Friday, December 31, 2004

How five newcomers could change Senate: "Call them the five horsemen of the Republican Revolution: incoming US Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, and David Vitter of Louisiana.

"Their arrival in the US Senate next week gives a powerful boost to both fiscal and social conservatives on issues ranging from judicial nominations and abortion rights to tax reform. It also tips the number of former House members in the Senate to 52 percent—the first time it has passed a majority. More than just an additional five GOP votes, they bring a hard-driving style and ideological focus that is at odds with the collegial culture of the Senate."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Inauguration Requires Boost In Bandwidth: "Preparing wireless networks for an event like next month's presidential inauguration has become as critical as erecting the barricades and ordering the party platters.

"Several hundred thousand VIPs, protesters, police officers and onlookers are expected to make cellular calls on Jan. 20 from along the parade route, convention halls and hotel lobbies in and around the District. They'll also be sending pictures, messages and e-mail—all of which create a heavy volume of wireless traffic that eats up network capacity.

"To make sure everyone gets a share of the wireless signal, cell phone companies—like seasoned caterers—must estimate attendance and make sure there's enough to go around. When necessary, they're ordering backup."
Amateur Radio "Saved Lives" in South Asia: "As governments and relief organizations attempt to gauge the scale of death and devastation from the December 26 South Asia earthquake and tsunami and to aid the victims, Amateur Radio operators throughout the stricken region are offering their services as emergency communicators."

"Victor Goonetilleke, 4S7VK, president of the Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL), reports that 'uncomplicated short wave' radio saved lives.

"'Ham radio played an important part and will continue to do so,' he said in an e-mail relayed to ARRL. Goonetilleke said that even Sri Lanka's prime minister had no contact with the outside world until Amateur Radio operators stepped in. 'Our control center was inside the prime minister's official house in his operational room,' he recounted. '[This] will show how they valued our services.'

"Goonetilleke reports that even satellite phones failed, and only the Amateur Radio HF link remained open. One problem: Batteries were running out, and there are no generators to recharge them."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Martinez awaits mobile office: "Like many of his constituents back in sunny Florida, U.S. Sen.-elect Mel Martinez and his staff will spend the winter in a mobile home, modest digs in a great location."

"His skeleton staff shares a copier and conference room with other new senators. After Martinez takes the oath Jan. 4, he will move next door, into a trailer in the courtyard of the Russell building—modest accommodations for a former U.S. Cabinet secretary representing the nation's fourth most populous state.

"But like thousands of snowbirds who descend on cramped trailer parks across Florida each winter, it's the location, not the quarters, that counts: It will be just across Constitution Avenue from the U.S. Capitol.

"His office will remain there until February or March, when he's assigned a permanent space in one of the Senate buildings. Meanwhile, Martinez has been interviewing candidates for his Florida director, who will be based at his main office in Orlando. He also plans to open offices in Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola.

"His total staff in Washington and Florida will number about 50."

"Though Martinez served as President Bush's housing secretary for three years before returning to Orlando to run for the Senate, when determining seniority, former House members get priority over former Cabinet secretaries. So of the nine new senators, Martinez ranks above only two, which puts him 98th in seniority among the 100 members.

"But Florida is an important state politically, and Martinez has strong ties to the White House. Last week, he was appointed to four committees that often handle issues affecting Florida: banking, energy, aging and foreign relations.

"In January, he is scheduled to accompany a congressional fact-finding trip to Israel. Martinez, the nation's first Cuban-American senator, said he was thrilled to win the foreign relations spot.

"'Having come from the tyranny and dictatorship of Castro's Cuba as a child, I hold nothing more dear than the American principles of freedom, democracy and human rights,' he said in a statement. 'I look forward to working with (the committee) to both further America's values and ideals around the world and ensure the safety of all Americans at home.'"

Monday, December 27, 2004

They Won't Stand on Common Ground: "Among the droves of conservative Christian lobbyists arguing their points of view in Washington, one relatively little-known group has a simple formula for setting itself apart from the crowd: Don't give an inch.

