Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Orleans: first public wifi city

"Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will deploy the nation's first municipally owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users, part of an effort to jump-start recovery by making living and doing business in the city as attractive as possible.

"The system, which Mayor C. Ray Nagin is scheduled to announce at a news conference today, also will be used by law enforcement and for an array of city government functions, such as speeding approval of building permits." ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Edward Wernecke: Parental Rights at Risk

"The issue before the Texas Supreme Court is the right of fit parents to make the medical decisions for their children. By avoiding the real issue here the Texas Supreme Court has failed to make a decision that only they can make that would affect all Texans." ...

I agree with Mr. Wernecke on the importance of parental rights, and the extreme danger in which those rights find themselves at the hands of a "service" like Child Protective Services. His is an excellent account of abuse of power.

That said, I don't agree that this issue should be decided in the courts. This is a matter for the legislature. CPS is a corrupt agency that should be dissolved. As he said, "They do more harm then good. There is more abuse of kids in the system than ever done by parents outside."

This is an uphill battle, however, as "The more kids they take into the system the more money they make." The problem is love of money.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sen. Coburn supports pay-as-you-go

"While the House spent last week fighting to a draw over its spending reconciliation bill, the Senate passed its version the evening of Nov. 3."

"The bill passed 52-47, after members considered 20 amendments."

"Perhaps most noteworthy, however, was a vote on an amendment that was not adopted to the bill—a pay-as-you-go (PAY-GO) amendment offered by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), and cosponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). The PAY-GO amendment, a necessary step towards legislative fiscal responsibility, failed to pass by only one vote, with Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a supporter of PAY-GO, absent from voting.

"The PAY-GO vote is significant because Republican Tom Coburn (OK) voted in favor of the amendment, shifting positions from his previous vote on this issue. If Coburn continues to vote with the handful of other fiscally responsible Republicans in the Senate, a PAY-GO amendment stands a strong chance of passing as part of next year's budget resolution.

"Such an amendment would require both new entitlement spending and any additional tax cuts to be fully offset in the budget. The inclusion of a true PAY-GO rule was instrumental in the success of the deficit reduction plan enacted in 1997 and will be crucial in forcing Congress to enact fiscally responsible budgets in the future as well." ...

Dr. Coburn denied non-profit medical practice

"Senator Tom Coburn, the freshman Republican who is a family practice doctor from Oklahoma, lost a long-running battle with Senate ethics officials Thursday night when his colleagues refused to make an exception to Senate rules to allow him to receive outside income from his medical practice.

"The special exception, intended to allow Mr. Coburn to see patients without making a profit, failed on a procedural maneuver that received 51 votes, 9 short of the 60 required for the Senate to take up the measure. Mr. Coburn said he would press for a formal change to the Senate rules.

"'Fifty-one votes is a great moral victory for me,' Mr. Coburn said, 'and I'm not going to quit.'

"Mr. Coburn, a general practitioner who specializes in allergy care and delivering babies, says he 'delivered 400 babies in six years' while serving in the House, from 1995 to 2001. But shortly after his election to the Senate in November 2004, he said, he was informed by the Senate ethics committee that he would have to give up his medical practice because of a ban on senators receiving outside income.

"He said he has been continuing to see patients part-time, paying his malpractice insurance and other expenses out of his own pocket. He has also fought the ethics panel, enlisting the support of a number of colleagues, including Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee, who sponsored the special exception that was considered Thursday night." ...

"Mr. Coburn, who has vowed to serve no more than two Senate terms, must keep his medical skills current so he can go back to being a doctor full time when he leaves Washington."

It's Official: NTM has 90 days to leave Venezuela

"The Venezuelan government has officially ordered a Christian tribal mission group to leave its tribal areas within 90 days.

"New Tribes Mission, which was unexpectedly ordered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Oct. 12 to leave the nation, has received confirmation that they must leave tribal areas within 90 days of Nov. 14.

"On Monday, the Ministry of Justice and Interior published a decree in the official Gazette of Venezuela, where laws and government orders are printed, declaring the revocation of NTM's permission to work in tribal areas. NTM has had permission to work in indigenous territories since 1953.

"Although the tribal mission group will be forced to leave tribal regions, the decree does not require NTM's missionaries to leave Venezuela, but only indigenous missions in the states of Amazonas, Bolivar, Apure and Delta Amacuro." ...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Judge Alito: Massager of Precedents

"Judge Samuel Alito may agree on many issues with conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But President Bush's high-court nominee often has taken a different path toward similar legal conclusions, one that is more subtle and less dismissive of precedent."

