Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Greatest Waste of Taxpayers' Money

Note: This is Part One of a multiple part series entitled "Depolarizing Politics." The author isn't sure, at this point, about when the other parts will be posted, or how many other parts there will be.
Imagine having a job with an annual salary of six figures. Now imagine that your job is to spend other peoples' money, not necessarily for what they think is right, but for what you think is right for them. You are imagining that you are a U.S. congressperson.

And what a job it is! If it weren't for the lobbyists, who are there to convince you what you think is good for your constituents, you might actually have to represent the folks who elected you. You got your job by promising better education, but when came the time for funding better education, it was more important to fund a new airport. You are not alone in doing things this way; in the past ten years Congress has introduced and passed more bills for earmarked (aka porkbarrel) funding than in the entire history of the United States. You got your job by promising a National Health Insurance plan, but when the time came to vote on that, you thought it would be better to fund an investigation of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. And to prove that you are tough on crime, you created another victimless crime and passed a bill funding the enforcement of such. Creating victimless crimes is good for the people, because it helps your buddies in the legal profession, cuts the competition for your favorite limited liability corporation (the one that paid you a very generous campaign contribution), and it helps the insurance companies make larger profits.
And you got your job by promising to create more jobs, which indeed you did, by creating more bureaucracy to provide government jobs for your friends and family. And didn't you hire all sorts of legal advisors, interns, pages, secretaries, public relations experts, and press agents? The good thing about that is the taxpayers foot the bill to pay all your hired hands. After all, if you don't use your entire budget, you might not get as much to spend next year.

Remember when you promised that you would raise the minimum wage? But, when the minimum wage increase was introduced for a vote, you decided it was time to call for a closed session so that you and your fellow party members could investigate intelligence sources. Once again, the minimum wage measure indefinitely, but, at least you showed the people that you were doing something.
And you prove you are doing something by talking. You talk whenever the cameras are on you. During congressional hearings, you take forty-five minutes to ask a fifteen second question, so that you may use the opportunity to express your views and tell the world what you stand for. If a bill comes up that you don't like, perhaps because it doesn't carry enough "pork" for your district, rather than coming up with a compromise, or even a better plan, all you have to do is filibuster, that is, to debate the measure until it dies.
It is politics as usual and it is the way everybody does things. Presidents Reagan, Clinton and G.W. Bush each tried to go outside the politics as usual box, and each faced huge dissenting public outcry, incited by opposition politicians who don't believe you should go outside that box.
It is politics as usual and it is, by far, the greatest waste of taxpayers' money of all.
Now imagine we had a Congress which followed the guidelines set in the Constitution of the United States. In the Constitution, rather than representing a party line, the Members of the House of Representatives represent the people of each congressional district. The Members of the Senate represent the people of each state. The President represents the people of the entire nation. There is nothing in the Constitution that suggests that any of these representatives represent a political party. The Constitution does not require that a person should belong to a political party to be eligible to be elected to office.

The Constitution states that each member of Congress "transportation to and from, and room and board during each session of Congress." That means, if you are elected to Congress, "don't quit your day job." How many career politicians with six figure incomes would there be today, if that were the case? That sure would save some of the taxpayers' money. Congressional sessions would only last a few weeks, rather than nearly an entire year, because every member of Congress would be in a hurry to get back to his or her job. There would be no time for special interests or filibusters, only to do what needs to be done, and be done with it. Now that would reduce the waste of taxpayers' money.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rolex 24 Aftermath: Good Luck, Bad Luck, and Jinxes

