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Archive - December 2005

At NAU, will Thought Police be next?

I Still Like Lieberman for VP

Off to St. Petersburg...the one in Florida

Flying Around in Circles

Give 'em Hell, Betty

Lucky Strike

Friday, December 2, 2005

     At NAU, will Thought Police be next? -  This past October, NAU received the dubious honor of being singled out as the "Speech Code of the Month" by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  It is a dubious honor in that this recognition is reserved for those schools that go the extra step in promoting political correctness and cross the constitutional threshold.  Yes, forget about just being stupid and lazy, we also turn a blind eye to constitutionally protected rights and feel free to subvert and constrain them as we see fit.  The offending code is part of the Safe Working and Learning Environment Policy, which prohibits harassment that "includes, but is not limited to, stereotyping, negative comments or jokes ... when any of these are based upon a person’s race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, veteran status, or sexual orientation."  As pointed out by Charles Mitchell, for Knight Ridder/Tribune, this code would have put Derek Zoolander (aka Ben Stiller) in hot water for his stereotyping!

     NAU has rightly come under fire for this heavy-handedness, although I am afraid that it is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are plenty of other cases of this attitude at work on this campus that are much more disguised and insidious.  Just a few years ago I got into a clash with another professor, who is now the president of our faculty senate.  He felt that a speaker I helped bring to campus (Richard Salsman, from the Ayn Rand Institute) should never have been given the opportunity to address students on the campus of NAU.  I guess intolerance and bigotry are fine, but off-color jokes aren't.  But, it may take me some time to adopt and embrace that particular paradigm for the university environment.

   Many have blasted NAU's speech code in the wake of the award - the East Valley Tribune ("NAU's restrictive speech code is an unconstitutional disgrace"), the Arizona Daily Star ("NAU speech code unconstitutional") and the Goldwater Institute ("First Amendment on Spring Break at NAU").  But, what of our own local paper, the Arizona Daily Sun?  Nary a peep out of them.  Why is that?  You would think that they would take the issue of free speech rather seriously and take the time to weigh in on this matter.

Monday, December 5, 2005

     I Still Like Lieberman for VP -  Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) has been, and continues to be, just about the only Democrat that can actually separate political partisanship from the fundamental issues of the war in Iraq.  There are lots of interesting academic questions about how we got into this war, but that's all they are - academic.  We're there and we can do some good.  We can't correct all of the ills in the world, but we can take advantage of opportunities when they arise.  And, that is what Iraq is - an opportunity.

     Why can't most Dems see it for what it is, and just hunker down and work to insure that we prosecute this conflict successfully?  Why can't they just put politics aside?  I really don't get it.  I don't understand why they think that it is politically smart to criticize Bush, call the war unjustified and try to force us into some kind of disorderly retreat.  Instead, they should be standing side by side with Bush (even if they do hate his guts) and proclaim that Saddam was a bloodthirsty tyrant, that the Iraqi people are better off with Saddam gone, that a peaceful and evolving democracy in Iraq is going to help restrain the chaos that besets this entire region, and that America will be better off in the long run.  

     But, it seems that Joe is the only one that has the political fortitude to take those positions.  He has just returned from his fourth trip to Iraq.  You can read his commentary "Our Troops Must Stay" at the Wall Street Journal's on-line OpinionJournal.  I couldn't agree more with his comment that it would be "a colossal mistake ... to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory" by abandoning Iraq to the terrorists.  If you're like me, you'll be shaking your head and wondering why it is that no other Congressional Dems are standing with Joe.  I believe that the Democrats will pay for this partisanship and stay out of power for at least another decade.  So, maybe it is all for the best.

     Still, I was reminded of some idle speculation of mine from the 2004 presidential campaign.  Vice President Cheney had gotten on the ticket, in 2000, as a good choice to project stability and competence.  After all, Dubya was only a governor, and while governors are popular choices for president, they are outsiders in Washington, and Cheney provided a nice sidebar to Bush's candidacy.  Well, to steal a phrase, mission accomplished!  Time for Cheney to step down.  Don't get me wrong, I like Cheney, and I think that he could continue to serve the president in many ways.  But, why not use the 2004 election to really make a statement?  Like, tapping Lieberman to become for VP?