"Since the Nixon and Reagan administrations, conservatives have yearned to overturn many of the Warren Court's equal-protection precedents. Nothing in the Constitution barred laws to 'discourage formation of illicit family relationships,' Justice William Rehnquist wrote in dissenting from a 1972 ruling that found it unconstitutional to exclude illegitimate children from collecting workman's compensation for their father's death.

"Judge Alito approached things differently. In his 23-page article, 'Equal Protection and Classifications Based on Family Membership,' (PDF) he offered conservatives a novel way to read the jurisprudence as consistent with 'the state's interest in promoting the traditional family.' The approach appeared to respect the precedents while denying them the impact that some legal authorities—including, perhaps, the justices themselves—expected."

"Judge Alito 'massages the precedents to make them say what he wants them to say. That's a very different aesthetic than Scalia,' says Prof. Robert Post of Yale Law School, a former clerk to the liberal Justice William Brennan. Judge Alito's 'sensibility is not to beat up the Warren Court as illegitimate, but to get what he wants out of the Warren Court.'

"Similarly, critics say, Judge Alito's recent opinions have asserted an allegiance to precedent—even when reaching a more conservative outcome than the Supreme Court later would accept. That approach could lead to readings of liberal precedents, such as the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion upholding abortion rights, that diminish their scope without explicitly overruling them." ...

Samuel Alito Profiles:
University of Michigan Law Library
FindLaw
askSam

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Katie Wernecke's judge had conflict of interest

"Juvenile Court Judge Carl Lewis resigned Tuesday from the board of directors of Texas CASA, a statewide organization that advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children in the court system.

"Lewis said he resigned from the board to avoid potential conflicts of interest. CASA volunteers regularly represent children in cases heard in Lewis' court."

"Several other judges also have resigned from the board after a ruling from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct found a potential conflict with judges sitting on the CASA board and dealing with cases in which the organization represented a child."

"The commission's ruling came after a complaint was filed by the Texas Center for Family Rights in 2004. The group was critical of Lewis while he was presiding over the case of Katie Wernecke, a 13-year-old cancer patient whom Lewis placed in state custody after her parents resisted medical care." ...

Interstate Telecommuting = Double Taxation

"The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a Tennessee man, who worked for a New York employer, and was ordered to pay taxes on his income by New York's highest court. The result could mean that more out-of-state telecommuters could face the prospect of being taxed both by the state in which they reside, as well as in the state where they work.

"Thomas Huckaby is a computer specialist who spent 75 percent of his time in Tennessee and about 25 percent of it in New York. A New York State tax-department rule states that people who live out of state, work for a New York employer, and occasionally come to New York on business must pay taxes, even on work performed out of state, according to The Wall Street Journal. The only exception to the state's rule would be if the out-of-state work was done for the employer's 'necessity'. The New York Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-3 decision, that Huckaby had to pay taxes on all of his income.

"Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal, New York and other states that have similar rules (such as Pennsylvania and Nebraska) can continue their practices of taxing out-of-state telecommuters, and other states may be emboldened to enact similar rules, according to the Journal. There are about 9.9 million telecommuters in the United States, according to the Telework Advisory Group at WorldatWork, and 'millions' of them telecommute out-of-state, the Journal reports.

"Telecommuters who find themselves in such a predicament may have reason to hold out hope, however. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) have proposed legislation—the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act (S. 1097/H.R. 2558)—which would prohibit the practice of taxing telecommuters for work completed in another state. (A number of Connecticut residents who work in New York have experienced the same hardship as Huckaby.)

"Senator Dodd called Monday's decision 'disappointing' and said it 'underscores the need to take action on the legislation that I have introduced… Telecommuting reduces traffic congestion, reduces pollution, and helps businesses strengthen their bottom line. The current rules punish telecommuters rather than reward them and that needs to change.'" ...

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Big Jesus

"For many people the message of Jesus was presented as an individual message of salvation for their own individual sin: 'Jesus died for you.' I affirm that wholeheartedly, but in the scriptures, its scope goes in the opposite direction. It begins with the Jesus who dies on the cross and rises from the dead.

