Do Republicans even want to win in 2008?

Insanity seems to have gripped the US Republican Party:

The US Senate has blocked a vote on a landmark immigration bill, dealing a major blow to one of President George W Bush's key policy planks.

Senators rejected a motion to take the bill to a final vote - meaning action on the planned law is now unlikely until the presidential poll in 2008.

President Bush had argued the bill would give the immigration system a much-needed overhaul.

But its conservative opponents said it gave an amnesty to illegal immigrants.

The planned law would have enabled some of the millions of illegal immigrants already living within the US to eventually seek citizenship.

It would have also offered some would-be migrants the chance to apply for a guest-worker programme.

The bill also proposed tougher border controls to prevent more illegal immigrants from entering the country.

No doubt it's high time Republicans made it clear that they do have a back bone, but they choose to do it over a bill that would have opened up immigration at the same time improving efforts to enforce US borders?

The most important principle that needs to be upheld here is that nations benefit from immigration - they don't loose.

I sympathise with those that decry the modern day western immigration system. The huge entitlement schemes western nations have created has led to a situation where people immigrate for all the wrong reasons: namely for government endorsed graft.

The reason why many immigrants come to western countries is for the great nanny-state that will allow them not to work.

People shouldn't be coming here so that they can live off the state. But surely the solution isn't to limit the free movement of goods and people. It makes more sense to attack the system of entitlements and attack the root of the problem of the modern day immigration crisis.

Further it makes even less sense to attack illegal mexicans living in the US. They aren't living on graft, they are scrapping a living off of the breadcrumbs of legal citizens tables.

So I have to ask the question just what is wrong with amnesty? Wasn't the US founded on immigrants?

This was a bad move by Republicans in the US, and I fear it will lead to even worse as the months drown by.

Ron Paul Blues...

Republican Congressman Ron Paul is an odd character in the strange brew of Republican Presidential candidates. Being the only Republican in the bunch that was against the war in Iraq, has consistently voted against spending increases, is Pro-life, and anti-tax, one wonders why despite his low polling numbers he wasn't allowed into the debates in Iowa:
The Texas congressman, who has struggled to top 1 percent in national polls, wasn’t invited to a forum of presidential candidates Saturday in Des Moines. The gathering is sponsored by the Iowa Christian Alliance and the watchdog group Iowans for Tax Relief.

Instead of grumbling, Paul’s campaign decided to hold its own party _ in the same hall as the forum. They’re calling it a celebration of life and liberty.

Campaign spokesman Jesse Benton said it has been frustrating to be excluded, especially since Paul has consistently opposed abortion and is known nationally for his advocacy of lowering taxes.

"It’s just a little head-scratching," Benton said.

"Head-scratching" To say the least. Precious little has been said from the other candidates on the old GOP principle of getting the state out of our lives. In the last decade of the Bush presidency that principle was pushed aside to make way for "Big Government Conservatism."

So the question has to be asked: just what is left of the old republican party of the 1990's? The one that advocated so clearly principles of individual responsibilty and individual rights? Where are the tax cutters? Where are the department slashers? Where are the rebels of the "GOP revolution"?

They're all gone. Ron Paul, a noted Christian libertarian, is all that's left from that era.

All that's left in the Republican party is law and order, and a toleration of social conservative causes.

For two organizations that would find the most to agree with Ron Paul on to lock him out their debate is not only troubling... it seems suicidal.

The Road to Hell...

Bush II is elated over the recent positive ruling from the US Supreme Court on his faith based initiatives:
..."Today's Supreme Court decision marks a substantial victory for efforts by Americans to more effectively aid our neighbors in need of help. The Faith-Based and Community Initiative can remain focused on strengthening America's armies of compassion and expanding their good works. Similar efforts by governors and mayors in states and cities all across the country can also continue to advance."

"This ruling is a win for the thousands of community and faith-based nonprofits all across the country that have partnered with government at all levels to serve their neighbors. Most importantly, it is a win for the many whose lives have been lifted by the caring touch and compassionate hearts of these organizations."

What's that old saying? "The road to hell is paved in good intentions?"

That's pretty much how I view Bush's faith based initiative. The intention, although good, has an unfortunate end that social conservatives are not paying attention to.

Non-profit charities derive strength from being independent from the state. It's a strength that isn't easily returned once lost.

