Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dude, where's my recession?

So asks Michael Barone, echoing U.S. News colleague James Pethokoukis: "April’s unemployment was 5 percent — a figure that once upon a time was considered full employment. The Consumer Price Index was up 3.9 percent, largely due to price rises in energy and food. “Core inflation” was 2.3 percent. Productivity was up 2.2 percent." And now news that Q1 was revised up to 0.9% GDP annualized growth. Kudlow says Year-over-year real GDP is 2.5 percent.

Sluggish numbers they may be, but hardly the 1970s-era stagflation high-misery-index numbers. These numbers don't match the picture of economic calamity the media and the Bush-hating partisans have painted for the past few quarters. We have probably digested the foreclosure/housing bubble/banking credit crunch threat and the main risk to the economy in the next year or two will be Democrat tax hikes (see prior post).

Democrat House Votes For $65 Billion Tax Hike

On May 21st, the Democrat House Voted For $65 Billion Tax Hike combined with a number of billion-dollar tax subsidies. It was a confection of the worst habits of Washington: 'eat your vegetables' style tax rebates that turn the tax code into social engineering; a Christmas tree of corporate welfare giveaways; and earmark-style special tax loopholes. All of this wrapped in a 'green' alternative energy wrapper. Yet it had a $1.6 billion giveaway to the trail lawyers and a tax giveaway to Hollywood. Nothing energy about those provision, which were all about paying back the moneyed interests that grease the Democrats' palms. Speaker Pelosi and Charlie Rangel love this stuff. The lefty blogs fall for the garbage that this actually amounts to a hill of beans energy-wise (it doesn't), and ignore the multi-billion tax hike. House Republicans were skeptical:

Whether that agenda involves additional spending, new tax incentives, or even just extensions of the low-tax policies that Republicans originally enacted during our time in the majority, the Democrats’ solution seems to always be the same: tax, tax, tax. .... The majority’s bill represents a clear choice in favor of higher taxes. Our motion to recommit, on the other hand, represents a clear choice in favor of extending current tax relief, without offsetting tax hikes.

Unlike the bill brought forward today by the Majority, which contains $55.5 billion in revenue-raisers, our motion contains no – repeat, no – tax increases. Democrats were wrong to propose these sorts of offsetting tax hikes last year, and they are wrong again today.

Lamar Smith voted against it.

If the Republicans got their act together, they might even point out that the Democrats are living up to the old-time "tax and spend" label. The Republicans are correct to point out the travesty of the Democrats failing to fix our broken Alternative Minimum Tax, which is set to fry middle-class and upper-middle-class taxpayers with $2400 on average tax increases next year if Congress fails to act. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire, and with Charles Rangel in charge of Ways and Means, the inmates are truly running the asylum in the House. This is not the first multi-billion tax increase, and won't be the last unless we the people start raising a stink about the stinky Democratic-sponsored tax increases.

DDT Saves Lives

"The reality is that DDT is probably the most useful insecticide ever used for public health." - say Roger Bate of the group Africa Fighting Malaria. Banning DDT has been a mistake that cost millions of lives.

The Network Behind the Sellout

McClellan got his Thirty Pieces of Silver to sellout the Bush administration. Novak calls it McClellan's revenge for getting (deservedly) fired in 2006. Now he writes a book lamenting too much PR in the White House, which is strange because when McClellan was their spokesman, the truth was their PR was pathetic. McClellan was another example of Bush's misplaced loyalty, who disserved Bush then by not adequately responding to unfair attacks on the Bush administration, and who disserves Americans now by failing to explain his own failures and actions and instead follows a script written for him by the left - a script with nothing new in it.

O'Reilly has his number. The sellout was scripted because McClellan was forced by the publisher to be that

McClellan knows that in April of 2007, he appeared on Bill Maher's program still supporting the Iraq action. On that show, former Sen. Bill Bradley actually got annoyed with McClellan for his hawkish stance.
McClellan's former boss, Ari Fleischer, says that Scott confessed to him that the publisher, Public Affairs, made him "revise" some of the book, putting in more negative stuff about Bush. If that's true, it makes sense. Few people these days are in the mood to read anything good about the president.

The real story here is that the network behind McClellan's book is the far left, the same far left crowd that is behind Barack Obama, and that the media buildup is really about the political asperations and attitudes of the liberal media today. It's a "Make Obama Win" book that Democrats are already using in fundraising appeals.
McClellan in 2007 intended to defend Bush and attack media - "Reading through McClellan's original book proposal, obtained by, it is clear that before his editor Peter Osnos took the book on a sharp leftward turn, McClellan wanted to turn the tables on foes in the press gallery including far-left columnist Helen Thomas and NBC correspondent David Gregory." - but that story wouldn't get a publisher. So the leftwing publisher got the book they wanted.
McClellan stayed ignorant on Plame affair says Novak, ignoring that Richard Armitage was the source of the Plame leak and keeping to the left-wing script on the matter to blame Rove, who neither was the source of the leak nor lied to either McClellan or the grand jury about it.

McCain's League of Democracies a good idea

I was reminded about how effing screwed we are when reading that a IAEA representative wasn't sure about Iran's nuclear intentions, downplaying the American and European concerns about Iran's drive to nuclear weapons. Where was this guy from? CUBA!. Like when we have travesties like someone from Sudan coming to the US to study our human rights, or an Algerian Judge dictating to us about our criminal courts, or Syria or Libya on the UN human right commission.

The UN is a flawed institution because it pretends to have global legitimiacy, but only have as much legitimacy as the Governments that comprise this Club of Governments. It's about time we cut through the blatant absurdity of bad bureacrats from non-democratic regimes telling us our business, yet we can't seem to either reform the UN enough, nor will simply leaving the UN solve the problem. McCain's League of Democracies may be just the ticket to open up the discussion of how to hold global governing bodies accountable to principles of freedom and democracy.

Vets for Freedom Defend Cornyn

Vets for Freedom corrects the record after Cornyn's opponent dishonestly accused Cornyn of opposing new veterans education bill benefits; on the contrary, Cornyn supports the "Graham-Burr" veterans educational bill, but merely voted against and inferior Democratic alternative. Furthermore, Cornyn announced his sponsorship of the Military Voting Protection Act to ensure the right to vote is assured for all those in military service.

Update: Cornyn himself responds

AISD and hamburgers

"If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you're liable to be given more money to do it with." --Ronald Wilson Reagan

Food for thought when AISD's Johnson High School, rated 'unacceptable' for the past 4 years and in danger of closure, is reporting progress in TEKS tests in May 31st Statesman. What 'progress'? If any, its from abysmal to merely awful: 35% of black students are passing math TEKS, last year a pitiful 14% did. Overall passing rates in 2008 are in the mid-60% range, still below the 70% score that is minimal for being considered acceptable. To put it another way - 2/3rds of black students are failing in math; 1/3 of all students are failing overall to learn the basic minimal curriculum and skills required.

The comment was made that 'buildings don't teach', which is certainly correct:

"Buildings do not teach. You can't hold a building responsible for the education of a child," said Trustee Cheryl Bradley

Yet that is used ironically as a reason for keeping Johnson open; those buildings certainly are not teaching what needs to be taught, and neither is AISD and the teachers there. No, don't blame the building - blame AISD! The interference by Senator Watson and defensive attitude of AISD to keep it open and under current management looks more like CYA status quo defense than the real fix that is required, and it will only continue the failures.