"But as the New Testament progresses, you have writers saying that 'by his shed blood he is reconciling everything in heaven and on earth.' Peter says in Acts, 'He will return to restore everything.'"


"There is the perspective of the person who pretends that everything is fine—the shiny, happy people perspective, 'this is the day God has made,' but doesn't seem to acknowledge how bloody and difficult the world is.

"Then there is the deconstructionist voice of despair that says, I see how rough it is and how horrible and hard life is—all they have is commiserating with you.

"Then there is this third category of voices of people who acknowledge how things really are and still have hope. And those are always the people who inspire me so much."


"At the center of the Christian church for thousands of years has been this risen Christ who invites people to trust him; trust him with life, trust him with death, trust him with sin, trust him with future, trust him with hope, trust him with every day. And that this risen Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views.

"If you are desperate to meet this risen Christ, you meet him in a way that destroys any previous categories you had. I keep finding that this Christ, whatever things I've built, destroys them and shows himself to be bigger and wider and deeper and more loving.

"Ultimately you enter into a very real mysticism where you realize that there is this risen Christ who changes people's lives and the stuff that emerges around him and attaches itself to him, the institutions and whatever, they aren't it. They don't give life. So over the years I've found that everything but the risen Christ fails. It doesn't deliver."


"It would be great if the leaders that are telling everyone that they need to trust Jesus actually did it. I have a wonderful opportunity to actually live what I'm talking about."

The complete interview with Rob Bell

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Katie Wernecke returns to Texas

"Katie Wernecke headed back to Texas on Friday, having completed five intravenous vitamin C treatments in Wichita and ready to continue the treatments at home."

"Katie, 13, was at the center of a five-month-long battle between the Texas Child Protective Services, which wanted her to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, and her parents, who were concerned about the side effects of radiation and who wanted to try the vitamin C treatment. On Nov. 3, Katie was released from the state's custody; she and her father traveled to Kansas two days later."

"Wernecke said his lawyer has asked the Texas Supreme Court to review a writ of mandamus and to decide who—parents or the state—should have the say in a child's medical treatment.

"'We're not doing this just for us,' he said. 'We're doing it for all parents.'" ...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Budget/Deficit bill: Vote 'no'; no wait, vote 'yes'!

Family Research Council, Tony Perkins' Washington Update
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

"This week the House of Representatives will vote on a Budget Reconciliation bill that takes a significant step toward cutting wasteful government spending.

"However, the measure is laded with some very troubling features.

"First, it includes more favorable tax treatment for casinos, race tracks, massage parlors, and liquor stores. That's bad enough. These outfits have never before been treated on a par with regular businesses. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) deserves praise for valiantly fighting against tax preferences for these questionable companies.

"Second, the bill does not presently contain the very important Boehner-Jindal provision on parental choice in education. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee; Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) is a freshman from the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. Boehner-Jindal needs to be put in the bill.

"Third, the Kennedy-Enzi language from the Senate version of this bill needs to be taken out. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) would allow private schools to receive funds for giving aid to students evacuated from affected areas. However, schools that take the bait also invite the heavy hand of federal regulators. It's a dangerous bargain. The Kennedy-Enzi proposal denies funding to schools that "indoctrinate" their students. Is saying the Pledge of Allegiance indoctrination? Is the Lord's Prayer?

"We need a much better Budget Reconciliation Bill."


[Two days later...]


Family Research Council, Tony Perkins Take Action Alert
Thursday, November 10, 2005

"My message today is simple. The House of Representatives may vote as soon as today on the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act. This legislation is long overdue. It will cut some $50 billion in projected federal spending. Congress may be, at long last, rediscovering the fiscal discipline that families take for granted.

"But we must encourage a 'yes' vote now if we are to move closer to this goal.

"While deficit reduction is the primary goal of the Deficit Reduction Act, this bill has other positive aspects as well.

"Among other things, it reauthorizes the landmark welfare reform legislation passed nearly a decade ago. It will also end abusive interest rates charged under certain student loan programs on which families rely, and it will permit Medicaid recipients in a limited number of states to have Health Opportunity Accounts to gain more control over their health spending.

"Time is short, so please send a swift message of support to your representative for the Deficit Reduction Act."


OK. Let it be recognized that Bill "A" from the November 8 Washington Update, and Bill "B" from the November 10 Action Alert... are the same bill!