I should’ve known. In the Rolex Grand American 24 Hours at Daytona, luck has a lot to do with it. I jinxed my team, even knowing that the drivers had said that they had been having car trouble in practice and qualifying; that the Howard-Boss Pontiac Crawford #4 Daytona Prototype car was having electrical and power steering problems, and could not stay up to speed. I really did feel that I had reason to be optimistic. First of all, it was arguably the best team of drivers in the race. Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, and Tony Stewart all carry very impressive credentials. Secondly, the team thought they had isolated the problem, which meant that it ideally could be repaired during the course of the race. That didn’t happen, of course. The problem grew steadily worse, despite several attempts to fix it, and the #4 team finished 17 laps behind the winner.
The winner of the race, overall and DP class, was the #60 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, driven by NASCAR regular Casey Mears and IRL champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. This was a remarkable victory; the #60 team had started in the second position and had stayed near the lead for the entire 24 hours, which has been rare in endurance races. Also remarkable is that, as far as I know, Casey Mears is the first full time NASCAR driver to win the Rolex 24. Mears, who is the nephew of Indy racing legend Roger Mears, also drives for Ganassi in the NASCAR series, and has shown some serious talent and ability, possibly enough to be considered a future NASCAR champion. So, congratulations to Casey, and the entire #60 team. One more thing; I do not remember a time when the victorious team in the Rolex 24 did not include at least one full time Grand Am driver. This is not likely the first time it has occurred, but it is certainly notable.
I do consider myself a serious race fan, but I did not watch the entire 13 hours of live coverage on Speed TV, because I like to think I really do have a life. Still, as a race fan, I greatly appreciate that the race is covered on television. In the old days, we had to read about it in the following month’s issue of Car Craft magazine. Kudos to Speed TV, for such excellent coverage.

Depolarizing the News

Note: This is the first in a series of “Depolarization” articles I intend to write, and should be referenced in any post which contains the word “Depolarizing” in the title, so the reader may have some inkling of where the author is coming from.

Commercial news media exist to sell the news. In selling, they must pick a target audience they feel best suits their needs. In order to sell to that target, they customize the news by reporting only that they feel is important to that target. They do this by editing the context of the report. Therefore, most of what you see, hear, and read is biased, or “spun,” in some way. Face it: we normally hear only what we want to hear, right? So, this practice of spinning makes perfect sense in marketing.

Try this experiment: Watch a “straight” news report program on CNN, then watch a similar program on FNC (Fox News Channel). When they are reporting the same story, does it even seem like they are talking about the same thing? Do they quote the same sources, or interview the same people?

The best example of polarization of the news we have seen recently is the Corporal Starr letter. For those who are unfamiliar with this item, it was an “in the event of my death” letter written by a serviceman in Iraq to his family. The Washington Post and other papers printed the letter in its entirety, while the New York Times printed only those parts of the letter which, out of context, made it seem as if Starr had possessed a negative attitude toward his service in Iraq. The Times did so because it was giving its target readers what it felt they wanted to read.

We all have our opinions. Opinions are our personal talking points when socializing with others, and rather than trying to change the opinion of others, we can usually agree to disagree. We form our opinions through what we observe. Personally, when I form an opinion, I try to get as much information from both sides of the story as I can. This is because I enjoy having an intelligent discussion with those whose opinions differ from mine. Not to try to change their own opinion, but to explain why I think the way I do. So, I feel, my personal acquisition of information requires depolarization of the news..

I listen to the news on NPR (National Public Radio) and watch the news on FNC. These are two seemingly totally divergent news sources, for many consider Fox to be biased too much to the “conservative” point of view, while many others consider NPR to be too “liberal.” Interestingly enough, both sources report the same stories, but use different sources and interview from different points of view. Often the reports coincide well, while, just as often, I feel as though I’m getting two sides of the same story. Thus, I feel that I can weed out polarization, and truly get “straight” information on which to base my opinion.

As a side note, and as a way to end this piece, my method of assimilation has taught me two things: First, that in this realm of consciousness, truth is relative, and secondly, that, by keeping an open mind, I remain optimistic.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Start You Engines!!!

