

In short, President Obama has ordered the assassination of an U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.  To the best of anyone’s knowledge, not even Bush, Cheney, and his fellow neo-cons did that.  Congratulations Mr. Obama, you have found yourself on the right of even some of the most right-wing of the conservative movement.  And the folks on the right that you are not to the right to and are pleased to hear this?  They are kind of crazy.  This action is not only unconstitutional, it is clearly wrong and goes against what this country stands for in regards to justice.  Of course, this action won’t get a lot of criticism because Obama plays on the same team as those on the left (however, to his credit, and to my surprise, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann did devote time and criticism of Obama on his show) and those on the right can’t move away from their playbook that says everyone on the left is weak on defense, so the right would rather criticize actions by the President such as those that allows our country to only be able to blow up the world 10 times over instead of 15 times over.

Our justice system is based on the idea that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  This principle is to be applied even to the worse of the worse.  We didn’t order the assassination of Charlie Manson.  We didn’t order the assassination of Jeffrey Dahmer.  We didn’t order the assassination of Timothy McVeigh.  Heck, even when that guy tried to blow up the plane with that underwear bomb, the passengers restrained him but they didn’t kill him.  And this is a man who undeniably had just tried to snuff all of them out.  It would have been hard to blame the passengers for wanting a little vigilante justice.  But they didn’t because that is not what we do in this country.

So what makes Anwar al-Awlaki so different?  So much more dangerous?  And what makes Obama so sure that he is guilty?  So guilty that he doesn’t get the same due process as all other American citizens receive?  And if Obama can single-handedly make the decision in this case, why not other cases?  Why not just drop the whole court system altogether?  It would save a lot of money.  If those of you that support Obama’s ability to do this, would you still support this power if it were Bush’s call?  Say this power was held by someone like Sarah Palin?  The fact is if it is wrong for a Bush or Palin to wield such power, it is wrong for Obama to do so as well.  What powers the President does or does not have should not be dependent on who holds the position.

An interesting point I heard raised is that Obama may potentially be even more dangerous than Bush in regards to abuse of power.  At least when Bush made such power grabs, he faced heavy opposition from those on the left.  Obama may be free to make these power grabs without much opposition at all.  Hopefully those with principle will beat the drums loud enough where there is at least a debate about this.  Surely if warrant-less wiretaps and holding people indefinitely without charges is wrong, killing citizens without so much as a hearing has to be wrong too.

(One thing I would love to hear from somebody on the left/progressive side of the fence, how does Obama’s policies in regard to terrorism significantly differ from those of Bush/Cheney?  Because I just don’t really see it.  In fact, with actions such as this, I think I could make the case that the policies are even worse.)

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