If AISD was a hamburger, would you serve it to your kids? If Johnson High was a McDonald's and causing harm to those consuming its product, would the Government wait five years to keep it open?

There is a simple solution to the dilemma of shutting down a school in a neighborhood vs keeping open a bad school: School choice. Let the students be given the opportunity to escape schools that are failing to teach. Over 10% of Texas schools are rated 'unacceptable' and that means that hundreds of thousands of Texas schoolchildren are forced to go to bad schools. Save the children through school choice. Johnston High itself however has had millions spent ($100,000 per child in K-12 education), with a far from adequate outcome. Perhaps Johnson High should be made into a charter school under non-AISD management. AISD had 4 years and didn't make it. Enough is enough.


Central Texas Republican Assemblies held a Transportation Summit (Part I) with TxDOT on Tuesday, May 27. Some comments on it, related to the previous post that came in CTRA followup communication:

There was positive feedback from both participants and the speaker, Colby Chase of TxDOT. The response of TxDOT to the concerns expressed by the candidates and others at the Summit could not have have been quicker or more direct. The Transportation Summit being juxtaposed with this week's action of the Transportation Commission is a bit surreal. In the free flowing Q&A session Tuesday night we touched on the very thing that the Commission did today. I had no idea that the Commission was going to take this action, but when Coby was refuting some of the wild anti-TTC rhetoric such as the dogmatic statements by some that the Spaniards will own Texas’ toll roads as a result of Centra-Zachary’s involvement in the TTC, I thought "why not just state at the top of the Comprehensive Development Agreements a principle that lays out the truth that the State of Texas will own the highways and have control over the tolls, etc." That is effectively what the Delisi led Transportation Commission did in it’s action today.

A number of communications, from citizen-activists, Texas conservative legislators, Rep Glen Hegar, other politicians, asked the transportation commission to lay out key principles, such as:

  • Texas owns the highways it builds
  • Only use eminent domain when and where needed
  • All CDAs (Comprehensive Development Agreements) should have buy-back provisions to allow the state to buy out leases if it is in the interest of the state
  • Don't convert existing freeways to tollways
  • Toll rate setting should be done publicly and with local government involvement/approval
  • Don't use non-compete bids and don't include non-compete clauses that limit upgrade to state roads nearby tollways

These are common-sense principles to keep Government accountable when it comes to transportation and tollways. It was both the correct policy and politically wise to affirm these as written public commitments of the Transportation Commission.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Toll Road Guiding Principles - A Positive Step for TxDOT

An important decision and announcement has come out of the Texas Transporation Commission regarding toll roads. Transportation Commission Affirms Toll Road Building Principles:

AUSTIN – The Texas Transportation Commission today adopted guiding principles and policies that will govern the development, construction and operation of toll road projects on the state highway system and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Commission's unanimous vote reaffirms policies and the requirements of state law regarding toll projects, particularly involving the use of comprehensive development agreements (CDA). The Commission's action today reflects the comments we have received from Texas drivers, legislators and members of our citizen advisory committees," said Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi. "Texans deserve a clear, straightforward explanation of what we are doing to solve our transportation challenges and how we are doing it."

The Texas Transportation Commission is a five-member board appointed by the Governor to oversee the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

The Commission reaffirmed its commitment to meet or exceed the requirements of state law on five key issues:

  • All state highway facilities, including the Trans-Texas Corridor, will be completely owned by the State of Texas at all times.
  • All Comprehensive Development Agreements will include provisions that allow TxDOT to purchase or "buy back" the interest of a private developer in a CDA at any time if buying back the project would be in the best financial interest of the state.
  • The Texas Transportation Commission shall approve, in a public meeting, the initial toll rates charged for the use of a toll project on the state highway system and the methodology for increasing the amount of tolls. All rate-setting actions will come after consultation with appropriate local metropolitan planning organizations.
  • Only new lanes added to an existing highway will be tolled, and there will be no reduction in the number of non-tolled lanes that exist today.
  • Comprehensive development agreements will not include "non-compete" clauses that would prohibit improvements to existing roadways. The Department and any governmental entity can construct, reconstruct, expand, rehabilitate or maintain any roadway that is near or intersects with any roadway under the CDA.

In recognition of the Texas Legislature's commitment to protecting landowners' property rights and in following the department's long-standing practice with other transportation projects, the commission affirmed two additional principles:

  • TxDOT will always consider the use of existing right of way that satisfies the purpose and need of the project as a possible project location when conducting environmental studies.
  • To the extent practical, TxDOT shall plan and design facilities so that a landowner's property is not severed into two or more separate tracts and the original shape of the property is preserved.

"These principles will help guide TxDOT as we work to improve our state's traffic congestion and air quality problems," said Delisi. "The Texas Legislature shares our commitment to improving highway safety and creating economic opportunity, and they expect us to meet these goals in keeping with our state's tradition of protecting the rights of property owners."

Delisi said that the Trans-Texas Corridor implementation plan "Crossroads of the Americas," should be updated to reflect changes in the state's transportation challenges since it was first released in June of 2002.

"As we work to develop important projects like a parallel corridor to I-35 and the long-awaited I-69, we will work toward meeting our goals with these important principles in mind," she said.

TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Steve Simmons reported to the commission that input for the principles included comments from members of the Corridor Advisory Committees and more than 27,000 comments received during the public involvement process for I-69/TTC. He noted that TxDOT has worked with members of the Legislature to address their concerns with TxDOT's work to develop toll roads. Simmons also recalled former Transportation Chair Ric Williamson's dedication to involving Texans in the department's work.

The Texas Department of Transportation

The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining nearly 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its 15,000 employees strive to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, and to use new financial tools, including tolling and public-private partnerships, to reduce congestion and pave the way for future economic growth while enhancing safety, improving air quality and increasing the value of the state's transportation assets. Find out more at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's time for substantive CHANGE to US Energy Policy

The time has come to say NO to those who would have America continue to be the slave of the foreign oil barons/dictators of this world. Let's resolve to lift our voices and pens to the words

Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less!
and to overturn all laws and defeat any bill and every politician which stand in the way of energy independence for this great Nation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Property Tax and Appraisal Committee

Tired of high property taxes and appraisal creep? Here is your opportunity to talk to the elected officials who work on tax policy in the State Legislature. The House Select Committee on Property Tax Relief and Appraisal Reform will be conducting public meetings and taking testimony at locations across Texas beginnning on June 17.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - Travis County
Tuesday, June 24 - Hidalgo County
Tuesday, July 1 - Bexar County
Tuesday, July 8, Tarrant County
Tuesday, July 15 - Jefferson County
Tuesday, August 12 - Lubbock County
Tuesday, August 19 - Harris County

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Austin's Onerous "Point-of-Sale" Moves Forward

Chris Lehman wrote an fawning op-ed for onerous, costly mandates on homeowners today in the Statesman. Homeowners will be stuck paying the bill for an unwarranted intrusion on our rights as homeowners and the Sierra Club are cheerleaders for this idiocy. The other cheerleaders are the boneheads on City Council.
First, he talks about "how Austin can succeed in the challenge of climate protection." It needs to be pointed up front that nothing Austin does or doesn't do will add up to a hill of beans when it comes to climate change. Yes Austin could cut CO2 by shutting down La Grange and replacing that source with nuclear energy (oops, Council missed that opportunity). Even if we assume the dubious worst-case scenarios, Austin's impact on global CO2 increment, even if the City forces $100 million in in the next 10 years is so small it will not be noticed at all.