As I write this, I am watching the first few hours of the Rolex Grand Am Series 24 Hours at Daytona. That’s right, the 2006 racing season has officially begun, and I am absolutely thrilled! What I love about this particular endurance race, is that, rather than just driving around the circuit saving the equipment for the last few hours, these guys actuially race from the drop of the green flag!
Naturally, the Daytona Prototype (DP) cars capture most of the attention, with the
high speeds and big name drivers, but the GT class is also very competative. The DPs average between 112 and 115 mph, which is fast for a road course; these are specialty cars built for racing. The GT cars, regular Porsches, BMWs, Pontiac GTOs, Chevy Corvettes, and Mazdas, modified for racing, run at a more reasonable speed for a road course, and, being lapped by the DPs after only three laps by the DP cars, create a moving obstacle course for the faster class.
What names there are in this race! Not only are there the Grand Am superstars, Butch Leitzinger, Andy Wallace, Max “The Axe” Angelelli, “Mad” Max Pappas, and Jan Lammers, but easily recognizable names from the other racing series; Rusty Wallace, Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, Sebastion Bourdais, Bobby Labonte, Paul Tracy, Kyle Petty, Buddy Rice, Jimmy Vasser, and, one of my all time favorite drivers, Tony Stewart. To qoute race commentator Benny Parsons, “This is like IROC on steroids.”
Speaking about Tony Stewart, who injured his ribs two weeks ago while racing in a Midget open wheel racer, was interviewed prior to the start of the race. “They (his ribs) were getting better,” he replied in response to a question about his injury, “but since I’ve gotten in the car this week, They’re pretty sore again.”
To say that Stewart is tough is an understatement. This is a man preparing for a grueling endurance race. After the aforementioned accident, his right arm in a cast as a precaution, Tony “Smoke” Stewart remained at the weekend long event, watching the races and signing autographs, quipping “It’s a good thing I’m left-handed.”
He vowed to his fans that no injury would keep him from racing. Now, he is teamed with two men who are arguably the top two drivers in Grand American racing, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, in the Howard-Boss Pontiac Crawford #4 DP. Last year, the same team nearly won the “24”, leading during the last three hours until a cooling system problem virtually took the car out of the race. Two years ago, with Stewart in the lead, in a car with a severely damaged rear end, the car gave out with only 23 minutes left in the race. Barring mechanical problems this year, this team should win. Can rotten luck run three years straight? I think not.
After the first four hours, the race has been quite eventful. As I mentioned earlier, these guys race from the drop of the green flag. Paul Tracy quickly took the lead after starting in the 12th position. Max “The Ax” Angelelli lived up to his nickname and quickly cut his way through traffic, moving from the rear of the field into the top ten. There have been several accidents, mostly among the GT cars, but there is yet plenty of time for repairs. Still, it is bad news to have mechanical problems this early in the race, and several of the DP cars have gone to the garage for extensive repairs. Last year’s Daytona 24 winner, and the reigning Rolex Series champion, the SunTrust Pontiac Riley #10 DP, driven by Angelelli, Wayne Taylor, and Emmanuel Collard, has just suffered serious damage in an unavoidable accident with a GT car, four hours and fifteen hours into the race. The news is that the car may be beyond repair.
The #4 team is doing well. After starting in the 22nd position, Andy Wallace brought the car up to 12th. Max Crawford, the designer of the Crawford chassis, is the team owner. Katherine, his daughter, and Andy Wallace’s wife, is the team engineer. She is very much into the race, and was chiding her husband, over the radio, that he was not taking advantage of the powerful engine, but Andy has won many sports car races by being methodical. After 2 1/2 hours, he handed the driver’s seat to Butch Leitzinger, who brought the car all the way up to third before handing the car over to Tony Stewart. The team was delayed, having problems fastening the shoulder belt over Tony’s HANS device and rib protection. The car fell further back in the field, to 11th, when the Grand Am officials imagined smoke coming from the car and forced Tony to make another pit stop, where it was found that the only smoke associated with the car was Smoke himself. The race was under caution, for the aforementioned accident involving the SunTrust car, and I would think that the officials, being mistaken, would have given the lost postitions back to Stewart, but they didn’t, No worry, though, Tony has brought the car up to the 9th position, as I sign off, and no doubt will bring the car toward the lead before he finishes his stint.
Unfortunately, this is the only report on the Rolex Daytona 24 I will be able to post this weekend, as I will not be able to return on line until Monday. Speed TV coverage of the race will resume at 8pm ET. For live reports, check SpeedTV.com or GrandAmerican. Go #4 Team!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

About My Self Portrait

I do not have a photo of myself available electronically, so I went ahead and drew one using Swift 3-d shareware, which I have on my computer at home. It does not depict me accurately, but can be considered an unreasonable facsimile.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How To Watch a NASCAR Race (When you Can't Be There)

When I was a youngster, back in the 1960's, I loved to follow racing. Problem was, the only race televised at the time was the Indianapolis 500. Once in a while, there would be highlights of races on Wide World of Sports, or similar programs, and there would be the NASCAR newreels at the cinema on Saturday afternoons, as well as updates on other racing series, but that would only whet the appetite for more, and it really didn't keep the race fan up to date. Once in a while, on my Tandy Corp AM kit radio, I could catch a live radio broadcast from somewhere, but usually all I knew about what was going on was from magazines such as Car Craft, Motor Trend, or Hot Rod.

