Thursday, December 13, 2007

When stupid rules meet stupid people

Image courtesy of T-shirts are available at (Kip Hawley is TSA Administrator, and is credited with the liquid rule)

BERLIN - A man nearly died from alcohol poisoning after quaffing a liter (two pints) of vodka at an airport security check instead of handing it over to comply with new carry-on rules, police said Wednesday.
Quaffing is guess is a nice way of saying chugging.

Do you remember why we have to take off our shoes? Richard Reid attempted to light a fuse on his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami. Yet when you fly into the US, you don't need to take off your shoes. So this rule wouldn't have prevented Richard Reid at the time. So why do we check still, when a terrorist would likely try something else?

Or why must passengers show government issued photo IDs before and after the metal detectors (but not at the gate)? 5 of the 9/11 hijackers had government issued photo IDs. [Another reason why a photo ID requirement for voting is dumb too]

But anyway, remember why we need to bring only small amounts of liquids or gels on board a plane?
"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.
Once the fluids have been extracted, the process of mixing them produces significant amounts of heat and vile fumes. "The resulting liquid then needs some hours at room temperature for the white crystals that are the explosive to develop." The whole process, which can take between 12 and 36 hours, is "very dangerous, even in a lab, and can lead to premature detonation," said Lt. Col. Wylde.
So unless you are flying from New York to New Dehli, I don't think you have to worry about this one.

Obviously, the man who downed a liter of vodka was incredibly dumb to drink that much alcohol that quickly. This is the danger of having equally dumb and pointless "security measures" which might make us feel safer without actually making us any safer at all.

state of the presidential race

With the holidays rapidly approaching, campaigns are scrambling to get their attacks in on their opponents before Iowans and New Hampshirites really get cheesed off by the negativity. Which is why Huckabee, the only candidate with a theology degree, recently "asked" if Latter-Day Saints believe that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. This is also why Billy Shaheen, NH chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign said he was "concerned" that Republicans would attack Obama on his experimentation with drugs while he was in high school.

Both apologized after the attacked party expressed outrage, but the message was sent like a Christmas card with pictures of children who you don't know who it is from. Please, if you send a photo card for Christmas, include either a) your full name (not just "the Robinsons") b) a current picture of yourself, not just your grandkids. OK, pet peeve rant over.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that every campaign save the two Iowa surgers--Huckabee and Obama--are worried that the race will freeze over Christmas and New Year's, which means they will have 2-3 days to change momentum in their favor. A nearly impossible task.

So what happens if this CW is right and Huckabee and Obama hold on to win the caucuses?

On the Dem side, Obama is basically tied in New Hampshire and South Carolina and so he would win those states should he win Iowa. Michigan, Florida and Nevada, however, still seem solidly on Hillary's side, even if two of them aren't supposed to get delegates under DNC rules (which is why Obama isn't even on the Michigan ballot). But a win is a win, and the way the media portrays the race ("Obama and Clinton as neck and neck after the first round of early states") matters more than the delegate count or anything else. This means that the February 5th states--including Utah--might actually matter. It will be very interesting to see how those states go; my impression is that Utah is ripe territory for Obama. This could be a nasty fight all the way to Denver.

On the Republican side, it is much harder to tell. A Huckabee win will really hurt Romney, but his leads in New Hampshire and Michigan seem insurmountable. Then again, so did his lead in Iowa. Like in 2004 for the Democrats, Republicans in 2008 are tired of losing after only one cycle (Democrats are much more patient, waiting 12 years to get back Congress) and want to pick a winner to beat the Democratic nominee. Such feelings will intensify if Hillary manages to pull out a win in Iowa and sows up the nomination then and there. Giuliani stands to lose as much as Romney does from the combo of a Huckabee surge and a Obama string of victories. Conservatives support Giuliani because they see him as tough--against terrorists, radical Muslims, mobsters, the Clintons, etc.--but if Clinton isn't there to beat, the purpose of his candidacy is lessened. Huckabee is a true social conservative, Romney is a true economic conservative. Usually social conservatism take a back seat to economic conservatism in the GOP but this year it may be the opposite. If Huckabee wins Iowa big, I see him winning in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Florida still goes for Giuliani and Michigan stays with Romney. After that, your guess is as good as mine.

For political junkies like me, this is going to be a fun race to watch. And unlike last cycle, I don't have an emotional stake in any of the candidates, so I can be more rational and reasonable about what is going on. Maybe it is because of the candidates, or maybe it is because I have grown older and more cynical. Or maybe I am just in denial, thinking I am detached. Feel free to psychoanalyze me in the comments below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

presented without comment

Draw your own conclusions.

From today's Deseret News:
In an article to be published Sunday in The New York Times, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

Romney, vying to become the first Mormon elected president, declined to answer that question during an interview Wednesday, saying church leaders in Salt Lake City had already addressed the topic.

"But I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far. It's just not the American way, and I think people will reject that," Romney told NBC's "Today" show.

Asked if he believed Huckabee was speaking in a coded language to evangelicals, Romney praised his rival as a "good man trying to do the best he can," but he added, "I don't believe that the people of this country are going to choose a person based on their faith and what church they go to."

From Romney's "Faith in America" Speech:
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
As with yesterday's post, this post is not intended as an effort to support or oppose either Huckabee or Romney (or both). I am merely highlighting passages in articles that struck me, since I believe you might be struck similarly.

While I will not comment on the contrast between the two passages I selected for your reading pleasure, I welcome your comments in the thread below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What changed

"What changed was I'm running for president."

-- Mike Huckabee, on why he changed his position on Cuba, "Hannity & Colmes," FNC, 12/10.

While you might not agree with this policy position change, at least Huckabee is being honest about it. How refreshing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carbon footprint Christmas

Thanks to Noble Peace Prize Winner-Al Gore and his lovely slide show, I have been thinking a lot more this year about the impact of Christmas festivities on the Earth's atmosphere.

While I switched to another CFL bulb (we have 6 now), my local Smith's was all out of LED lights for the Christmas tree. Using 80% less energy AND looking better than incandescent bulbs? You can't beat that. I will have to plan ahead next year.

Its cold outside and people want to feel cozy, so they light fires, usually with wood this time of year. More CO2 out the chimny. I have one of those long burning logs, which I hope is better than a real log.

Friends of mine have a plastic tree and are quite "green." I asked them, is it better to own a fake tree or to chop down a real one year after year? No one knew, but clearly the ratio was not 1:1, meaning, you would have to stick with your plastic tree for a number of years before it would be worth it. Does anyone out there know?

And don't forget all of the presents and wrapping paper. I try to reuse boxes and paper bags when gifting. The main reason I do so is that I can't wrap a cube nicely to save my life, the other is the waste. Presents themselves are flown in from China or further away, along with all of the plastic packaging.

Then of course, there is all the driving around mailing and buying gifts...and then returning many of them after Christmas. Even if you aren't Christian, you still get sucked into this consumption bonaza.

Some carbon impacts I am very happy about. My sister and her boyfriend are coming home for Christmas, and we have many family festivities to attend. I wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas (religious or secular) and a Happy New Year.