The total global temperature has gone up less than 0.6C in the last 60 years, and this represents the maximum of man's incluence on climate thus far (although some will argue credibly that some of this 0.6C is natural variation in climate). This what the entire globe's CO2 production since the dawn of the industrial revolution has wrought: 0.6C. And has not gone up at all in the past ten. What will Austin's contribution, if reduced by 10% in the next 10 years add up to? 0.19 x .1 x .0001, or 19 millionths of a degree. Will you notice a change in nineteen-millionths of a degree? Is it really worth it to force homeowners to spend tens of millions of dollars, for a few millionths of a degree?

Those who say yes to such a deal are more than welcome to make these costly additions to their own homes, to set an example if you wish. If they have an energy-hungry mansion like Gore has, they could put the kind of environmental friendly home features that President Bush put on his Crawford Ranch and pave the way for being eco-trend setters.

Lehman touts a "recommendation was that the state upgrade every building constructed before 1985 to meet modern energy efficiency standards." Well, it's just that - a recommendation. To turn a recommendation from another state into an excuse for regulation here is absurd. Commercial and residential homeowners have many other expenses and costs. Does it make sense to force homeowners to make energy upgrades when selling, when the buyer may have completely different ideas that rip out major parts of the house and undo those forced upgrades? I would think not. After all, many buyers want to refinish and redo the house they; those who bought our southwest Austin house in 2005 put in new windows. It's absurd to make seller pay thousands for wasteful upgrades that get turned away.

Regulation does dumb stuff like that. It forces people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do. And since most people are adults and have limited funds, what it invariabily forces people to do are things that don't make sense. If energy efficiency is cost-effective and sensible, people would do it. When it is too costly and not cost-effective (like solar panels), people stay away from it.

Austin Energy can and should consider it a community stakeholder activity to educate and encourage on energy efficiency. They already do that and that's why we voluntarily got an energy audit on our home 10 years ago. It helped us reduce our energy usage and do some sensible things.

Dictation regulations like this treat adults like children, and are further insulting us by telling us it will matter when, in the grand scheme of climate change and environment, it doesnt matter at all. They only difference really will be the dollars and cents. A simple rule - If it doesn't save you any dollars as a homeowner, it doesn't make any sense - not to you, not to the city, not to Planet Earth.

City Council: Educate and encourage, but don't dictate!

PS. An email that came our way on this topic - and reminds us there is a runoff where the #1 issue is the point-of-sale mandates:

Last night, Wed May 21, the task force voted to approve a recommendation that will require the upgrades if the city doesn't reach minimal goals. The goals are VERY HIGH, and unrealistic, essentially voting for MANDATORY ENFORCEMENT!

You will have to get a certificate or permit before you can sell your home. You will have to slash $thousands from your value before selling. The article below puts an interesting "spin" on how nice this will be. How affordable. What happens when the inspector finds out-of-code electrical wiring? What happens when ADA (Americans for Disabilities Act) upgrades are required as is being considered NOW? How much can we require young couples to pay for these upgrades to own a home of their own? Or the seller (probably you) to come off of value? Make up your own mind.

This will be decided by the Austin City Council probably in the Fall. Defend your home now. Cid Galindo is against this ordinance. Laura Morrison is for it. There is a runoff on June 14th.

Candidates to reform the PEC - Stratton and more

The clubbiness at the Perdenales Electric Cooperative (PEC) board of directors won't ever be the same. After getting exposed for many malefactions and inside deals, the PEC board president resigned, the director elections have been opened up, and reformers have started running for BoD positions. A normally sleepy non-vote is actually worth looking into for Perdenales Electric customers.

One of reformers to vote for is Eric Stratton, running in PEC District 3. He is well deserving of support. As for the other districts, we got a rundown that we will pass along:

DISTRICT 2 (VOTING) - Sandy Jenkins (one of the first Republicans in Burnet County, wife to founder of ABC Pest Control) OR Glenn van Shellenbeck (founder of Van's Autoparts, one of the original plaintiffs on the lawsuit that opened things up in the first place)

DISTRICT 7 (VOTING) - Linda Kaye Rogers (one of the original members who raised heck and helped spur reforms in the first place; supported by former Hays County Commissioner Susie Carter)

DISTRICT 5 (ADVISOR) - Paul Langston (former Marine who worked for an energy company and also was one of the original members who raised heck and helped spur reforms in the first place)

DISTRICT 6 (ADVISOR) - NOT Charles Tessor (out of the country currently on business; concern he's too busy to dedicate the time to it); NOT Dave Bethancourt (part of the "good ol' boys" club of Hays County)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bloated Farm Bill

Via Farm Policy website: Dan Morgan reported in today’s Washington Post that, "A major new program in the recently enacted farm bill could increase taxpayer-financed payments to farmers by billions of dollars if high commodity prices decline to more typical levels, administration and congressional budget officials said yesterday.

“The potential costs came to light as administration officials pored over details of the 673-page, $307 billion legislation. President Bush has promised to veto the measure, which he called ‘bloated.’ The House and Senate passed the bill by bipartisan margins large enough to override him unless dozens of lawmakers switch sides."

A call to action: Get the Senate and House to sustain Bush's veto. $300 billion for farm programs is an absurd amount with such high food prices.

Study on Ethanol shows it increased corn price 40%

Wow, what a misleading headline: Yet Another Study Confirms Ethanol’s Minimal Effect On Retail Food Prices, but in fact it shows the direct influence ethanol has had on grain prices:

Ethanol's demand for corn is a factor, Perrin said, but it needs to be taken in perspective. Grain prices have roughly doubled in the last two years, Perrin said. His calculations found that ethanol is responsible for about 40 percent of that increase.

40% of a doubling is a 40% increase. Ethanol subsidies, on top of socking it to taxpayers, force us to pay more for grain. So the headline should have read: Study on Ethanol boondoggle shows it increased corn price 40%. And it should further warn us that it is just the start - the 2007 ramps up ethanol mandates considerably.

Then they say: "Doubled grain prices contributed about 3 percent to the increase in U.S. food prices; 40 percent of 3 percent comes to about 1.2 percent." .. This looks like a case of how to lie with statistics, I suppose. The retail prices have a lot of non-food related markup, in particular they have risen because the price of oil is adding to agriculture and transportation costs. Now if ethanol was really a winner, it would be lowering the oil prices to balance the higher food prices. Didn't happen. To say ethanol is not mainly responsible for *retail* prices is silly. It's like saying ethanol is okay because it didnt raise the price of movie tickets.