One has to wonder what transpired in the intervening two days to cause such a dramatic change of heart. Sure, the bill probably still contains all the items mentioned in both emails, but why the change in FRC's position?

Whether the change in position was brought on by pressure from party leadership, a certain large caucus (somewhat principle-deficient lately), or a simple change of heart, the bill didn't make it to the House Floor Thursday as planned.

The conflict behind closed doors this week may, however, spill out into the open next week.

Pastor looks to disorganize religion

"Bell's independent church doesn't fit any existing categories.

"That's partly why crowds of more than 10,000 are flocking to the former shopping center where he holds services each Sunday.

"There's an eagerness among newcomers just to catch a glimpse of the preacher with the tangle of windswept blond hair, thick-rimmed glasses and oddball ideas.

"There's an eagerness among other church leaders to catch a glimpse of Mars Hill, because it appeals especially to twentysomethings, a group close to extinction in mainline churches." ...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Democrats: public policies rooted in faith

"One of the first things Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine did after entering the race for Virginia governor last spring was to go on evangelical Christian radio to talk about faith in politics. And one of his early advertisements spotlighted his work as a Christian missionary in Honduras during a break from law school two decades ago."

"'All Tim's talk about his faith said to people, "He's not a typical liberal,"' said David Eichenbaum, a media consultant to Mr. Kaine."

"A year after polls showed that so-called values voters had been crucial to President Bush's re-election, Mr. Kaine's advisers and some top Democratic strategists say their victory in Virginia shows that Democrats, including liberals, can win in culturally conservative states if they talk about deeply held religious beliefs."

"Representative Ted Strickland, who is running in next year's Democratic primary for governor of Ohio, said the party had hurt itself by not trying to identify more closely with religious voters. He has already begun talking in his campaign about religion's role in his life and politics.

"'I do think the Democratic Party has for far too long been hesitant to talk about the things we deeply believe and value,' said Mr. Strickland, a former Methodist minister. 'Many public policy positions have their foundation in religious beliefs that we hold dear.'" ...

A House of partisan carrots and sticks

"A wide range of religious and political leaders expressed outrage over House leaders' last-minute alterations to an affordable-housing bill they say discriminate against religious groups.

"The House passed a bill that would exclude many religious groups from a government-subsidized housing program—even though the move contradicts President Bush's efforts to make it easier for religious groups to get government funds for social services.

"The Federal Housing Finance Reform Act, H.R. 1461, passed 331-90. But that was after the amendment that would effectively exclude many religious groups passed by a much narrower margin, 210-205.

"The amendment vote fell mostly along party lines, with the vast majority of Republicans voting for it and all but two Democrats voting against it." ...

"The bill is designed to reform the federally chartered home-loan corporations Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae after a series of accounting and regulatory scandals at the organizations. It had emerged from the House Financial Services Committee in May, on a 65-5 vote, with a provision dedicating 5 percent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s after-tax profits to a fund that would give grants to organizations building affordable housing.

"But the most conservative Republicans in the GOP-dominated House—a group calling itself the Republican Study Committee—objected to the housing fund as too loosely managed, fearing that groups with left-leaning political agendas that do voter-registration or get-out-the vote work could receive funds for housing projects—thus freeing up their own funds for more voter work.

"The Republican Study Committee members got the House leadership to ensure that the bill would not come to the floor without significant restrictions that would essentially prohibit non-profit grant recipients from engaging in any voter-registration or voter education. It also included a provision that required any non-profit receiving a grant from the fund to have housing as its 'primary purpose.'

"A wide array of religious leaders objected, saying those provisions would effectively ban their participation. They ranged from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Episcopal Church to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

"'The primary purpose of faith-based organizations is faith,' said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking minority member of the Financial Services Committee.

"They also objected to the bans on voting-related activity, noting that many religious organizations conduct non-partisan voter registration and education activities as part of their work and consider being responsible citizens an integral part of their ministry.

"Supporters of the amendment argued that it was necessary to keep politically activist organizations from subsidies."

"Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said it is ironic that many of the same Republican Study Committee members who are the strongest supporters of government funds to religious groups in other contexts took a different tack when it came to affordable-housing ministries.

"'Despite the divisiveness of the term "faith-based," most Americans are united in their support of religious organizations,' he said. 'That's why it's surprising that the Republicans are using an otherwise worthy effort to reform government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to throw a wrench in the relationship between government and the religious community.'"

The hypocrisy here is thick on both sides.

