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:: Sunday, February 22, 2004 ::
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ralph Nader were on Meet the Press this morning. One thing I've said before about Schwarzenegger and still say today: I like him. He complements his political opponents and seeks collaborative government. This is more than I can say for Bush, Jr. I dis Bush frequently, but that doesn't mean I dislike Republicans. I strongly dislike Bush, simply not because he's a Republican, but because his style of leadership is to divide Americans, alienate our allies, antagonize our potential enemies into becoming our bona fide enemies, deceive and distort facts, and pillage our environment. I disagree with most Republican ideology, but don't necessarily dislike people who identify with the label "Republican."
Fiscally, Schwarzenegger's a no-nonsense balanced budget kind of guy while remaining sensitive to civil rights, social, and environmental issues (I wish he had a more progressive stance on gay marriage, but I say the same of most Democrats). For example, he believes California should stop spending money it doesn't have and turn the tide on the deficit. Once accomplished (easier said than done, I'm sure), freeing California from interest payments galore, there will be enough money, he says, to fund more programs than California borrows to fund today. Spending money you don't have is not good, okay? All together now: governments shouldn't make deficit spending a habit. Now for an example comparing personal and national finances. Not all debt is bad. Buy a house, go to school, start a business, and you'll probably go into debt. This debt is "good." You assume debt so you can make a high yield investment requiring more capital than you have. The theory is that the returns will exceed the interest and inflation rate; in other words, the benefits should exceed the costs. FDR's New Deal deficit spending was a good example. On the other hand, if you borrow money to supplement your lifestyle or live above your means, the debt is "bad" if you're not in a better financial situation after the debt is repaid. It's no different for a government. Now, sure, cyclical businesses utilize short-term debt to finance operations during downturns, just as a government sometimes must do during times of recession, but it's just that - short-term debt. Debt which finances a government through recession should be repaid in the next boom.
Ralph Nader... wow. Faced with popular opposition to his presidential candidacy, he said the corporate-controlled two party system was a mockery of democracy, and maintained his right to run for president. You know, he's absolutely correct, he does have a right to run, but just because you can do something does not necessarily mean you should. Discretion is the better part of valor. When this country unites to pursue a more progressive agenda, then it is time for Nader. But not now, not when we have a such a popular (albeit declining) president who succeeds by polarizing the nation instead of bringing us together. The 2004 presidential campaign will show we're still a nation trying to decide between conservative and progressive values. For now, the divisions within the two camps must wait for their day, a time when the nation has decided which philosophy it wishes to pursue. Love it or hate it, such is the nature of the two party system. But as for Nader's assertion that the legislative and executive branches of our federal government are strong-armed by corporate interests, oh, yes, I think he's absolutely correct.:: Bryan Travis :: 02/22/2004 @ 10:17 :: [link] ::
:: Thursday, February 19, 2004 ::
My work comic strip.Bryan Travis :: 02/19/2004 @ 22:56 :: [link] ::
Exporting jobs is not free trade is the point of the International Herald Tribune article below. Yes, free trade is good, and I agree with the theory that nations should focus on "comparative advantages," but I've never been comfortable with exportation of skilled jobs and couldn't reconcile it with arguments for free trade.
The article points out that free trade theory assumes resources used to produce goods are immobile. This assumption is no longer true, because the "factors of production" have changed over time. Today's factors of production (education, ideas, money, and technology) can be easily moved across borders. Because they are so exportable, we've been lured into thinking of them as goods instead of recognizing them as our vital factors.Bryan Travis :: 02/19/2004 @ 19:11 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, February 16, 2004 ::
We name prominent landmarks on Earth, a handful of distinguished geologic or geographic features: Mt. Everest, Clingman's Dome, Grand Canyon, Nile River, the Andes. It almost sounds silly in comparison when we hear NASA scientists have named yet another patch of sand, chuck of rock, or crater rim. On Earth, drifting sand is swept off driveways, rocks tossed into piles, crushed into concrete and gravel. NASA names Martian features and rocks so unremarkable and close together that they'd all fit inside an average suburban backyard and never attract attention until you hit them with the lawn mower's blade, but since this is Mars, it's headline news. Go figure.
A list of named Mars surface features christened during the Spirit and Opportunity missions:
I'm an avid supporter of space exploration, so don't get me wrong. I know giving people-friendly names like "White Boat" to interesting features instead of designations like "Opportunity Anomalous Geologic Feature #14" helps keep the public engaged, especially all those young schoolchildren who'll be drawn to science and engineering careers thanks to the U.S.'s continued commitment to its space program. But you have to admit, it approaches corny when you think about how ordinary similar features are on Earth.
Unofficial names of other features in White Boat's vicinity:
Equally amusing, the JPL scientists and engineers play wake-up music for the rovers at the beginning of each Martian sol, or day, just as they do for astronauts. Oh, how I wish I had kept a list of the songs from the start, because press releases with the song titles become hard to find after a few days - the "strictly science" articles displace the light-hearted ones with the wake-up music titles. Can't say I blame the editors - playing music to a machine is corny as hell! The list I've compiled so far, to be read while listening to De-phazz's "The Mambo Craze:"
Kindly email me if you can supplement this list. Thanks.
:: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 ::
These think tanks are good stuff. Here's a history lesson from the Brookings Institution you won't find in many U.S. history books, but I'd bet the Spanish haven't forgotten about it:
On January 17, 1966, a B-52 bomber carrying four H-bombs collided with a KC-135 during a refueling operation over the coast of Spain. One of the bombs fell into the ocean and was recovered 80 days later. The other three fell to the ground near the farming village of Palomares, Spain. The bombs weren't armed, but the detonation explosives in two of the bombs were triggered, scattering plutonium up to 500 yards away. Over a square mile of land was contaminated, but winds further scattered the plutonium before the cleanup operation was completed, such that "the total extent of the spread will never be known."
A cleanup crew of 1,700 U.S. and Spanish people removed 1,400 tons of radioactive dirt and vegetation. The U.S. crew wore protective clothing and monitored radiation exposure; the Spanish crew wore non-protective clothing and were not tested for radiation exposure because, an Air Force official said, the "Air Force was unprepared to provide adequate detection and monitoring for its personnel when an aircraft accident occurred involving plutonium weapons in a remote area of a foreign country." The Palomares villagers were not regularly monitored for exposure, and were not allowed to see their medical records until 1985.
What's disappointing about that Air Force comment, though, is that two years later another B-52 carrying four H-bombs crashed in Greenland. The detonation explosives in all four bombs were set off, scattering plutonium dust. Neither the U.S. or Danish cleanup crews wore protective clothing, and radioactive debris from the crash was removed by hand. The U.S. crew received no long-term monitoring, and despite a disallowed lawsuit against the U.S. by the Danish workers, the Air Force has refused to release radiation inventory information of the bombs.
And we Americans act so indignant when other countries take exception to us.
By the way, the U.S. has lost 11 nuclear bombs which have never been found or retrieved (#44). If the Iraqi WMD inspection teams found even 1 chemical or biological weapon Saddam's regime had lost and never retrieved, the Bush administration would declare it was conclusive proof Saddam purposefully withheld banned weapons.:: Bryan Travis :: 02/04/2004 @ 23:47 :: [link] ::
I don't want to come off as an intellectual elitist, or anything, but I've recently discovered think tanks and think they're cool (pardon my triteness).
No, I'm serious. NPR is about the only radio I listen to, and I'm particularly fond of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I couldn't begin to count the number of segments interviewing fellows at the Brookings Institution. About a year ago, I decided to look up their website and see what this Brookings Institution thing was all about.
Brookings' website uses Georgia and Verdana, my two favorite fonts. How bad could it be if they use pretty fonts, right? I found intelligent research on a variety of topics from education to defense to economics and ONLINE BOOKS. Yes, I'm cheap, and links to free books like this one turn my crank, a link which, you'll notice, points to another website, the National Academies Press.
One thing leads to another, and over time I compiled a list of favorite think tanks, which you will find in the links column over to your right. Most are centrist or progressive, 'cause that's what I am, but I've also included the Cato Institute, generally considered conservative. Three think tank lists, including political orientation: 1 | 2 | 3
From one nerd to another: Enjoy!:: Bryan Travis :: 02/04/2004 @ 01:00 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, February 02, 2004 ::
This morning I took a friend to the airport. Afterward I picked up breakfast at McDonalds and pulled into work at 7:45, less than 5 minutes before sunrise. To the left the sky was a richly warm, Impressionist orange-red glow with hints of cloud bottoms catching the early sunlight. A surprise was high in the sky to the right - a rainbow, mostly red with muted greens, indigos, and violets.
If you're lucky enough to see one while flying or simply turn your back to the sun while spraying a misting water hose on a sunny day, you may have noticed full rainbows are not arches at all, but circles. To see a full circle rainbow, water droplets must be visible in a 42 degree angle all around the light rays. Viewed from terra firma where the ground usually allows that 42 degree angle only from above, most rainbows appear as just that - bows - the tops of circles.
The unrisen sun, bent around the earth's surface by the atmosphere, formed the rainbow this morning, striking the rain sheets approaching from the west, and I could see maybe two-thirds of the circle, certainly enough that the color bands began arching inward before diving into the horizon. The rainbow was absolutely beautiful, arching higher in the sky than I had ever seen one go, and I had to slow down the Prius so I could lean down close to the steering wheel and look out the window high in the sky to take it all in. The parking lot where I work is large, and it takes about 2 minutes to drive through the labrynthian lanes to a parking spot. In only two minutes the clouds moving in from the west had obscured the rising sun.
So it goes with life's everyday miracles on a Monday morning. As if controlled by the flip of a switch, the rainbow blinked out. The warm, orange-red glow in the east was replaced with the cold, flat, dismal gray of overcast rain clouds. It was as if the day had made a false start, remembered it was February, and immediately corrected itself, hoping no one would notice.
I walked into work.:: Bryan Travis :: 02/02/2004 @ 09:52 :: [link] ::