It is further doubtful the study properly is measuring the real impact from the spillover from higher corn demand and higher corn production displacing many other grain production and thereby increasing their prices as well. This is a global phenomenon, made worse by the fact that Europe has also gone 'whole hog' for bio-fuels.

So to conclude: 1. Ethanol adds to grain prices. 2. Ethanol costs taxpayers billions. 3. Ethanol does nothing to keep the price of oil low. So why oh why are we wasting money on ethanol?

The Decline and Fall of the Family in Western Civ

When a future Gibbon writes of how Western Civilization declined and fell, losing its grip on civilizational leadership, the destruction of the biological mother-and-father married-with-children nuclear family will surely figure prominently. Today, Western Europe and white America are so far below replacement rate, in 100 years, Europe will be a tiny minority in the world. Yet the headlong rush to societal suicide through the destruction of the traditional family continues apace.

Case #1 in the UK: MPs voted to remove the requirement that fertility clinics consider a child’s need for a father and at the same time voted to keep abortion on demand up 24 weeks.

Case #2 in California was the recent unwarranted judicial decision to overturn the people's will, disregard the rights of children to be raised by a Mother and Father, and abolish all distinctions in law in California favorable to traditional marriage-based family.

"The slippery slope has been greased. If two men can marry, why not more than two? Are laws against polygamy also a violation of our constitutional rights? Was the Texas cult legal? There you had a lot of people in a committed relationship raising a lot of children. Heterosexual marriage is not some Right-wing plot to deny homosexuals their rights. It’s an institution sanctioned by all successful nations and cultures because of a compelling interest in a stable, growing society with heterosexual marriage providing a sturdy framework for both procreation and the orderly upbringing of children—the future of any society. Opponents of the decision will try to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. That may be the only way to ensure that activist judges don’t further unravel the fabric of society and that government of the people has not become government by just four people." —Investor’s Business Daily, via Patriot Post

"It took just four activist judges to overturn the historical definition of marriage, not to mention the vote of more than 4.5 million Californians. By a 4-3 margin the justices struck down a law adopted by 61% of voters in 2000, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman … the California Supreme Court knowingly usurped the right of the people to effect change in public policy. This outcome is even more troubling than Massachusetts." -Family Research Council

When it comes to what to do about activist judges who pervert the law, Lincoln had it right: "We the People are the rightful master of both congress and the courts - not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution." --Abraham Lincoln, Political debates between Lincoln and Douglas, 1858.

Economies of Scale in Nuclear Power

Energy from Thorium blog cites Rod Adams in saying Small is better for getting down the nuclear power experience curve. I had my own comment.

I hit on these factors: Thermal efficiency; operating costs/kwh; materials cost per Kilowatt; Lower fuel costs via higher burnup rates and simpler fuel cycles; Lower engineering costs per Kwh via repeatable and simplified design. I said "It may be neither big nor small that is the issue but - repeatable, simple, high efficiency /high temp, high power density, inherently safe/easier to run, better fuel burnup - that are the factors. If a smaller design hits those points - then it wins."

It occured to me that many are touting solar and wind as CO2 mitigation solutions, and are expecting an 'experience curve' and technology improvement benefit in these technologies to make them cost-competitive. They are not economically competitive today. Yet nuclear technology could be on such a curve, although it's 1970s technologies like PWR and BWR that are the workhorses even today for nuclear reactors. Nuclear's future may lie with different technologies: Pebble-bed, molten-salt and lead-cooled reactors, for example. The Energy from Thorium blog has a lot of outside-the-box thinking about nuclear power that may be essential for a 21st century nuclear power technology base.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

UT's race-based admissions challenged

Judge considers legality of UT's admission policy. A lawsuit seeks to bar university's use of race, ethnicity. That is, they are asking UT to do the right thing. Why do we need to spend taxpayer dollars to figure this out? Why isn't the Chancellor fired for even thinking this crazy race-based admission policy is a good idea?

Some reaction:

I look forward to the day when neither race nor gender is used as criteria for admissions or scholarships to institutions of higher learning. In our attempt to be inclusive, we end up excluding many otherwise deserving students. My two children are first generation African/American citizens (Algerian descent), yet because they are white, they do not qualify for any of the programs children of color receive. They are equally deserving when evaluated on performance or need alone, but when the criteria includes color as a consideration, they are excluded. I believe we should give merit when it is earned or deserved, and a leg-up to anyone who meets entry qualifications but is excluded due to finances. Good grades, financial need, and community involvement are a better gage of merit and character than genetics that are beyond the individuals control.

More comments:

A pure merit-based system would be fair. People are unhappy because their kid does better and is more qualified than another kid, yet the other kid gets accepted due to skin color or where they went to school. A system that judges people based on their race, to either exclude or favor, is biased and wrong. Diversity programs are breeding grounds for racist policies. Discrimination is still discrimination, no matter who does it or for what reason, and its still wrong.

Legally and morally speaking, UT's race-based acceptance process is wrong and defies the intention of both the 1996 and 2003 rulings. UT should be ashamed of themselves for allowing policies that are racist and subject applicants to violations of their civil rights.

Monday, May 19, 2008

AISD Hosts Racially Segregated Event

Hispanic only award ceremony for top Hispanic AISD students. Is there a separate black-only and white-only event too? No word on that. Check the reactions.

Curing The Republican Funk

The arc of Republican status in the U.S. Congress in the past 16 years has gone from out-of-power minority to majority and back, a truly Greek epic: Minority status begat Resolution begat Strategies to Win begat Vigor begat Victory begat Accomplishment begat Satisfaction begat Complacency begat Corruption begat Isolation begat Defeat begat Loss of faith begat ... the GOP funk.

In the aftermath of the 2006 election, GOP insiders knew that reviving the Republican brand was critical. Understanding and doing are two different things, and the Republicans failed to get things right and got whacked in special Congressional elections in the past month, losing traditionally Republican seats. And here the GOP funk remains. Congressional Republicans face a rout in November if they don't turn things around.

The simple calculus is this: Many people, despite low unemployment and a war in Iraq that is being won, feel we are on the 'wrong track', and are blaming Republicans. Never mind the reality that We are on the wrong track because we are on the leftist track. The Democrats are the majority in Congress, yet are managing to evade the responsibility for the Democrat majority's incompetence, bad policies, and corruption. The media is too in love with Obama to inform people that we even have a Democrat majority in Congress, let alone that they are larding up every spending bill with pork; putting in tax increase after tax increase; socking it to investors; attempting cut-n-run from Iraq; etc.

There is an opportunity, if only the Republicans weren't too spineless to stop being pork-barrellers themselves. More than half of Republicans in Congress are going along with the budget-busting Farm subsidies bill this week, defying Bush's sensible veto threat of this literal "pork" bill. $300 billion wasteful Government spending over 5 years. A complete and total waste of money, made more egregious by the fact that grain prices are at all-time highs. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, and the GOP brand is sullied by such acts of political pandering. Nobody can out-pander Democrats, and to be a Republican panderer is like being a short NBA player, or a deaf violinist, or one-legged tap-dancer; you'll never win.