While the Republicans of 1994 and of limited government would probably rather not have Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae at all, if they must, then the Republicans of 2000, 2002 and of George W. Bush would at least want to open it up to faith-based groups. I tend to prefer the former over the latter.

But just as hypocritical is the Democrats voting against this amendment—a vote in favor of faith-based groups. They have been fighting Bush's faith-based initiative since it arrived in Washington; but now, suddenly when a bunch of Republicans are fighting it, they support it.

This amendment prohibits granting any funds to a non-profit that has "engaged in federal election activity, electioneering communication, or lobbying." That would include non-partisan voter registration and education activities. RSC didn't intend to target faith-based groups, but the groups that cater to those that live in low-income housing.

Unfortunately for both sides, both fall into the same legal category.

Basically, the Democrats oppose funding non-profit groups that are likely to support people that will vote against them (faith-based groups), and the Republicans oppose funding non-profit groups that are likely to support people that will vote against them (low-income individuals that live in affording housing).

What we have is a lack of operations based on principles—principles that apply to everyone, all sides in the debate. The principles should be based on: What's in the best interest of the country? What's in the best interest of non-profits? Should federal funds be used, and if so, how?

The principles should not be based on partisanship or politics. Federal spending should not be based on the demographics of the money's geographic destination. Policies should never be based on the political future of the ones pushing the policies.

Just as we've seen with the so-called campaign finance "reform," it's not really about reform or protecting the country, it's about careerism and protecting one's political future. Our leaders are leaning on their own understanding and not living by faith.

To fix this isn't a matter of Republican vs. Democrat; it's incumbants vs. the people. As Tom Coburn said, "Do you realize there's hundreds of thousands of people in this country that can do a better job in the Congress than the Congress that's sitting today?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

First Day in Supreme Court Conference

"At the end of the first week of the Supreme Court's new term, the justices assembled to discuss the week's cases, and, following protocol, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated his own views first. Then, in keeping with the court's tradition for the justices-only conference, the new chief called on the others, one by one.

"He did so in order of seniority, referring to his colleagues in the most formal terms. First, 'Justice Stevens,' followed by 'Justice O'Connor' and then 'Justice Scalia.'

"Justice Antonin Scalia interrupted. 'I will always call you Chief,' he said. 'But to you, I'm Nino, and this is Sandra, and this is John.'" ...

Professor Alito: on the frontier of law

"In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Seton Hall University Law School students clamored to sign up for a new seminar titled 'Terrorism and Civil Liberties.' Besides the timely topic, the limited-enrollment class had a professor of some prominence: U.S. Appeals Court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

"Alito's nomination last week for the Supreme Court means that his former students gained far more than legal education. Two hours a week, for 14 weeks, they witnessed the workings of Alito's legal mind on a crucial frontier of law he will help define if he is confirmed: the tension between individual constitutional rights and what President Bush calls the war on terror. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a constitutional challenge this spring to the Bush administration's use of military tribunals to try foreign terrorist suspects.

"There was no hint, Alito's former students said, that he had resolved the tension in his own mind—only that he was wrestling intellectually with it. He told them the course was an academic exercise for him as well as them because there is little guidance in the Constitution or case law for where executive power ends and civil liberties begin in times of national emergency." ...

Portable Landscaping

"For starters, she says, 'This country has large variability in climate, and people are very mobile.' But although we move a lot, she says, we tend to recreate the same landscape wherever we go. 'Most of the grasses used in U.S. lawns aren't native to the area they are grown; many of the species come from the East, Kentucky bluegrass, for example.

"A lawn isn't a big deal in the northeast, but when you recreate that same landscape out West, it becomes a major ecological issue because the only way to grow those grasses is with high use of water and nitrogen fertilizer."

"'Even conservatively,' Milesi says, 'I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn.' This means lawns—including residential and commercial lawns, golf courses, etc—could be considered the single largest irrigated crop in America in terms of surface area, covering about 128,000 square kilometers in all." [~49,000 square miles]

"Across the United States, water supplies are increasingly under pressure as populations grow. The water table has dropped hundreds of feet in many locations, and rivers and streams go dry for long stretches in various seasons as water is siphoned off for agriculture, industry, and individual residences.

"All along the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to New York, saltwater is flowing into formerly freshwater aquifers and wells because we are pumping freshwater out faster than nature can put it back."