The funding of private institutions is sometimes used by those in power as a way of gaining control over that institution. It has happened before in history and it will happen again. The alliance of the church with the state always acts to the benefit of the state and the detriment of the church.

I would cite the supposedly "seperate" and "Catholic" education system in the province of Ontario as a case in point. Once the Catholic education system wasn't funded by the government. Catholics in Ontario had to struggle and help one another out to educate their children. With the onset of the public funding of the Catholic education system it did two things: it made the Catholic system less Catholic, and it made Catholics addicted to government money.

At first they claimed that the state would never interfere with the unique Catholic and faith based curriculum. Slowly the creeping influence of the state had the end result of creating a "Catholic" education system openly supporting causes in direct contradiction with Church teaching.

Faith based organizations would be best to stay away from this initiative. Stay private, stay individual donations based, and stay away from the corruption of government dollars - because let's not kid ourselves that's exactly what government money does.

My War against the "War against the War"...

Oppose the Afghan war? What better way to express it than to harrass soldier's families, protest their actions before they leave the country, and better yet refuse to stand in a sign of respect to the life of service they've chosen.

The concept of "chosing your battles" is pretty much lost on these people:

"When we found out there was a military parade, we decided it would be a good opportunity to show the population, the military and politicians the opposition to this mission," Maxim Fortin, a spokesman for the War on War Coalition, told The Canadian Press.

On Thursday, more than 2,000 soldiers from Quebec's CFB Valcartier gathered in Montreal to hold a tailgate party and watch the Alouettes play against the Toronto Argonauts.
And when members of the Royal 22nd Regiment attended the national assembly on Wednesday, a shouting match erupted when some Parti Quebecois members refused to stand and applaud them.

Opposing the Afghan War should be your right, yet showing respect for those that fight to represent you should be the norm in society.

Those opposed to this war would be well to consider how these actions appear to others: petty.

Showing resistance means resisting acts of agression - not willfully disrepecting members of the armed forces. These people are putting their lives on the line for the state who is supposed to represent the people.

Standing in honour of such a sacrifice is such a small thing to do. Not harrassing soldiers near to deployment is another act of courtesy.

Although I support the Afghan War, I never supported the War in Iraq. I oppossed it because I don't believe in spreading liberty by the point of a bayonet, and I didn't believe Iraq was a real threat to Canada or the US. Yet I could never bring myself to an Anti-War rally.

Why? Because the Anti-War movement was obsessed with similar tactics such as these that I could never bring myself to do. That's why the Anti-War movement failed, and that's why the "War against the War" will also fail.

Even the big guys make mistakes...

I have to tell you this makes me feel a little better about my own screw ups doing engineering calculations myself:
"NASA said on Wednesday it "made a mistake" in its calculations about a tear in space shuttle Atlantis' heat protection, but that it should not prevent the ship's safe return to earth.

Now when I say that I don't mean to belittle the importance of doing engineering calculations right the first time.

Yet it's unrealistic to expect a human being to be perfect. The only way to approach doing these types of calculations is with caution and a dispassionate disinterested manner that isn't rushed or affected by external forces. And then your work must be reviewed thoroughly over and over with a humble attitude until most of the bugs get worked out. The idea is to have a process in place to catch whatever human errors happen and to learn from the mistakes that are made.

Hopefully then the only errors left in a set of calculations are as small as the ones done by NASA above.

Gun Control And The No-Fly List

What does gun control have to do with a no fly-list? The same type of violation of our liberties for one:
"I don't think it's going to help one bit," Prentice told CBC News on Sunday. "What terrorist is going to travel with their own name and passport?…

"These people are going to steal or create a forged passport and identification if they're going to do anything, anyway."

Whether it's guns or passports, I just wonder why people always seem to assume that somehow criminals will register their weapons and use their real passports when they decide to commit crimes?

And as with gun-control it's the slippery slope that concerns most people. Sure this may be a small measure now, with fewer than a 1,000 people on this list it won't affect most Canadians - yet will it always be that size? What if one day certain Christian groups are included as "terrorist" organizations?

I would argue that this is a cop-out for Transport Canada. Instead of doing what really needs to be done to beef up security in airports it's coming up with a no-fly list to make people feel safe.