Now things have changed. NBC, Fox, FX, and TBS cover the entire season of not just the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but the NASCAR Busch Series as well. Soon, the NBC/TBS network will pass the broadcast rights to ABC/ESPN, which promises better quality coverage. SpeedTV covers the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and also covers testing, practice, and qualifying for all the NASCAR series. Oh, yeah, happy days are here for the NASCAR fan.

So, with all this new-fangled technology, how do I watch a race? I put the TV on mute, and listen to the radio. Motor Racing Network (MRN) is good, old fashioned race coverage. The verbal descriptions of drivers' strategies being played out, against the sound of roaring engines and cheering crowds is almost the same as being there. Along with the pictures on the tube, which don't always show what's being described on the radio, the true NASCAR addict can keep up with nearly every aspect of the race. The TV guys don't always mention or cover what your favorite driver is doing, but they will often editorialize on what they think your driver's motivations and faults are. On MRN, you don't get editorials, only a good sports announcer based coverage of the race. You can almost always tell where your favorite drivers are on the track, and that is good as long as you don't care about a driver's anger issues or what he or she ate for breakfast. If you want the soap opera/tabloid stuff, listen to the guys on TV, but if you only want to hear what is going on in the race, listen to MRN.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Fan's Addiction

I am extremely excited about an upcoming sporting event. For the first time, the AFC Championship football game will be played at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, where my beloved Denver Broncos will probably win and go on to the Superbowl. But that is not the sporting event about which I am so fired up. The Superbowl, otherwise known as the "Daytona 500 of Football" will very likely be won by the Broncos, for their third NFL Championship. What I am excited about is the Daytona 500, coming up on Feb 19, and all the racing events leading up to it.

In my opinion, the Daytona 500 isn't necessarily the best race of the year. After all, this race requires restrictor plates on the carburetor, which limit the horsepower output of the engine, which reduces the risk, in theory, of serious or deadly accidents due to excessive speeds. It also causes the cars to race at extremely close quarters, so what you have, in effect, is a 200 mph parking lot. It isn't even a "real" race, the way I see it. The driver doesn't have to do much except keep his foot on the throttle and aim the car. But what myself and many other NASCAR fans find exciting about the 500 is that it officially marks the end of three months of no racing.

True, NASCAR does have the shortest off-season of all professional sports, but just a glance at any NASCAR fan during December, January, or the first week of February, will reveal a person who is truly lost. You may see that person standing on an overpass crossing a major highway. That person is pretending that the traffic passing below is actually a race. That person is probably me. There is just nothing to get the adrenaline going, nothing to do on Saturday or Sunday for entertainment, because once a race fan gets NASCAR in his or her blood, nothing else can satisfy. NASCAR racing is genuinely addicting.

NASCAR racing is vastly different from other kinds of automobile racing. For one, the cars are much heavier, nearly twice the weight of a Formula One or Indy car. The tires are smaller, making the handling and reaction of the car very different from the open wheel cars. Most importantly, a NASCAR driver can do what no other driver in any other racing series can do; that is, cause his car to make contact with other cars without wrecking. This is quite a feat at 200mph, and adds a whole new dimension to driver skills.

NASCAR racing is much more than "cars going 'round in circles." It is the thrill of seeing your driver (for full enjoyment, you must pick a driver, just as you would a team for any other sport) show off his or her car control skills by driving faster and deeper into a turn than the other drivers. It is the excitement of seeing your pit crew service a car in just a little over thirteen seconds, and your driver getting back onto the race track ahead of the others. It is the utter exhilaration of watching your driver make a move on another car to get the edge going into or out of a turn. If the driver you pick happens to win the race, it is pure Euphoria. If you are lucky enough to be present at the race, it is the sight of what 200 mph actually looks like, the smell of the rubber and fuel, and the sound of the high-powered engines

I will be watching the race February 19, and I will be enjoying it. After all, I am an addicted NASCAR fan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

God is Angry Because...

