Monday, November 29, 2010

Finally Some Consistency In Sports

I always love it when athletes praise their god of choice after a big play or a career milestone but we never hear those same athletes chide that same imaginary friend when something goes wrong, until now.

Yesterday the Buffalo Bills were driving for what would have been a winning score against Pittsburgh when Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone. He then used his Twitter account to lay some blame.
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...

Now we just need to have someone question those calling it a miracle when someone survives some horrific crash or natural disaster that killed scores of others considering that while performing that same "miracle", the all powerfully deity did nothing for everyone else involved in the same event.

One step at a time I guess.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Airport Security

There has been an ridiculous number of articles and news stories lately over the new TSA screening procedures that include invasive techniques including full body imaging technology and pat downs by TSA screeners. Leaving out the homophobic angle that I expected from some (and they didn't disappoint) there are some facts that should be addressed.

Safety

The full body imagers use primarily one of 2 technologies, millimeter wave, and the more prevalent backscatter or xray technology. Current knowledge of the health risks of these devices is limited at best but a New Scientist article does a good job of explaining both the technology and the known and suspected risks.

The truth - For infrequent travelers there is likely no risks as you are exposed to more xrays during your flight than while being scanned. For frequent flyers, the jury is still out.

Opt Outs

The latest effort by some to try to circumvent perceived invasive TSA screening procedures is having airports opt out of the TSA screening program. A little known provision of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act allows airports to opt out of the TSA screening program so that they can hire one of 4 or 5 pre-approved private screening companies. Orlando Sanford airport has decided to do just that in an effort to try and lure security procedure weary passengers to their airport.

The truth - Opting out simply changes the name of the payee on the paycheck for the screeners and has no effect on what screening passengers are made to endure. Private screening companies must follow all TSA mandated screening procedures and use all currently available screening technologies and are still supervised by the TSA. In other words pat downs and full body imaging (if units are installed) will still be done.

Don't believe me? Anyone flying out of Sioux Falls in the past 3 years has been screened by a private screening company.

All flyers will be exposed to body imagers

Most articles discussing these new procedures would have one believe that they will certainly have to go through one of these new body scanning machines when traveling.

The truth - Currently this technology is installed in approximately 65 of the 430 or so US commercial airports with a mandate for many more to receive them in the next year meaning it all depends on where you are going. Those flying out of any South Dakota airport will not have to go through these machines and there are currently no plans for them to be installed anytime in the foreseeable future.

Privacy Concerns

There seems to have been a recent surge in images being released out onto the internet of people being scanned by this technology. What is to prevent some screener from posting your body scan on the internet?

The truth - Images from these machines are only viewed by trained screeners in a room separate from the security checkpoint. While these units allow for image saving, it is only supposed to be used in a training environment and cell phones with cameras are not allowed in the image viewing room. Consider that information and decide on your own as to whether it is sufficient for your own piece of mind.

Finally just an observation. I personally have no issues with the new procedures though I might take offense if my wife and daughters were subjected to it but I must ask, where was all this 4th Amendment privacy outrage when the Patriot Act was being forced down our throats?

Disclaimer

While I have tried to stick to only known facts regarding the new TSA screening procedures I should inform readers that while I do not work directly for the TSA, I do work with the TSA. I am in no way speaking for the TSA or my employer and any information provided here is freely available from sources not affiliated with either entity.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Evidence Of Problems With The Democratic Party

How bad do things need to be with the Democratic party to drive gays to the GOP, you know the party with the platform that specifically targets their rights?

Whatever that tipping point is, the 2010 mid-terms seem to indicate that we are getting closer to that point. Exit polling has the percentage of gays voting Republican being listed as high as 31%, up from 19% in 2008.
"I have been very concerned over these last two years that the connection between the gay rights community and the Democratic Party is in danger of being broken, because I think expectations were set so high as a result of the 2008 election, and people are extremely disappointed," said Richard Socarides, a former assistant to President Clinton and senior White House adviser on gay rights.