All a conservative is left with if the Republicans don't re-secure their appeal is the sure knowledge that, as bad as the Republicans might be, the Democrats are worse. Alas, consider the many, many under 30 voters who don't remember how bad the Democrats can get when given power. They are more than willing to listen to Democrat campaign lies instead of Republican campaign excuses, and make us relive the painful experience.

One real solution is a return to core conservative values, as expressed by a man who was around the last time the Democrats had a free ride of House, Senate and Presidency for 4 years:

“We, the members of the New Republican Party, believe that the preservation and enhancement of the values that strengthen and protect individual freedom, family life, communities and neighborhoods and the liberty of our beloved nation should be at the heart of any legislative or political program presented to the American people... Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home... The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when? Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society. Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite. Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America’s spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God’s help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.” —from Ronald Reagan’s “New Republican Party”

Or we can look to Newt Gingrich who says bluntly:
"Faced with these election results, the House Republicans should hold an emergency members-only meeting. At the meeting, they should pose this stark choice: Real change or certain defeat. ... No Republicans should kid themselves. It's time to face up to a stark choice. Without change we could face a catastrophic election this fall." He calls for 9 planks of change to act on immediately:
  • Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending.
  • Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.
  • "Introduce a "more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security bill" as a replacement for the Warner-Lieberman "tax and trade" bill which is coming to the floor of the Senate in the next few weeks."
  • Establish an earmark moratorium for one year and pledge to uphold the presidential veto of bills with earmarks through the end of 2009.
  • Declare English the official language of government.
  • Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically.
  • Protect the workers' right to a secret ballot.
  • Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.
  • Remind Americans that judges matter.

It's time for the Republicans to Be Bold ... or they will be gone.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama naive and wrong on Military policy

Obama Promises to Dismantle Our Armed Forces says Robert Maginniss, as he takes apart the absurdity and naivity of Obama's declarations on military spending:

Senator Obama’s national security views expressed in his 52-second video reflect that of a knee-jerk liberal academic who thinks that the US is the primary threat to world peace. His views are dangerously naive and his statements suggest a shallow understanding of national security issues and in some cases his facts are wrong.

PS: Another endorsement for Obama: Young Communists for Obama - "As Communists, we have to finish the task of isolating the ultra-right and completely removing them from power—using the Democrats to finish the job. ... In Chicago YCL members were very active in the Youth for Obama efforts."

Swedish Welfare State Collapses as Immigrants Wage War

Swedish Welfare State Collapses as Immigrants Wage War. Those war-waging immigrants are Muslim immigrants who have contempt for Swedish law, Swedish culture and Swedes themselves. The lesson is: Weak-on-crime plus multi-culturalism plus unlimited immigration = Attacks on your people and your culture.

Will America repeat the mistakes of Sweden? Barack Obama is a weak-on-crime open-borders multiculturalist. hmmmm.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Climate Models Attack Polar Bears

The EPA decided to list the polar bear as 'endangered'
. The threat to polar bears is due to the threat of climate models.

Let me explain. The polar bear population is increasing:

"Although the global population of polar bears has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960s to approximately 25,000 today, Mr. Kempthorne said government scientists had advised him that computer modeling projects "a significant population decline" by the year 2050."

The polar bear was not listed based on FACTS, it was listed based on MODELS. Fearmongering grew last summer when arctic sea ice melted, but then winter happened. Arctic sea ice is above normal for the past 20 years, indicating no real downtrend in sea ice, meaning no real, proximate or even presumed threat to the polar bears.

The only threat is due to the models that supposedly show fewer polar bears in 40 years. Those models have ALREADY been proven WRONG in projecting temperature. Models are wrong in Antarctica, and models have wrongly predicted
warming for the last 10 years that has not happened

Listing the polar bears was unnecessary and wrong. The polar bear cannot conceivably be threatened by anything in nature in terms of its habitat (and sea ice loss, even if it were happening is not such a loss). So what's to blame? The models! Get rid of the wrong and phony models, and the polar bears will live in peace, unmolested.

UPDATE 5/21: Lindzen - the case against climate alarmism. An article that assesses the climate models and finds data that shows water vapor and cloud feebacks are more negative than climate models assume.


Just say NO-BAMA. Go there for all Obama, all the time.

CORRECTION to post of letter to editor

RE:> The Letter to the editor, titled Don’t Ask, Don't Tell.
It was posted on the Travis Monitor on 05/03/08 as REJECTED,
having been submitted to Statesman on 4/21/08.
However, it was later PUBLISHED on 5/08/08

Congratulations: Your Pork Wins!

This youtube spoof was put together in response to this initial blog post:

Congratulations: Your Pork Wins!

Submitted by MQSullivan on the Empower Texans blog on Fri, 05/09/2008 - 11:25am.

Seriously, way to go TxDOT. Sure, you guys miscounted $1 billion. You've
said you cannot build roads again because you're broke. But, hey, you did just
win 15 excellence in advertising awards!

According to the Texas Government Insider, TxDOT received the award from something called the "American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators." Even bureaucrats need to pat themselves on the back sometimes.

The ads getting the awards were for promoting vehicle registration.
And, gee, I thought the big expiration date and threat of getting ticket from a
burly state trooper were already fairly effective advertising...

No word on what these advertisements cost -- and it'd probably make us
shudder if we knew -- but Mr. and Mrs. Texas, take a bow for your generous
financing. Just try not to think how many lane-miles could be built, or traffic
reduced, with the dollars the state has spent on various advertising programs
over the years.

Think of it this way: Our frivolous spending was a lot better than any
other state's frivolous spending!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A response to AGW Fearmongerer McKibben

McKibben opines about the need for 350ppm CO2 an extremist and unnecessary goal. I respond in a letter-to-LATimes:

Bill McKibben's op-ed that claims we are at a climate "tipping point" is alarmist nonsense. In 1988, McKibben predicted in a book that global warming would raise temperatures by 0.8C by 2000. It never happened. The global temperature readings are no higher this April 2008 than twenty years ago (based on RSS MSU measurements) .

Although disproven, McKibben keeps predicting doomsday. We have 380 ppm CO2 and increasing,
but in the last ten years, the globe has stopped warming and in the past year the world has been cooling.
Recent data is showing that Antarctica is not losing ice mass overall, and will not lose ice in any realistic climate change scenario for centuries; further, has been a lot cooler than climate models predicted.
Arctic ice is right now above mean levels of the last 30 years, and the sea level increase that was advancing a tiny 2mm per year, has stopped. This all means the "massive sea level rise" McKibben speaks of is a myth based on false speculation. It won't happen, just like his predicted warming didn't happen. The extreme scenarios he touts have been disproven by the actual temperature record.

McKibben is fear-mongering on the basis of models that are inaccurate, predictions that never happened, and a crisis that isn't there. As the real data comes in and disproves the doomsayers wrong, they get more desperate to get us to act before we realize the crisis is concocted.

It's time we put fear in the backseat and put facts in the front seat on climate change. Man-made global warming is not a crisis, and those who claim it is are fear-mongering.

Local Election Results for Austin City Council Races

The Travis County Clerk's Office has the results for the May 10 election posted.