     I don't think it's all that farfetched.  We were in the war.  Presenting a united political front has huge advantages, and Joe might have gone for it.  Well, it was just a thought.  But, now lets do some really farfetched ruminating ... about 2008.  We all know that Joe can't win the Democrat primary, but what if he ran just for the heck of it?  And, what if McCain couldn't quite seal the deal with the Republican nomination?  I smell a very attractive third party ticket called McCain-Lieberman.  They might be able to run on Ross Perot's old party, if that is still functioning, or they might just create a new party.  If the two "major" parties nominate more extreme candidates (oh, say John Kerry again, and maybe Lindsey Graham) . . . well, it would be quite interesting.  I am not sure I'd like it, but I would find it a fascinating experience.  Oh, well, Dick Morris says it will be Condi vs. Hillary.  I guess that will be interesting enough!

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

     Off to St. Petersburg ... the one in Florida -  I am off to a conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, for a few days.  I am presenting a paper - Artificial Project Time Horizons in the Absence of Discounting: The Case of Canyon Forest Village.  Not especially blog-worthy, but I may get around to adding it into my CFV files here, sometime.  So, I will be out of the loop until this weekend.  There is certainly much to blog on - the Katrina crybabies that liken themselves to Holocaust survivors and Howard Dean's surrender policy - to mention a couple, but they will have to wait.

     I have been considering a revamping of the fonts and colors for this site.  I am but a lowly skilled web designer, so I do not have much here that is sophisticated.  [I have looked into a stand-alone track-back feature which I might add.  I have read horror stories about having comment sections and I haven't wanted to delve into that arena.]  So, I have put together a few pages that show different background colors, different fonts, different font sizes and different font colors.  If you would like to provide some feedback on these, I would appreciate it.  Click on the Grand Canyon picture at the top of this page to go see these different looks and let me know what you think.  Thanks! 

Update - Link to fonts page has been disabled.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

     Flying Around in Circles -  Last week I was off to St. Petersburg, Florida, for a conference sponsored by the American Academy of Accounting and Finance.  On the way, I flew on Frontier Airlines, which has reinvented itself, I think for the third time.  Growing up in Denver, Colorado, I was aware of Frontier as a dominant regional carrier but, then, they faded from the scene.  For a while they seem to have some kind of arrangement with America West, which is a bad omen - you know an airline is in real trouble if they merge with America West.  But, now, they have an extensive network of routes and a modern fleet of planes.  Still, my flying experience lead me to jot down some notes:

The flight from Phoenix to Tampa went through Denver, where I had to change planes.  On both legs, the seats had TV sets built into the back of the headrest, with a credit card swipe built in.  They charge a flat fee - $5 for the many satellite TV stations (you can watch their own channel for "free") and $8 for a movie (a choice of three, I believe).  The charge was the same on each leg, even though the Phoenix-Denver trek was about 1.5 hours and the Denver-Tampa route was over 3 hours.  I don't think anyone bought the movie on the first flight, since you couldn't see it all, and, indeed, my casual observation was that at least 90% of the sets were on the free channel.  You are supposed to be able to turn them off, but on the first leg, mine wouldn't.  [Still, this is better than the huge screens at the front of jumbo jet cabins - like the one I was two rows behind on a night flight from San Francisco to Auckland last January.]

Well, selling the TV service is fine with me.  And, of course, the airlines all sell beer and wine.  So, why don't they charge for food?  My total trip lasted nearly five hours in the air, and I only had about thirty minutes of scheduled layover in Denver.  So, I wondered about whether anything would be served on the Denver-Tampa flight.  I asked the clerk at the gate and he said we would be served a wrap.  OK, that sounds reasonable.  Then, just as the oxymoronic "pre-boarding" began, he got on the P.A. to tell us that we'd only get a light snack of a bagel.  Yikes!  We were near a coffee stand that had packaged sandwiches, which I quickly bought before boarding.  So, why don't they get McDonald's, or KFC, or Burger King, or Subway to package three or four types of meals and then sell them on the plane?  If you can warm them all up together, then you can still just cart them down the aisle at once.  You do have the issue of handling money, but that can be done easily enough - how about a cart with a built in bank, where the flight attendant tallies up the charge (keep that simple!), feeds in the cash and out pops the change.  And, since it is a branded product (i.e., McDonald's), travelers wouldn't feel like they're getting gypped by not getting the "airline's" food.  Well, so it seems to me.

While most people are driven crazy by the inane "bye-bye" from the flight attendants when departing the plane, I just hate the goofy "Let us be the first to welcome you to ..." when we land.  My gosh, they arrived with me, so they don't have any standing for welcoming me anywhere!