You see we have nothing to fear anymore... Those terrorists aren't on my plane because they would be on the "no-fly" list...

What we really need to do is best described by Yves Duguay:
On other subjects Thursday, Duguay voiced support for the use of armed RCMP officers as sky marshals on selected flights in Canada, brushing aside claims by critics who fear the practice could lead to dangerous mid-air shootouts.

Duguay, who spent 25 years as a Mountie before joining Air Canada, said the officers are well-trained and act as a deterrent to would-be attackers.

Seeing armed soldiers at French airports is common as far as I've seen, and I'm sure it must be so in the rest of Europe. Getting trained armed professionals into airports is the best deterrent to terrorism. The Israeli airlines have known this for years.

Pan Am in the 80's started implementing a system called the "The Alert Program." The original administrator had the intention of turning Pan Am security more militarized and similar to Israeli Airline security.

Unfortunately I don't think the original plan was ever fully implemented. Part of that had to do with concerns of PanAm's union not liking the idea of not using existing unionized security personnel as part of the new program. The original administrator of PanAm's ALERT program intended to train people with prior military or policing backgrounds for the job. In the end the administrator was fired from his position because PanAm disagreed with his security philosophy.

We can't live in this fictional bubble we've created for ourselves to believe that "no-fly" lists will somehow keep us safe. If anything they will just lead to more bureaucracy, less freedom, and more government meddling.

As insecure as it makes us feel, I'd rather see the soldiers with guns in airports and know that I'm safe, than file some some paperwork and assume it.

People Are Happy To Pay Taxes

That according to some Yankee "experts":
"Paying taxes can make citizens happy," Ulrich Mayr, a professor of psychology, said in a release accompanying the study in the Friday issue of Science.

"People are, to varying degrees, pure altruists. On top of that, they like that warm glow they get from charitable giving. Until now, we couldn't trace that in the brain."

There is a whole helluva lot of difference between "charitable giving" - people voluntarily deciding to give up some of their hard earned money for a cause that needs it - and the involuntary and frequently excessive amount of tax that many in our "free world" have to pay.

I think it is rather premature for this researcher to conclude that "Paying taxes can make citizens happy." That type of talk only reinforces the views of some that somehow it's ok for the government to levy taxes for this cause or for that.

Now I'm no social scientist, but I am an engineer, and I know a thing or two about testing and statistics, and already I can tell you that this paragraph pretty much sums up why this study was so ridiculously flawed:
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the researchers observed the brain activity of 19 women who were given a balance of $100 each. The researchers created the effect of taxation by making mandatory withdrawals from their account. The withdrawn money was actually sent to a food bank's account.

First of all the sample size was 19 women. The margin of error on a study like this is so large one wonders why anyone would bother to publish results like this. Secondly the end recipient of this money was a charity. The government is no charity.

If I was told my tax moneys were going to the Missionaries of Charity I would relax a fair bit myself.

If the study had that money going to a bunch of greedy lawyers that use jets to go from Hamilton to Toronto, increase their wages at will, drive the economy into the ground, regulate everything, social engineer our moral values, and then turn around and retire to a gold plated pension plan I'm thinking it would activate a slightly different area of the brain: the rage center.

But there's one more thing these researchers failed to take into account: just how much money is the tax?

If I were taxed 1% of my wages I wouldn't feel it so much. But when I'm taxed so much that it almost becomes more advantageous for me not to get a raise...
The authors noted, however, that the results may have differed if people had been presented with a tax that seemed less fair or benevolent.

You can say that again.

Money Hungry McDonald

Apparently Conversative Atlantic Premiers are just as socialist as west coast NDP Premiers when it comes to equalization. Case in Point: Novia Scotian Conservative Premier McDonald's latest spaz.

Sure Harper didn't keep his promise on offshore oil revenues. And yes he turfed out an MP over reasons I can't agree with. Trust me I sympathize. I am greatly dissapointed by the actions of the government on this file.

But none of this changes the fact that this whole debate is centered around a bunch of greedy money grabbing politicians that can't get their hands enough on other peoples money.

They're so greedy that as soon as they're rolling in oil money and don't need support they scream at the slightest sign of them being cut off from the drug they can't enough of: equalization cash.

The new deal promises more money for Atlantic Canada, it allows for the exclusion of non-renewable resources from the equalization formula, and it even gives provinces the option to continue under the current formula if they so choose.