Total voter turnout: 8.45 %

Place 1:
Lee Leffingwell (incumbent) 66.7%
Allan Demling 11.3%
Jason Meeker 22%

Place 3:
Jennifer Kim (incumbent) 27.8%
Randi Shade 62.2%
Ken Weiss 10.1%

Place 4:
Cid Galindo 30.3% *
Laura Morrison 36.9% *
Ken Vasseau 2.3%
Jennfier Gale 7.7%
Sam Osemene 4.6%
Robin Cravey 18.2%

* Galindo and Morrison will be in a run-off.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Father's Love

Let me tell you a story about a father's love: Illinois Father Dies Shielding Daughter In Car Accident. His final sacrifice reminded me of George Strait's "Father's Love" song:

And I said, Let me tell you a secret, about a fathers love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
I said daddies dont just love their children every now and then
Its a love without end, amen, its a love without end, amen.

The story says: "Joseph Richardson, a church musician, was the father of three, two girls and a boy, all under the age of 10." Rest in peace, Mr Richardson.

Is Obama Inevitable?

As nominee, I think so. Conventional wisdom (aka Tim Russert) says its over.

As President, I think McCain has the edge, but not a big one.
In most years an experienced GOP moderate would trounce a far-left inexperienced Democrat, but this is not most years. What do you think?

UPDATE: Kos thinks Texas is competitive for Obama. He's nuts, but the polling generation gap is real.

City Government Coming to a Home near You!

The latest craze in government is the “going green” fad. The City of Austin is taking this fad to a new level by proposing to require existing homes to meet energy ratings before a home owner can sell their home. These point-of-sale energy efficiency upgrades is part of Austin Mayor Will Wynn’s Climate Protection Plan.

The intent of the plan may sound reasonable. After all, energy efficient homes will save homeowners money in energy costs and would prevent the City of Austin from purchasing additional coal to keep the power plants operating. (Let’s forget about the South Texas Nuclear Project again, by the way.) But, what is unreasonable is for the city to mandate that certain items must be upgraded in an existing home that meets all other building and fire codes before the existing home can be put on the market. In essence, the City of Austin is now adding a “green code” to the existing building codes in place.

Who pays for these additional codes? First is the existing homeowner who must pay for a city audit to determine which items need to be upgraded and then pay for the upgrades before putting the home on the market. Second is the new homebuyer who must pay an additional cost for the home at the point-of-sale and then that new homeowner will pay higher property taxes as their appraisal is increased due to upgrades to the home. Third to pay is the rest of the taxpayers as the cost of additional home inspections, energy audits, and bureaucratic red tape will cost money.

The unintended consequences of this plan will be a decrease in housing sales in Austin, higher appraisal values (they went up quite a bit from last year already), and a continuation of higher home prices. Pretty soon, the average Austinite will be priced out of living in Austin by government regulations and restrictions. In a time when Mayor Wynn’s party is crying out against “predatory” mortgage lenders, it is in fact these same government officials that are creating policies to increase the value of a home and raise taxes to the point that individuals cannot afford to purchase a home.

The environmentalist movement is an anti-capitalist regime that is attempting to convince mainstream Americans who make this country great that they need to make sacrifices to counter the affect of global climate change. The planet was here long before we came here and it will be here long after we leave. Our quality of life on this planet is altered more by tax-and-spend politicians seeking to generate more revenue than it is by choosing to replace your light bulbs with mercury-based fluorescent lights.

The Austin Board of Realtors is right in its opposition to the point-of-sale energy efficient regulations as proposed by Mayor Will Wynn. Once this code is created, there is nothing that will check the growth and intrusion of government into future home sales in Austin for environmental reasons. The further manipulation of the free market by the environmentalists will only work to drive home prices higher.

What can you do, you ask? There are three Austin City Council candidates that are opposed to this plan who need our help. They are Jason Meeker, Cid Galindo, and Randi Shade. If Mayor Wynn has a City Council that agrees with him on this plan, there will be very little that can be done to stop the further increase of local government control in the housing market. Will Wynn does not desire a “livable” city but instead, a liberal city.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

McCain on Judges

The news reports on McCain's latest speech, given at Wake Forest University May 6, are that he criticized Obama's "no" votes against Justice Roberts and Alito. McCain does that, quite well, saying that Obama's view of a good Justice "sound like an activist judge wrote them" and exposing Obama's pro-activist inclinations:

And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator's measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it -- and I quote -- should share "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy." ...

Somehow, by Senator Obama's standard, even Judge Roberts didn't measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it -- and they see it only in each other.

Yet the real message is McCain's own standard, so a better headline might be - John McCain offers coherent view of how as President he will choose Judges:

I will look for accomplished men and women with a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint. I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and my friend the late William Rehnquist -- jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference. My nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power, and clear limits to the scope of federal power. They will be men and women of experience and wisdom, and the humility that comes with both. They will do their work with impartiality, honor, and humanity, with an alert conscience, immune to flattery and fashionable theory, and faithful in all things to the Constitution of the United States.

McCain is coherent and correct on this. Obama's standard reeks of the philosophy of elitist judicial activism. McCain is standing on the firm ground of rule-of-law, judicial restraint, and Constitutional limited Government. Justice Roberts is well-respected precisely because he is playing the role of 'umpire' not ball-player and doing it quite well.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Finding A Candidate Worth Voting For

How depressing Austin city council elections are for Republicans. Various nutty, partisan and dangerous candidates try to out-liberal each-other in calling for various forms of extremism, and the non-liberals among the electorate try to read the tea leaves to figure out which activist is least dangerous. Sometimes there is no good answer.

Lee Leffingwell is for the odious Point of Sale Energy reduction clap-trap that mandates you spend thousands when you sell your home. So you look for an alternative. Jason Meeker is proud of standing up against the Northcross WalMart. Jason Meeker may not be awful on the energy mandate, but is an anti-growth anti-walmart nut, and is "ENDORSED BY: Better Austin Today Political Action Committee, NXNW Democrats, Mexican American Democrats, and Travis County Green Party. " Yuck. (In case you try door #3, don't bother; Allen Dembling is a bearded bicycle nut who is running to the left of the two major candidates.)

Jennifer Kim, former aide to a Democrat Senator, has made her share of enemies in her first term (see previous post). So dump her for someone else? Randi Shade is a LGBT candidate fund poster child and touts Austin being weird and bagged these endorsements: "North by Northwest Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Stonewall Democrats of Austin, University Democrats, West Austin Democrats." She hates nuclear power while claiming to be for Clean Energy (wrong answer) and says: "I believe we should continue buying as much land as possible over the Edwards Aquifer and protect what we already have." Millions of dollars, poof. So, which flavor of liberal Democrat do you want? Neither thanks, I'll take Ken Weiss instead.

Place 4, same deal. Former Daryl Slusher aide Robin Cravey, a liberal environmentalist, versus Laura Morrison, an anti-growth Tarrytown liberal. Here's a precious comment on Austinist, exposing her as anti-VMU (that's vertical mixed-used, a great idea that works in developments like the Triangle):

"She's smart enough to make you have to read between the lines to see the density-hating and OldMoney-supporting. That's why it's so important that she be stopped. For instance, the VMU answer sounds reasonable until you go read my blog or Austin Contrarian and learn just exactly what these neighborhood planning teams _really_ tried to pull.
The amazing thing is that she's being labelled as progressive. I guess people are nostalgic for Limousine Liberals or something. Cid Galindo, whom the local Dems think is W's nephew or something, rides his bike to work and expresses a much more progressive tone on housing."