"In most of the United States, lawns just aren't natural.

"When she had the ecosystem computer models generate a 'control' scenario in which lawns were not irrigated or fertilized, she says, 'The only places I could grow grass in the conterminous U.S. were a few areas in the Northeast and the Great Plains.' Everywhere else, lawns have to be coddled to keep them going and to keep weeds and other plants from taking over. ...

Katie Wernecke on High Dose Vitamin C

"Inside the Bright Spot for Health, cancer patients get a different kind of treatment. Patients get high doses of vitamin C through an IV. Dr. Ron Hunninghake says the cancer mistakes vitamin C for glucose, creating a chemical reaction that kills the cancer. 'You can't eat enough or take enough by mouth to have this effect,' Dr. Hunninghake said.

"Here's how it works. The vitamin C goes into your bloodstream and is taken in by cancer cells. The vitamin C and cancer react, creating hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide helps kill off cancer cells. 'If you build up enough peroxide inside the cancer cell, it will use up its defenses and pretty soon kill the cancer cell from the inside out,' he said. Eyewitness News asked if there are any negative side effects. 'No you'll feel thirsty because of the sodium, but there are no real side effects except you'll feel better,' Dr. Hunninghake said.

"The doctor says Katie Wernecke is already feeling better after 2 vitamin C treatments. She's using it along with tradition chemo to fight her Hodgkin’s disease. 'We're not promoting it as a stand alone. It's to be used in conjunction with other cancer treatment,' the doctor said. He hopes the combination improves survival rates for cancer patients." ...

Monday, November 7, 2005

Paul Devlin's Power Trip in Texas

"Filmmaker Paul Devlin dubs his most recent film, Power Trip (2003), a 'dramatic real-life thriller about corruption, assassination, and street-rioting over electricity in the former Soviet Union.'"

"Obviously, one of the most tangible experiences of how truly [finished] communism was in this troubled but beautiful country situated in the Caucasus Mountains, near Turkey and Chechnya, was the arrival of AES Corp., the largest owner of power in the world, a multinational U.S. company with an unusually decentralized management style and the laudable mission of bringing competition to the power sector in remote parts of the world."

"Devlin's camera captured drama aplenty in footage of Georgians reading by candlelight, sitting expectantly in front of darkened TV screens in darkened living rooms waiting for the power to switch on, walking on preternaturally darkened city streets."

"Consumers, including the government, found ways to sabotage AES-Telasi's plan, circumvent their meters, and keep the electricity on. With the company losing $120,000 a day, Lewis had to get tough and start cutting off service for nonpayment (even for the airport, just as a plane was coming in). More public outcry, more widespread government corruption."

"The filmmaker's sports editing and shooting skills are certainly evident in Power Trip, which, combined with wonderful local music, makes for a stirring film about electric bills and their nonpayment. Of course, we also learn a whole lot about the colorful Republic of Georgia and its feisty inhabitants along the way." ...

Friday, November 4, 2005

VA Governor Mark Warner on the Democrats, the deficit, and federal budget cuts

"I think the Democrats in this country are the minority party in this country. I think we not only have to invigorate more folks to get registered in part of the grand Democratic family, but I think we need to go get some other folks who maybe haven't voted Democrat in a long time or maybe never voted Democrat, and urge them to take a fresh look.

"And the way you take a fresh look is you've got to have sensible policies about our deficit. You've got to have restoration of America's stature in the world. You've got to grapple with a health care crisis that is getting increasingly complex, as I look at my own parents and with an aging society.

"And we've got to end up recognizing in a global world, if we don't have kind of a post-Sputnik type refocus on creating intellectual capital in this country, in this world, and I believe American business and American workers can compete against anybody, but we've got to do it smarter, more entrepreneurial and more innovatively.

"These are the kind of issues that I'm much more interested in than the—you know, some of the social hot button issues that too often dominate the debate.

"LAMB: Now you've shut a lot of your agencies down in Virginia and you eliminated 5,000 jobs, that almost never happens on a federal level. Can you do that on a federal level?

"WARNER: You've got to. I mean, one of the things the Democrats always do when we just talk about fiscal policy is we always go to the revenue side first. I mean, I would not have been successful looking at the revenue and tax reform unless first I had shown that I was willing to cut and was willing to reform.

"And, again, I think the country is—the country is ready to have an honest debate about what it expects from government and what it is going to pay.