It seems that it is official now, the Democratic Party has issues with just about every part of their base.

Olbermann Is A Liberal? Really?

Apparently MSNBC is just now becoming aware that their "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann is a liberal as it is being announced that he has been placed on indefinite suspension for donating to 3 Democrats during the just finished silly season.

Of course I am kidding and from what I am reading he should have known better as NBC has has a policy that forbids employees from being associated with political campaigns. But would knowing that Olbermann had donated to Democrats actually changed anyone's mind about how they feel about him or for that matter, any talking head on the cable networks so-called news shows?

In South Dakota we went through a similar issue earlier this year when Rapid City ABC affiliate KOTA suspended one of their news anchors, Chad Olson, after he spoke at a Tea Party Rally. Of course the difference here will certainly be that while the Tea Partiers were outraged over Olson's punishment, the same folks will likely be piling on the Olbermann suspension.

Now if Fox only had a similar company policy maybe they would put Glenn Beck out of our misery but then Rupert Murdoch would have some explaining to do as well so I won't be holding my breath.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rhetoric Over Substance

I am personally skeptical over some of the reasoning being used to explain the massive shift in power after this year's election. Many would have you believe that they voted the way they did because those in power didn't do enough to fix the economy, to lower the debt, or to uphold the Constitution. I tend to think people were fed-up in general and the Democrats were they obvious scapegoat.

One reason I believe that finding a "scapegoat" had more to do with the election than anything else is Constitutional aspect of the anger coming from the right. They often complain that many of Obama's policies go against the Constitution and should be repealed based on that fact alone (see our own Attorney General's lawsuit over Obamacare). While the Constitutionality of many of these policies can and will be debated, other similarly Constitutionally challenged policies have remained pretty much undiscussed especially when it comes to the Patriot Act and more recently the changes made in FISA regulations.

These changes initiated during the Bush Administration and continued during Obama's term have led to easing of the requirements related to government wiretapping activities often allowing wiretaps on US citizens to be performed without getting warrants first.

The furor over the breaching of our 4th Amendment rights all in the name of "protecting" us from terrorists has been strangely absent from most of the Tea Party folks, most of whom would have busted a blood vessel in anger if their 2nd Amendment rights were even remotely challenged. In Congress, the outrage over these changes was even less noticeable as evident by the ease in which it passed, except for one individual.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold was one of only 16 Senators to vote against the 1st Amendment breaking Internet Decency Act of 1996 which was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act while also being one of the few to fight against giving immunity to the Telecom companies that participated in The Bush Administration's illegal warrant-less wiretapping activities. From Wired:

Feingold and retiring Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticutt) attempted to filibuster a provision that provided legal immunity to telecoms that helped the Administration spy on Americans’ internet and phone use without warrants. That provision, along with expanded government surveillance powers, eventually passed in July 2008 with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, who promised to revisit that law, but has not.


Sounds pretty pro-Constitution to me doesn't it?

I have no doubt that many voted out of office yesterday deserved their fate and Feingold did have his issues as he often times aligned himself with the Obama Administration on fiscal issues which likely made him an easy target for defeat in this Democrat unfriendly environment. But if one claims to be truly worried about getting our country back in line with the Constitution, Russ Feingold was someone many would have thought should have been worth supporting.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post Election Thoughts

As expected the GOP swept into power in the House winning as many as 60 seats from the Democrats while picking up a few seats in the Senate but still fell short of winning the majority. Also as expected, the 2010 edition of the winds of change blew South Dakota's lone member of the house into her next job maybe working with her lobbyist husband.

Now the fun really begins. The Republicans fired up their base by promising to create jobs, cut taxes, balance the budget, and repeal Obamacare all while failing to explain how they will do it. Making things even worse for the GOP, Democrats still control the Senate and the White House and they don't have the numbers needed to override any veto that surely will happen.

So what does this mean?