"Concerned Women for America always takes the most uncompromising positions. The group, founded 25 years ago in San Diego, almost never settles for half a loaf. And at the first hint of backsliding, it attacks its conservative comrades with the same fury it unleashes on liberals."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Two Proponents of Life Are Tapped for Senate Judiciary Panel: "Senate Republican leaders yesterday appointed two of Congress's most outspoken antiabortion members to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is bracing for potentially bruising hearings on nominations to the Supreme Court.

"Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Sen.-elect Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will join the panel's eight returning Republicans next month, assuming the Republican Conference follows tradition and approves the leadership's committee assignments for all 55 GOP senators. The breakdown of Judiciary will be 10 Republicans and eight Democrats."
Choosing Your First Radio: "Ham radio is an exciting hobby—and there is a lot more to it than just talking on the radio.

"Amateur radio provides a framework that supports a wide variety of interests. With amateur radio as a resource and guide you can • experiment with digital communications and RF/Internet gateways, you can • design and build electronic devices and talk to stations in outer space. You can • study propagation and atmospheric conditions or listen to interstellar signals created by the explosion of stars and much more. Of course, • communications is an important part of the amateur radio world. Meeting new people around town and around the world is tremendous fun.

"Whatever your interests and goals, amateur radio can provide value to your endeavors.

"The very versatility that makes ham radio so interesting can also cause problems. As a new ham or even as an experienced operator trying out a new aspect of the hobby, the huge amount of information available can be difficult to sort through. The Internet can be a valuable tool but with so many people giving conflicting advice, how do you know what's right? That's where this paper comes in. My goal is to give the new ham some basic, general information on radio types, their pros and cons and the ways that they can be used."
Ancient and Modern: "Whatever one thinks of the EUtopia that is Neil Kinnock's pension, the EU does not in these respects work like Rome. The order of the day is not conquest for the sake of self-enrichment, but international treaty obligations voluntarily entered into by expanding numbers of member states under the guidance of a wise and benign autocracy in Brussels, working in everyone's interests, leading to peace and prosperity for all.

"That may be a EUphemism for voluntary tyranny, but it is at least voluntary. There was nothing voluntary about Rome; and if one of the outcomes of the Roman empire was peace and prosperity over wide areas for long periods of time (and it was), that was not a vision that had turned Rome into an imperial power in the first place, though Romans were well aware that an empire without it was in the long term ungovernable. The break-up of the Roman empire in the West, however, does indeed provide food for thought.

"Foreign incursions into the Roman West began in the 3rd century ad. After a number of scares they were dealt with or petered out, but it was now clear that the empire was vulnerable to serial attack, and the last hundred years of the Roman empire in the West is the story of Rome’s relationship with 'barbarians'—the various Germanic Goths and non-Germanic Huns looking to settle within its domain. (The Eastern, 'Greek' half of the empire based in Constantinople/Istanbul, which had emerged as a separate entity after 395, survived as the Byzantine empire till 1453.)

"The problem Rome faced was: do we fight to keep the barbarians out, or are we prepared to make concessions? Being pragmatists, they compromised."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

NASA to Smack a Comet: "NASA is on a collision course with a comet, and scientists say they can't wait to see what happens.

"The collision, which is to take place between a projectile fired from the space agency's Deep Impact spacecraft and a 4-mile-wide comet known as Tempel 1, is scheduled for July 4, 2005."
Wired News: NASA to Smack a Comet: "NASA is on a collision course with a comet, and scientists say they can't wait to see what happens.

"The collision, which is to take place between a projectile fired from the space agency's Deep Impact spacecraft and a 4-mile-wide comet known as Tempel 1, is scheduled for July 4, 2005."
Space Station Crew Gets Ready for Christmas: "The Expedition 10 crew is spending this week getting ready for the Christmas arrival of resupply spacecraft, while continuing research and maintenance activities aboard the International Space Station.