"LAMB: But could you deal with earmark environment that you have here where there are 16,000 earmarks?

"WARNER: Listen, you've got to be willing to shake things up. I mean, I remember back in Virginia, we went all through all these cuts. What finally got everybody's attention was—and we had to cut almost every state agency by average 20 percent with the exception K-12 and Medicaid, health care for the poor and our basic commitment to education.

"But I shut down the Departments of Motor Vehicle one day a week. I got skewered, everybody was—you know, Democrats, Republicans, Warner, this was horrible. But in my mind, you know, if we're going to be fair on cuts, everybody has got to take a little hit.

"And it drove home the point as well that at the end of the day, this was a real crisis. And that sometimes has been absent from the debate in Washington. Now you've got the luxury of the printing press in Washington because you can keep printing that money and you don't have to balance your books.

"But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure with an aging society, with growing entitlement programs, with, you know, almost a Faustian deal that we've created with China with it buying most of our debt, that we do not only ourselves but more importantly our kids an enormous disservice unless we can grapple with this in a meaningful way."

C-SPAN Q&A Interview: Full Transcript, Video, Background

VA Governor Mark Warner on life, business and politics

"LAMB: Was there ever a time back in those days when you were working for Abe Ribicoff or Ella Grasso or Chris Dodd or Doug Wilder or the chairman of the Democratic Party in Virginia, all through this process, where you said, I have to make money and then I want to run for office?

"WARNER: Well, there was a time back in—when I was in college, or maybe I was in law school, and I was working for Chris Dodd, and he was about ready to run for the Senate, and I may have my dates slightly off, but there was a guy who ran for Congress and he lost. And I recall the stories afterwards that he was suddenly $300,000 in debt and had to pay something like—the story was, you know, $6,000 or $7,000 a month for umpteen months.

"And that seemed to me so stunning that, you know, you would put your family, your life, if politics didn't work out, you would be—you could be penniless as well as have to make compromises along the way.

"And, you know, there have times I think when people in politics have made those compromises. You know, 'I've got to stay in, staying elected is more important than maybe what drove me to get elected in the first place.'

"Or you take the financial support from people that maybe you shouldn't. And, you know, I swore that if I ever was going to take the plunge myself in politics, that I wanted to have some level of financial independence.

"Now that started me, and then I went into business and, again, after a few failures, ended up having built a venture capital fund after Nextel, built a venture capital fund that has become probably the most successful in the Mid-Atlantic, Columbia Capital.

"It gave me financial resources and I wasn't sure I was ever going to come back to politics. I had been—you know, I had married at that point. I was—again, was in a very, very exciting area. But, you know, I did think I could have—I guess I had become enough of business guy that I thought, you know, what's your value-add?

"And I spent a lot of time soul-searching about this notion of could I have a little different perspective on some of the challenges we face through this new economy, technology revolution, whatever we want to call it. It seems to change its names every couple of years.

"But the whole, you know, tidal wave of change that's sweeping through our world, whether we like it or not, brought about by a fundamental shift in how we think about information, how we think about knowledge, and, you know, basically the eradication of time and distance as being something that is—matters in terms of business, life.

"And that means that this revolution that we're going through, and I think we're still at the front end of it, is, you know, going to change not only the business world, it's going to change how we educate our kids, how we deliver health care, the role and function of government.

"And I think most people, as I thought about this in the mid '90s and took the plunge myself, I didn't think most people in politics had any sense of what we were going though.

"LAMB: Do with this what you want, but everywhere I go I find the figure $200 million, that that's what you're worth. I mean, you know you're going to—if you get into this national game, they're going to be all over you on that.

"WARNER: Brian, probably at one point before the bubble burst, that was accurate. It probably isn't accurate—it isn't accurate today. But it's still—I've been very, very lucky and very, very blessed.

"LAMB: Well, I guess the question is, you don't have to worry about money for the rest of your life?

"WARNER: No. I mean, I am financially set, my children are financially set. You know, and part of the challenge is with three daughters and not having grown up, and my wife didn't either, we're both kind of middle-middle class kids, you know, how to make sure that you impart to your children that sense that they've got to still struggle, they've got to still, you know, take risks.

"I mean, one of the things that I have—every graduation speech I give, and in this job I do a lot of them, I don't really talk too much about politics or policy, but I do encourage students to take risks and be willing to fail.