In other words, it's more cash for a bunch of provinces that probably don't need it anymore than Quebec ever did.

The real people raising their voices at this point shouldn't be Premier Danny Williams or McDonald: it should be Atlantic Canadians. Their politicians have scuttled their wealth, destroyed their sense of independence, refused to face the problems they themselves have created in Eastern Canada, and then they turn around and demand more money as if it's a right from the rest of the country to fix it.

Will Atlantis Make It Home?

What a morbid thought. But with recent findings of a peeled back thermal blanket on the OMS pods I'm sure that's what many are fretting today.

A basic diagram of the location of the OMS pods is provided below:

You have to hand it to NASA though on this one - at least they caught this problem. I think it shows that new inspection routines are critical to the future operation of the shuttle:
The astronauts noticed the protruding blanket on the left-side Orbital Maneuvering System rocket pod during a routine post-launch inspection late Friday. John Shannon, chairman of NASA's Mission Management Team, said late today "there's not a great deal of concern over it right now, but there's a lot of work to be done and we'll do that in the coming days."

That comment by John Shannon is more Manager speak than anything else.

Keep everyone calm. Don't say anything you don't need to.

It's not an issue. We're just seeing if it's an issue. No need in causing panic over something that may be nothing.

My reading of this situation is that this type of failure does not have a whole breadth of analysis done behind yet. The only real thing that NASA knows is that similar failures have happened in the past without disastrous results. That's why NASA is doing it's homework at this point. They don't know. They're doing CFD's and computer analysis like nuts right now most probably to figure out exactly if it is a problem.

Though again - kudos do whomever developed that inspection procedure. It's obvious that it was needed.

The Gingrich Prize

This little tidbit of potential future US space policy from Newt Gingrich:
Gingrich, who helped shut down government over spending fights with the Clinton administration in the 1990s, said Republicans must offer a more dramatic platform for remaking government that focuses on private-sector innovation.

In a glimpse of what his candidacy might look like, he said he would shut down public schools that aren't performing and offer a $20 billion reward for the first private company that successfully completes a Mars mission.

"Somebody would be there and back about 40 percent of the way into the NASA process," he said.

Obviously the X-prize has had an effect on the views of decision makers with regards to national space policy. The belief that only the government can do space is dead like the dodo to Newt - good on him.

With regards to this "Mars prize" the destination is all wrong. A mission to the moon is alot more feasible and quite frankly practical. The "Mars First" crowd unfortunately has had a large effect on decision makers as well.


Shuttle Atlantis finally managed to get off the launchpad.

As of yet I have not heard of any ECO sensor issues. I doubt it's because there weren't any. It's more likely not an issue because of the amended flight rules that allow shuttles to launch with not having all 4 ECO sensors on the ET tanks fully functioning.

With all these delays I have to ask the question will the ISS even be completed on time? I can imagine if 2012 rolls around and NASA is still fooling around in low earth orbit instead of following the VSE that more than one congressman will call for the station to be scuttled and retired.

Carbon Tax

Well it happened.

A Canadian province has imposed a so-called "carbon tax."

So... I guess the fight against global climate change is going to be used as a weapon of choice for statism, government meddling, and the use of the coercive force of the state... Who would have figured?
"Quebec will implement Canada's first carbon tax in October, collecting just under one cent a litre from petroleum companies in the province, which will raise about $200 million a year to pay for energy-saving initiatives such as improvements to public transit."
I'll give these socialists credit: they're actually doing something to reduce CO2 emissions. Unlike most governments that have merely played lip service to the problem and done nothing this measure has a real shot at reducing CO2 emissions. The economy could potentially not grow as fast. Lower growth

However if the money the government uses from the carbon tax is used on CO2 emitting projects, even if they are under the guise of being "CO2 cutting" projects, ironically CO2 emissions will continue to rise.
"Natural Resources Minister Claude Béchard said Wednesday he hopes the petroleum industry will pay the tax without passing on the cost to drivers when they fill up their cars at the pump."
Fat chance of that happening. Raising costs raises prices. There aint no such thing as a free lunch. The money has to come from somewhere.
"We all have a responsibility. Every Quebecer has a responsibility. It's important for every Quebecer. So I hope that all those companies will have the same sincerity that we have, that Quebecers have," Béchard said.
Every Quebecer has a responsibility.