Speaking of which, Sid Galindo is perhaps the most objectively qualified candidate in the race; his urban planning background is a big asset (if not misused). He's shockingly free of the partisan-type endorsements, but instead touts Firefighters, Police, EMS group endorsements, and 3 former mayors, including Bruce Todd. He's running on his "plan" for Austin, leveraging his work on the Austin Planning Commission, a plan that calls for dense zones of development to help have sustainable living as Austin grows. Cid says he is against the odious Point-of-sale energy mandate, which makes him a step above the doctrinaire special-interest environmentalists. But he also makes clear that taxes won't go down as he feels Austin property taxes are not high. (He admits that is partly because of Austin Energy subsidy, and doesn't want to part company with that because he wants to leverage it for 'clean energy'.)

Still, it is depressing that I couldn't find a single candidate in my search of candidates expressing any real conservative ideals. Until I found Sam Osemene:

This election is about the future and the decisions we make today will define that future. There are two competing visions the voters of Austin have to choose from. There is a vision that believes government can solve all our problems. And there is another one that believes in personal freedom and that government is an impediment to individual progress. Samuel Osemene believes government is the problem not the solution to individual progress. This election is about new direction, new ideas, new energy and new optimism. Limited government interference in our personal lives promotes individual excellence.

It is like finding an oasis in a desert! A friend says he is a fringe candidate. Well, if so, it is an indictment of Austin and our local political climate. Common sense limited Government thinking is woefully lacking in City Hall, and it's a grave pity folks like Sam Osemene aren't running things.

I found a man worth voting for. I hope you do as well. Vote on May 10th.

Taiwan's Second Peaceful Transfer of Power

On May 20th, the second peaceful transfer of power in history will take place on the island nation of Taiwan.

The first such transfer occurred eight years ago (in 2000) when a coalition of Taiwan's native (deriving from those living on Taiwan prior to the defeat of Japan in WWII) independence minded folk was the peoples' choice in only the second popular (i.e. democratic) election for the Executive Yuan ever held on the island nation (the first was in 1996). The 2000 election ended the 1949-1999 grip on power that the Nationalist Chinese Party (the Kuomintang - KMT) held with an iron fist through 1987 (when, due to international pressure the KMT finally lifted Marshal Law).

Four years later (in 2004), in a two way race with a razor thin margin of victory that was contested unsuccessfully (a copy cat to the Bush-Gore recount fiasco), power was peacefully retained by the Taiwanese.

The second transfer, on May 20, 2008, will return power to a new iteration of the Kuomintang. Will the new government be constrained by the Power of the People or will it return to its authoritarian past? Will it defend Taiwan's borders, language (spoken Taiwanese and Aboriginal tongues and written Traditional Chinese), and culture (that respects the contributions of Japanese, native Taiwan Aboriginals, and others) or will it deemphasize the differences between the Mainland and the Island and become permanently drawn into the Chinese orbit? Will there be "peace in our time" with the authoritarian regime in Beijing or will there be war?

We don't know, but according to two well respected conservative Congressmen, the outgoing leadership of Taiwan have much to be proud of regarding these past eight years of Taiwanese rule.

(Extensions of Remarks - May 01, 2008)


Mr. ROHRABACHER. Madam Speaker, in the 6 1/2 years since terrorists attacked the American homeland, our government has undertaken a series of steps to prepare for, deter, and ultimately stop future attacks from occurring. In advancing these objectives, it has been essential to partner with like-minded nations to ensure security and freedom for all our citizens. In this regard, I would like to take the opportunity to express the appreciation of many in the Congress to President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan as he prepares to leave office later this month.

During President Chen's time in office, Taiwan has demonstrated time and again its commitment to global security and cooperation. Such actions have been forthcoming despite the preoccupation of an existential threat facing it from across the Taiwan Strait.

After 9/11, Taiwan immediately opened its airspace to U.S. military aircraft transiting Pacific routes to Afghanistan. It subsequently partnered with our government and others in the Container Security Initiative, which seeks to prevent illicit cargo from reaching rogue entities around the world. Furthermore, Taiwan has committed over $100 million to recovery efforts in Afghanistan, making it one of the most significant contributors to coalition efforts there.

Recognizing that global security can be advanced in a variety of ways, Taiwan has been a leader in addressing public health issues internationally. Struck by SARS in 2003, Taiwan acted swiftly to share information with other nations that helped limit its spread. Soon thereafter, Taiwan's experience in tackling avian flu was again made available to the international community in order to deter that contagion's deadly proliferation.

Beyond these multilateral efforts, Taiwan has also developed one of the most extensive bilateral development assistance programs in the world. For instance, it has established 36 long-term technical missions in 30 partner countries, focusing on capacity building, agriculture, fisheries, horticulture, livestock, handicrafts, medicine, transportation, industry, mining, electricity generation, printing, vocational training, trade and investment. Taiwan allocates approximately 100,000 tons of rice annually as humanitarian foreign aid. After the South Asia tsunami occurred in December 2004, the Taiwanese government provided $50 million in initial relief assistance, and cooperated with international non-governmental organizations in additional relief efforts. It also provided more than 355 tons of relief materials to tsunami-affected countries.

These and other measures undertaken by Taiwan over the past several years are to be commended. Under the leadership of President Chen, his government has served as a model for others seeking to play a constructive role in the international community. I encourage continued leadership by Taiwan as a new president prepares to assume office, and can assure him of America's enduring partnership in these efforts.

(Extensions of Remarks - May 01, 2008)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mr. TANCREDO. Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Taiwan's outgoing President Chen Shui-Bian and Vice-President Annette Lu.

Chen Shui-Bian and Annette Lu became Taiwan's second elected President and Vice-President in the year 2000. Perhaps more importantly, however, their election signified the first peaceful transfer of power from the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang--which had imposed martial law and ruled Taiwan for over a half-century.

In many ways, President Chen and Vice-President Lu's rise to the highest offices in the country is, itself, the story of Taiwan .

President Chen and Vice-President Lu's paths crossed for the first time among difficult circumstances. Ms. Lu was facing sedition charges for her work on the staff of Formosa Magazine, which had been critical of the Kuomintang dictatorship. Chen Shui-Bian, a young lawyer at the time, was a member of her defense team.

Ms. Lu was ultimately convicted and spent more than five years in prison, but the sentence failed to break her will or extinguish her passion for bringing democracy to Taiwan .

Mr. Chen lost the case, but he was won over by his clients' ideals. The defendants and their lawyers subsequently became the core of the democratic opposition in Taiwan . And Mr. Chen too, would spend time in jail for his political beliefs.

But the democratic movement they helped to spark would ultimately triumph. Martial law was lifted in 1987, and by 1996 then-President Lee Teng-Hui had initiated democratic reforms that allowed for the direct election of Taiwan's President and Vice-President.

After the lifting of martial law in Taiwan , Mr. Chen became a member of the Taipei municipal council, and after the birth of multi-party politics and the formation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), he became the capital city's first popularly elected Mayor in 1994. And in 2000, his election as President of Taiwan marked the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in the history of either Taiwan or China.