My guess is the newly elected Tea Partiers will hit the ground running in the House only to find that politics as usual is still the norm making passing much of their agenda almost impossible. With little if anything accomplished 2 years from now we will be talking about fixing many of the same problems and voting in a whole new bunch of useless politicians promising that they have the cure for what ails us.

In South Dakota on the other hand, can our state Democratic party be any more worthless? Democrats are now outnumbered 29-6 in the Senate and 51-19 in the House. For the first time in decades they couldn't even muster up a challenger to run against John Thune and we again were forced to sit through another Governor's race that was over before it began. I consider myself a somewhat center right independent that was a registered Republican for much of my adult life but must admit that a majority of that magnitude in our government can't be good. Just remember though, if you don't like what is and has been going on in South Dakota, you can't blame the Democrats as they barely have a heartbeat here.

We now have a state house restocked with homophobes, religious fundamentalists, and science deniers with just about nobody to balance the scales. Can we be far away from more abortion ban legislation, marriage definition amendments, or climate change is caused by astrology resolutions from the party that touts a "belief" in limited government intrusion on one hand while doing everything they can to intrude on the other?

We have only ourselves to blame...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Be Careful About What You Ask For

I've been quiet here lately and for someone that has as deep of an interest in politics as I do, that should be telling. I always feel an element of disgust each election cycle when having to wade through the chaff that politicians disseminate, but this year the BS was unbearable.

How often have we had to deal with a fringe element who's "leaders" likely couldn't spell Constitution let alone preach to us with a straight face that we have strayed from it but yet still command an amazing amount of political clout?

When is the last time we've had a "mainstream" candidate for the US Senate that felt it was necessary to begin a campaign ad with the phrase "I am not a witch"?

Locally we have a candidate for the state house who goes out of his way to tout his military street cred as a reason to vote for him all while trying to explain why we must continue to prevent tens of thousands of patriotic men and women who want to serve from doing so.

Even more telling, it has been less than a decade since our lone house representative with a less than stellar driving record was forced to resign because he killed someone after running a stop sign. Yet believe it or not the likely winner of that seat this year unapologetically has a driving record that includes 20+ moving violations and numerous "failure to appear" citations and arrest warrants. And no Kristi you can't blame Nancy Pelosi for this.

Of course I can go on and on with examples from both parties but the message is clear at least in my eyes. People have become so fed up with politics as usual that they blindly believe that change for the sake of change is the answer. We thought that in 2008 when the Democrats swept into power and I believe we think that doing so again this time will have a different result. (isn't that a definition of insanity?)

The problem with this mindset though is it usually ends up putting the fringes of the political spectrum into power and unfortunately as thousands of years of human history can attest, nothing good happens when that is the case.

I am guessing that after today, the GOP will likely have a much bigger say in Washington after several years of only having their obstructionist tactics to keep them warm at night. With that being the case, will this finally mark the start of when American's hold them to their promises? I doubt it...

Obama promised us the moon when he won the White House and instead his first 2 years have produced higher debt, higher unemployment, and lower hopes and dreams for our future all while the GOP has done nothing but whine, complain, filibuster, and blame others.

Guess what, it appears we will again listen to the promises that claim a lowering of the debt, creation of jobs, and a return to Constitutional principles (I will expect a repeal of the Patriot act very soon...) and many political neophytes will likely win because of those promises. I personally will be holding you to those promises and Ms Noem if you do win today, your party will likely control the agenda in the House this time around so that excuse will no longer fly. Both you and Herseth Sandlin promised a lot all while giving few details on how you would accomplish them but accomplish them you better as I will be watching.

And finally on a personal note directed to our state treasurer candidate Rich Sattgast. I have to say that political ads in general turn me off but I normally can get through them at least once. Your commercial spoofing the AFLAC duck though has to be the most obnoxious and annoying commercials I have ever seen to the point where I mute it before ever getting to hear your message. You might have had a great platform but since I could never get past the freaking duck, I never heard it.