Just not me.

Let the oil companies take care of it. They're the guilty ones.

Every single individual Quebecer has a responsibility.

We just don't want to do anything.

No - everyone has a responsibility to fight global warming.

Just not me.

Conservative Drift

I just finished watching Micheal Coren live. An hour went by where I felt I was going to explode.

For the better part of the program I watched the National Conservative Party Vice President dance all over the issues like a trained ballet dancer. On the issue of Conservative MP's Bill Casey recent decision to vote against the government on a budget item which was promptly followed by his being turfed from the Conservative Party the best argument he could muster was "It's a confidence issue."

On further prodding about this same Conservative's previous comments way back when the sides were turned and Joe Comuzzi voted against the former Liberal government on a "confidence issue" he could hardly hide a smile as he responded that Mr Comuzzi knew what was in the budget full well before he voted, while Mr Casey did not. That lead some knee slapping laughter from the Liberal on the show.

The argument is as hollow as a Liberal Party fundraiser right now. MPs should be allowed to vote against budget items especially over issues as unique as the fiscal imbalance.

Further I'd like to quote a letter from Stephen Harper dated February 8, 2002:
"The structure of federal transfers creates real problems for how provincial governments deal with the resource industry. If the Newfoundland or Nova Scotia governments receive new revenues from resource developments, Ottawa may take up to 100% of this money by reducing equalization transfers."
"Whatever the right technical solution may be, it is also well past time to raise broader questions about the functioning of equalization."
Although Harper may never have explicitly promised that 100% of resources would not be included in the equalization deal from now ad infinitum, he did certainly flirt with the idea going back to 2002.

Mr Casey and others in the Atlantic Provinces would have good reason to believe that their party had made a clear promise not to include non-renewable resources from the equalization formula forever. And seeing that, it's clear that they can not be morally expected to vote with the party on such an issue. In many cases they may have told voters that a vote for them was a vote for a fix on the fiscal imbalance that would be much of a better deal than they got.

Apparently this is a "confidence issue." I respectfully disagree. Harper should have made it clear before the election that he was not guaranteeing that non-renewable resources would be excluded from the equalization formula for the Atlantic provinces from now into infinity.

What he did say about the fiscal imbalance at the time was that he viewed fixing the fiscal imbalance as merely a "deal." It was about negotiation. That's why he was criticized by the Liberal Party at the time for not including numbers in his fiscal plan that included expected costs of fixing the fiscal imbalance. In truth all Harper did was run around the country promising to "fix it" without actually saying what he would do and not costing the numbers. How could he? It was something to be negotiated.

In one sense you could argue he should have done just that - make a plan and present it to the public. In another sense you could argue that there was no way for him to do just that until he got into office. One premier may agree to one thing, while another premier may agree to something different. Negotiation of the issue seems the only realistic way forward.

But I think it's clear that over an issue so ill defined as the fiscal imbalance that expelling an MP for not liking the "deal" because it's a "confidence issue" is a shallow argument to say the least.

If I wanted butter, I'd ask for butter. So stop giving me butter for arguments. If the absence of any other given reason, the only issue I can see here is caucus solidarity. The only conclusion I can draw is that Harper's office made a tactical decision to punish one MP in the hopes that shear pressure will convince them to do otherwise. If that's true it's bullying and it shouldn't have happened.

It is truly a shameful time for the Conservative Party in Ottawa right now.

NASA's Climate woes...

Mike Griffin, administrator of NASA, an organization whose climate scientists have been at the forefront of this debate, Micheal Griffin:

"I have no doubt that global — that a trend of global warming exists...I am not sure that it is fair to say that is a problem we must wrestle with."

"I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take..."

That prompted this response from NASA's top climate scientist guru:

Jerry Mahlman, a former top scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is now at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said Griffin's remarks showed he was either "totally clueless" or "a deep anti-global warming ideologue."

James Hansen, a top NASA climate scientist, said Griffin's comments showed "arrogance and ignorance," because millions of people probably will be harmed by global warming in the future.

What's interesting about all of this is no one is responding to Griffin's point: it's really arrogant for us to believe that this time right now here is the "ideal" climate.

But never mind... Apparently that's ignorant and stupid.