"I think sometimes in our society today, particularly from kids from successful families that there is always this—such a focus on success and such a reluctance to have anybody fail. And I've tried to make the point that, you know, any success I've been lucky enough to have in my life has been borne out of learning from failure."

C-SPAN Q&A Interview: Full Transcript, Video, Background

Justice Kennedy: the next swing vote

"The confirmation of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the US Supreme Court would make Justice Anthony Kennedy the court's swing vote, giving him decisive power on constitutional law governing abortion restrictions, affirmative action, campaign finance regulations, and government involvement with religion, legal scholars said.

"Kennedy, 69, would probably become the dominant figure on the bench, occupying the center position on a court otherwise balanced between four reliable liberals and four reliable conservatives, scholars said." ...

On Alito, Women and Notice

The Note: "The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer argues that spousal notification of abortion (which was struck down) is less burdensome than parental notification (which was upheld) and that, therefore, liberals are 'dishonest, disreputable and disgraceful' when charging that Alito is extreme and insensitive to women's needs."

Katie Wernecke goes home

"After a bitter court battle that lasted nearly five months, 13-year-old cancer patient Katie Wernecke of Agua Dulce is back with her parents. Katie walked out of M.D. Anderson with her parents and walked away from her conventional cancer treatment."

"The Wernecke's wanted to make treatment decisions for their daughter. The state disagreed and took her away. She was taken to M.D. Anderson for chemotherapy.

"'We were never guilty of medical neglect and the state should have never been involved in this situation and Judge Hunter did the right thing in returning katie to us but she didn't go far enough,' Wernecke said.

"The wernecke's plan is to go back to the State Supreme Court and ask for their record to be cleared of any medical neglect charges. But for now, Katie's going home." ...

"The Wernecke's have spent an estimated $100,000 in legal fees. The Texas Center for Family Rights has helped set up a defense fund on their behalf. If you'd care to donate you can go online to compassionchildren.org."

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Ham radio for home-schoolers

Phil "Leonelli is a teacher at Iowa Street School, a campus that serves as a resource center for home-schooled children from kindergarten through eighth grade. It's part of the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.

"Credentialed teachers offer academic support and provide a range of enrichment activities in music, art and science. 'I like to share my interests with my students,' said Leonelli, who also teaches music.

"His enthusiasm for amateur radio has rubbed off on his students. A number of them have earned their first license, called a technician's license, from the Federal Communications Commission.

"Zachary Robinson, 12, is among them. To get his license, he prepared for a 35-question exam. He learned about ham radio operating procedures, frequencies and antenna measurements."

"Two years ago, the American Radio Relay League awarded $3,000 worth of amateur radio equipment to set up a station at the school and recognized the campus as a pilot school for its Radio Education and Technology program.

"Members of the Fallbrook Amateur Radio Club have stepped forward to nurture the youngsters' interest. Leonelli said the group has donated radio sets and other equipment. They also proctor radio licensing tests.

"The Iowa Street students have started their own amateur radio net, inspired by Fallbrook Amateur Radio Club's net that has served as a critical communication link during floods and fires. The students talk to each other on their ham radios at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday and make sure their equipment is in good working condition.

"The students also take part in an annual field day, a 24-hour emergency preparedness event sponsored by the American Radio Relay League.

"They learn skills that go beyond making contact with other ham radio operators, Leonelli said." ...

Katie Wernecke's parents get to be parents

"A judge in Corpus Christi today ruled the parents of an Agua Dulce girl who has cancer can make all of her medical decisions."

"Judge Jack Hunter on Monday dismissed the Department of Family and Protective Services from the case.

"Hunter today signed an order to clarify what treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston would be completed before the family could pursue alternative care.

"Katie must complete her current round of chemotherapy and be stable to travel, which could happen by week's end." ...

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Alito on abortion: pro-life 1, pro-choice 3

"Legal analysts disagree in their assessments of Judge Alito. Some say he is a conservative ideologue. Others say he is a smart, careful jurist who leaves personal views behind when he dons his black robes.

"The best evidence of his work as a judge are his published opinions. They contain a few surprises and some ammunition—for both the left and the right.

"For example, of the four abortion cases in which he participated as an appeals court judge, he voted on the pro-choice side in all but one. A 1995 Alito vote striking down a Pennsylvania abortion restriction in particular is raising eyebrows among some legal scholars." ...