"Commander Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov, a third of the way through their planned six-month mission, also put the Station's 58-foot robotic arm through its paces. They installed cables and a switching unit for the docking system that will guide the European Space Agency-provided Automated Transfer Vehicle to docking when it makes its maiden voyage next year."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miller to honor Swift Boat veterans at conservatives' gathering: "For one night only, it'll be spitballs and Swift Boats together on the same stage—a who's who of Sen. John Kerry bashing.

"The American Conservative Union on Thursday announced it has tapped Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., to present the 'Courage Under Fire' award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the Conservative Political Action Conference's Feb. 18 banquet.

"Miller and the group of Vietnam veterans were behind perhaps the campaign's two fiercest and most memorable attacks on Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bid."

"At a post-election forum Wednesday in Boston, Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager, said she regretted underestimating the impact of the Swift Boat ads."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Democrats and Abortion: The Democratic Party "entertains no doubts and counters reasonable questions and qualms with slogans—a woman's right to choose, for instance. The party is downright inhospitable to abortion opponents. Therefore, it was good Sunday to hear Howard Dean—both a physician and pro-choice—say on 'Meet the Press' that 'I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats.'

"Dean may make a run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and so what he says could matter. As it is now, being pro-choice is a litmus test for all Democrats, especially their presidential candidates. It is almost inconceivable that a Democratic candidate could voice qualms about abortion. It's almost inconceivable, though, that the candidates don't have them."

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Senator Is Born: "Tom Coburn is proud of the number of babies he has delivered, many of them on weekends while serving in the House of Representatives. But his participation in the miracle of life can't compete with his much-more-miraculous ability to walk on water. No one has actually seen him skip lightly across the waves, but after his remarkably thorough job of burning bridges at the close of his stint in the House, walking on water is the only way Coburn could have made it back across the Potomac."

"'I don't think now is the right time for me to comment on filibusters,' he says to a question about a possible rules change that will have to be entertained on the first day of the session. But it was pretty clear what he thought about filibusters in 1999 in the House, when he staged what amounted to one of his own. He and fellow term-limiter Mark Sanford (now governor of South Carolina) offered 115 amendments to the agriculture bill, and succeeded in changing the way costs of appropriations bills were calculated before passage.

"Asked what his legislative priorities are, he is vague: 'Build the staff. Get to know the people. Get to talk to people. Get out there and show people that I am not the villain that they think I am right now.'"
Doctor's Order: "Tom Coburn has been here before, he can do this. During the four-day orientation for new senators, he can play the good student, sit through lectures by his soon-to-be colleagues on what they think is important, Washington words like 'bipartisanship' and 'ethics rules,' be instructed like a third-grader on how to make friends with the other team.

"When the 'Marvelous Seven' new Republican senators are introduced to the media, reporters ignore the others and swarm around Coburn like bees to soda pop, waiting for him to fizz. But he is prepared. Dr. Coburn, what about partial birth abortion? they ask the senator-elect from Oklahoma. Dr. Coburn, what about gay marriage? What about values, Dr. Coburn?

"But he resists unleashing one of his prophetic warnings from the campaign about 'rampant lesbianism' or abortion doctors getting the death penalty or the venality of your average Washington politician. Instead, he says he'll be cautious, observant, collegial: 'I promise you I'll be sleeping every night with that rule book,' he says, meaning 'Riddick's Senate Procedure,' a 1,500-page manual.

"'Dr. Coburn, how long do you think you can keep that up?' one exasperated reporter finally asks.

"The answer is, about as long as it takes to get back to Muskogee, back to his homey closet of a doctor's office, to his reclining mahogany chair, to his mug of tea and pictures of his grandchildren and framed fragments of Scripture and all the quiet comforts that let him hear his own voice again.