"America is the Great Satan" - The Ayatollah Khomeni and his followers in Iran

"(After the World Trade Center Bombing 9/11/2001)It was an act of God, because America has become decadent with its homosexuals and free sex..." - Jerry Falwell

"Hugo Chavez should be assassinated" - Pat Robinson

"(Ariel Sharon's stroke) was retribution from God because he made Isreal pull out of Gaza." - Pat Robinson

"Hurricane Katrina happened because of the unjust invasion of Iraq" - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagen

"Judge not lest ye be judged, and by thy judgement shall ye be judged" - Jesus Christ

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Virtues of Capitalism-A Short Sketch

Hugo Chavez: Hey look, America! I am a communist and I have my own country now!

Uncle Sam: Well, we can't do much about that. Just sell us some oil and we'll give you money for it.

H.C.: But, look who my best friend and mentor is! (runs to where Fidel is standing, and gives him a big hug) Doesn't that make you mad?

U.S. : We're not happy about it. Just sell us some oil and we'll give you money for it.

H.C.: But I hate America and I think your president is a tyrant!

U.S: Just sell us some oil and we'll give you money for it.

H.C.: I could shut off oil to America tomorrow, and close my six refineries up there, because they are ours.* The price of oil would go up to $100 a barrel. Don't you want to assassinate me?

U.S.(sighing): Just sell us some oil and we'll give you money for it. Why are you being so antagonistic?

H.C.: I want to be famous! Like Fidel, or Saddam, or...or...Like Harry Belefonte!

U.S.: You're just a vacuous bubblehead, aren't you? Tell you what. Just sell us some oil and we'll give you money. We'll make sure the US press mentions you at least once a day, and we'll make Harry Belefonte our Ambassador to Venezuela.

H.C.: (Shoves hands in pockets, scowls at floor)Well...oh...Okay.

*Actual quote

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Vacuous Bubble Heads

I enjoy many kinds of music and movies. Often, a star of a movie or a music performer that I like will make some kind of off the wall political or social statement, but that won't stop me from enjoying the movie or the performance. I don't pay attention to what these celebrities say, for they excel in what they do because their entire mindset and personality is in the act they perform on screen and stage. What they say away from the performance doesn't matter to me, because they have no basis in reality. For example, during the 2004 Presidential campaign, in the United States, actress Cameren Diaz declared that, if George W. Bush were to be re-elected, "it would become legal to rape women." Where did that come from? I don't know, except that it had nothing to do with the plane of consciousness we currently exist in. Because Diaz's life is in the fantasy world of acting, what she says outside of that world has no relevance in this space-time continuum. I think she is an excellent actress, and I will continue to enjoy her movies.

My point is -- if you want to discuss politics, religion, or social issues with me, please don't base your argument on what you have heard from a Hollywood actor or a musician. A friend and co-worker recently asked me, "Did you hear what Pierce Brosnan said? He said that President Bush is the worst world leader ever!"
I replied to her that I didn't care what an English actor had to say about American politics. She asked me why I was being so "hateful" about Brosnan's opinion, and I said, "So the guy who plays James Bond doesn't like our President? Why should that matter?"
Everybody in this Nation is entitled to have and express their opinion, just as we are entitled to consider the source and weight of that opinion. I do not consider the opinion of those who , outside their chosen field, amount to being vacuous bubble-heads.
Usually the motive of these celebrities in making bizarre and unfounded statements is publicity. It is a way to get in the headlines. When Paris Hilton released a porn video on the internet, her program The Simple Life was about to air on Fox, and the publicity did not harm the viewership of the p program at all. The porn video worked well as a publicity stunt.
So the famous one hit wonder, Harry Belefonte is bad-mouthing America in Venezuela. Why? People seem to have forgotten about him, even though he is still active on stage in various playhouses and theaters. I personally feel that he is promoting his new CD perhaps titled Harry Belefonte's Greatest Hit: The 73 Minute Day-O,or something like that. To me, his opinion doesn't matter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Little About Me

Hello, my name is Jim. I am an honorably discharged veteran of the US Air Force (6 year enlistment with 6 month extension), a die hard Libertarian (not "libertarian"), a fan of jam band based music, and a racing fan. My blogs on this site will cover just about anything that comes to mind. For Example During the racing season it will be mostly about racing. During political campaigns there will be some political commentaries, and these seasons and topics will often overlap. Please be patient and keep an open mind. I will post as often as possible, but my available on line time is limited. Thank you for visiting this site.