After her release from prison, Ms. Lu was elected to Taiwan's legislature and later, Magistrate of Taoyuan County--the equivalent of a Governor here in the United States. In 2000, she was elected as Vice-President on the DPP ticket with President Chen.

In the span of two decades, Mr. Chen and Ms. Lu had gone from political prisoners to political leaders. Ms. Lu's response to a TIME Magazine reporter's question shortly before she and Mr. Chen were inaugurated in 2000 perhaps summed up this amazing transformation best:

The reporter asked, ``Fifteen years ago you were sitting in a jail cell as a political prisoner. When you take the oath of office, what thoughts will be going through your head?''
She responded, ``What I'm proud of is that the same party, the KMT, that suppressed me 20 years ago will be transferring power to me, peacefully.''

President Chen and Vice-President Lu spearheaded efforts to amend Taiwan's antiquated constitution to modernize Taiwan's fledgling democracy. They also conducted Taiwan's first ever citizens referendum--a milestone for democracy not just in Taiwan , but in all of Asia. Taiwan's voters rewarded the two for their diligence and commitment by re-electing them in 2004.

Under their leadership, Taiwan has deepened its democratic roots, and has become an even brighter beacon of democracy than when they first took office eight years ago. I hope that very soon,

Madam Speaker, the people on the Chinese mainland will see that light, and emulate in that country what the Taiwanese have accomplished in their own.

Later this month, Mr. Ma Ying Jeou and Mr. Vincent Siew will be sworn in as Taiwan's new President and Vice President--signifying yet another peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Taiwan .

So Madam Speaker, I rise to once again congratulate the people of Taiwan , and to recognize President Chen and Vice-President Lu for their contributions to democracy and human rights. I wish them both the best of luck as they leave office.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Austin City Council Candidates

I don't live in the City of Austin but I have received some emails from folks who do, and I promised others that there would be information about the Austin City Council races on the Travis Monitor.

The emails I received were from folks who were making and seeking recommendations of candidates for City Council Places 1, 3 and 4. I have posted their comments below and edited them to remove names of non-candidates.

Email A (re: Place 3)

Place 3 is Jennifer Kim's seat...[You would do well to consider candidate] Ken Weiss ( ). He's ex-military, led disaster relief missions, and is a small business owner.

Email B (re: Place 4)

I'm voting for Cid Galindo ( ) mostly because Laura Morrison hates Republicans and actually said so in a recent email. She made us sound as if we were the devil or something.

Email B (re: Place 3)

I'm also voting against Jennifer Kim who believes that 90% of the women in the military were raped. I guess by the men in the military?

Email B (re: Place 1)

Anyway, I also voted for Jason Meeker ( ), as Lee Leffingwell ( ) is much more dangerous than Meeker, and Meeker is against any mandatory effort to make your home zero-carbon footprint.

It's a tough year for choosing candidates for City Council.

Email C (re: Place 4)

My very good friend ______ is opposed to Cid Galindo because he’s fanatically committed to centralized planning and such boondoggles as the ridiculous rail projects.

We are supporting Nigerian Sam Osemene ( ), [a] very decent parole officer who’s campaigning as a small government fiscal conservative.

The Blogger's Closing Comments

Not sure why the author of Email C had to put the qualifier 'Nigerian' before the name 'Sam Osemene'. I thought we are supposed to elect Americans to public office.

Place 3 is the only one I have a personal interest in. I want to see Jennifer Kim defeated. She is a very attractive left of center politician whom I have personally seen court the vote of the Taiwanese in the local Asian community, exploiting divisions within it, and making the rifts wider than they otherwise would have been. Her political career needs to end with this term on the Austin City Council.

It’s a hard thing to do, unseat a socialist, tree hugging, anti-growth Austin Council member (not to mention a babe) but it is a noble cause.

The lesbian Randi Shade ( ) running against her would probably not be a good choice either.

That means Ken Weiss is definitely the man for Place 3.


Austin City Council Elections (previous Travis Monitor post)

Global Warming on Ice

I previously speculated that the current global cool temperatures might be something more than a cold winter. Well, NASA's Earths Observatory has confirmed that we are in a cool PDO phase. PDO is the pacific Decadal Oscillation that is tied to solar cycles and El Ninos. This may lead to multi-decade shift to coooler weather and raises questions about IPCC estimates of man-made global warming (the estimates that people use to tell us we have to do something drastic or the ice caps will melt) that are increasingly out-of-step with reality.

A paper in the science journal "Nature" looks at the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and predicts a cool trend for the next 10 years. Motl reacts. There is evidence that AMO (also called NAO) is also tied to solar variability forcing factors including solar cycles.

New York Times calls it "Cooling in a Warming World" - that takes the oxymoronic cake! Are we warming? This future cooling phase extends a non-warming period that is now 9 years long. David Whitehouse, former online science editor for the BBC, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society said it this way last December:

“For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It’s not a viewpoint or a sceptic’s inaccuracy. It’s an observational fact. Clearly the world of the past 30 years is warmer than the previous decades and there is abundant evidence (in the northern hemisphere at least) that the world is responding to those elevated temperatures. But the evidence shows that global warming as such has ceased.

We now have a decade of level and declining temperatures: SSTs, land surface, deep ocean and above all lower troposphere, have all flat-lined. There is no global warming, and people will start asking: why policies to deal with something that is not happening? It disabuses people of the alarmist notion that every jot and tittle in the climate lately have been due to man. Nature (sun spots), not man, is in charge. This comment is quite relevent:
"The first hypothesis is that climate naturally and constantly has changed through Earth’s history, growing both warmer and cooler, and at many rates and scales. This hypothesis is supported by recorded human history and all paleoclimate evidence, and confirms that natural climate changes are the rule, not the exception. That hypothesis is now established theory. IT IS INCUMBENT ON THE GEOSCIENCE PROFESSION TO BETTER COMMUNICATE THIS FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Global Warming Videos

Many children are getting a miseducation on Global Warming due to the political indoctrinators in our schools foisting Al Gore's scaremongering mock-umentary on them. What they need is some balance. Here is a list of the best global warming documentary videos that respond to the alarmism. YouTube has many of them; here are some good ones:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

John McCain Story

In case you are wondering if he will be tough enough in the campaign: A Great story about John McCain.

Letter to the Editor -- rejected

Just Don’t Tell

I differ with the article (in the April 14 Austin American Statesman) against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Its main argument is that it is detrimental to the U.S. economy because of the training costs of some 10,000 soldiers discharged since 1993 on the basis of sexual orientation. It is a narrow argument and avoids the large picture.

Soldiers who sign up know about the policy. So why do they tell?

How many gays join with the intent to proselytize? How many claim to be gay just to get out of the military when disillusioned? What other reasons might there be?

The financial impact is not the policy’s fault but its deliberate violation.

Furthermore, the impact of 10,000 is insignificant because it is less than a half-percent of the more than 2 million dismissed for all reasons since 1993, according to the General Accounting Office as quoted by MSNBC. See

Carl Schlaepfer
Letter submitted 4/21/08 but not published