"The rules they learned in the orientation session on ethics? 'Ridiculous,' he says. 'Crazy.' He can fly his wife home from Washington with frequent-flier miles, but not to Washington. He can dine with a lobbyist, but only once. 'Just think about it,' he says. 'I'm 56 years of age. I've had three jobs, raised three kids. If somebody can buy my vote for a dinner, I shouldn't be here in the first place.

"'I'm just going to ignore all that and do what I think is ethically right and aboveboard. And I suspect that's what everyone else does, too.'

"Ahhh. Tom Coburn is really back. You can hear the collective sigh of relief from those political junkies who have been secretly dreading four more years of the same dull party discipline.

"On election night, while most of us hung on Ohio, Joe Scarborough watched as Coburn's lead against Democrat Brad Carson grew by one point, then five, then 12. Suddenly, the former congressman, now host of his own MSNBC show, felt that old thrill run through him.

"'Good God,' he recalls thinking. 'May God help the leadership of the Republican Senate. I just can't imagine. I can't imagine how much fun it's going to be to watch Tom Coburn go after his own.'"

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Country doc has the cure for what ails Congress: "Ever hear of Dr. Tom Coburn? A major source book for conservative curtailment of federal spending should be an invaluable book written last year by this country doctor from Muskogee, Okla. He was elected to the U.S. House and became a burr under the GOP saddle. The establishment threatened him, but they couldn't touch him because he was determined to respect term limits. After two years off, Coburn won election last month to the U.S. Senate. Coburn's book is Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders (WND Books)."

Friday, December 3, 2004

Once upon a time I was a dues-paying member of eHarmony.com (at a non-promotional rate of $50/month) for one month. They've missed me ever since. Upon receiving another reminder of promotional savings (four days after the previous), I sent them a few questions.

_______

TO: eHarmony

Your "extended" offer, that I've received about once a month all year long, has yet to cease confusing me. It states three things:

(1) Normally, "a single month of eHarmony is $49.95."
(2) I get "3 Months for the Price of 1."
(3) This promo is "3 months at half-off our regular rate."

But a couple of my calculations don't add up to your math:

(a) 3 months for $49.95 works out to $16.65 per month.
(b) Half of $49.95 is about $24.98.

So, how is this promotion "half-off our regular rate"?

Here's another calculation that doesn't add up for me all that well:

(1) eHarmony has "10,000 people a day joining."
(2) eHarmony also has "10 couples a day" writing to tell you "they are engaged or married."

So, either this is a cruel analogy for our generation to the problems with Social Security, or the odds are really stacked against you. Again we turn to the abacus:

(a) 10 couples per day are hooking up
(b) 1 couple equals 2 people
(c) Thus, 500 people join for every 1 person that gets married.

So, does that mean we've got a 1 in 500 chance for success on eHarmony? Or, do the odds work out a lot better after one loyally pursues the full "12 month program"?

Either way, clearly eHarmony is doing well. Congratulations on your staggering success: 10,000 people x $50/month = $500,000 DAILY in new additional revenue. $500,000/day x 30 compounded days in just one month = $15,000,000. Wow.

Now, the earliest eHarmony message I have with the 10,000 figure is dated February 24th. If I add in the half million dollars a day since then (let's be conservative), we end up near a nice round $142 million. Truly impressive.

[Now that I think about it, that's JUST the revenue from NEW members for only one month—just like me. How many of those folks continue for any time at all with the intended year-long program??]

Some people would have probably stopped somewhere around there and said, "I've made my wad; time to build a nice house." Others might look at that and say, "Clearly we have enough for a nationwide television and radio ad campaign!"

Now I understand those TV commercials I've been seeing! Then again, my math could be wrong.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

School Bus Driver Fired for Stem Cell Talk: "An elementary school bus driver was fired after sharing a statistic she had read about embryonic stem cell research with students, then encouraging them to tell their parents about it.

"Julianne Thompson, 42, told students in November that actor Mel Gibson had said in an article that embryonic stem cell research had not produced a single human cure in 23 years.

"Some parents complained and school officials in the Buffalo suburb fired the driver."