During the beverage service on both flights I heard flight attendants telling folks that they couldn't offer them the whole can of soda, but that, if they were asked for the whole can, they would gladly provide it.  Double yikes!  How much can you really save by serving people just one cup of soda instead of the whole can?  Not enough to compensate for the lousy marketing image.  And, indeed, not everyone wants the whole can of soda.  Also, twice I heard passengers turned down when ordering two alcoholic drinks (one was for beer and the other was for screwdrivers).  It wasn't that the passengers couldn't have a second drink, but they couldn't buy them both at once.  Clearly, this arises because the passengers believe that the service is slow and erratic, so it is better to stock up at once.  Maybe there should be a separate button for ordering drinks, so that service would be better?

"There is no congregating allowed at the lavatories," intoned both the flight attendant and the captain as we took off on each leg of this trip.  Triple yikes!  Supposedly, this is just a knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 attacks, but I haven't heard any such similar admonition on any other airline (and, I flew back on Continental).  Somebody in their marketing department really needs to take a "psychology of lavatory demand" workshop or something.  Maybe, they will start issuing numbers and, when your number is called, you can proceed to the restroom.  That is, if the beverage cart isn't in your way!

Something I learned, which doesn't surprise me, but which I never noticed before - the "lavatory" tag on the outside of the restroom door is hinged.  You can flip it up and expose the door lock!  Meaning you can unlock the door from outside.  How come I've never seen that done in a movie?

Photos from St. Petersburg, Florida - click on any picture to see a larger image.

Shells along St. Pete Beach.

Birds pointing into the wind along St. Pete Beach.

Snowmen in Florida?

The off-season at St. Pete Beach.

Ft. DeSoto Park.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

     Give 'em Hell, Betty -  You've heard/read the unconstructive criticism of President Bush and the war in Iraq.  For example ...

There will be more serious violence if we continue our present dangerous and reckless course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.
          -Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senator (D-MA); Jan. 28, 2005.

Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader.
          -Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Democrat Leader; May 20, 2004.

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.
          -Michael Moore, pretend documentary filmmaker; April 14, 2004.

We need to be out of there and take the targets off our troops' back.
          -Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democrat National Committee; Dec. 6, 2005.

“[H]ow many innocent Iraqi people have to die before the citizens of America wake up and know that our government is a 'bad guy?'”
       - Cindy Sheehan in A Lie of Historic Proportions; Aug. 8, 2005

Bizarre.  Just plain dumb.  Clueless.  But, let someone else better characterize these nabobs of negativism

“Anybody who doesn’t appreciate what America has done
and President Bush, let them go to hell”

          -Betty Dawisha, 77 year old Iraqi voter; Dec. 13, 2005.
[Follow the link to see the video.]

Saturday, December 24, 2005

     Lucky Strike -  The strike by transit workers in New York City should give policymakers at the Grand Canyon some pause, although I wouldn't count on it.  For years, National Park Service officials have promoted the use of mass transit for visitors to Grand Canyon, and, in 1999, came mighty close to picking a consortium of firms to begin construction on the infrastructure for a light rail system.  Luckily, the NPS was stopped cold by Congress, and, at least for the foreseeable future, any rail plan looks to be out of the question.  Still, I raised the issue of striking workers in a report published by the Goldwater Institute, back in 1999.  I have yet to see any comment from the park service about the risk of workers striking and what they would do to avoid this from happening.  Of course, they could just make it illegal - like they did in New York City!  It didn't stop the workers there and I am sure it wouldn't stop workers at the Grand Canyon.

     Imagine a crowded day in mid-July.  Visitors stream into the parking lot in Tusayan, some seven miles from the Grand Canyon Village (located along the rim of the canyon).  And, the trains aren't running.  Buses might be commandeered to serve, but they will be inadequate.  People will keep arriving all through the morning.  The wait to get on a bus probably would exceed an hour, maybe even two hours - just to travel seven miles through the woods to the rim of the Grand Canyon.  Why, if the parking area had been located, say, 100 yards from the rim, then people could actually walk to the rim to see the canyon!  I wonder why nobody thought of that?  And, then there are the people in the park, wondering if they can get back out.  Will that also be a one hour wait, or longer?  It would be chaos, and it would be exactly what the union workers would want, in order to extract whatever concessions they wanted.  And, I doubt that anyone would place the blame where it would need to be placed - on the shoulders of park service officials that have no conception of service.

     The New York City fiasco illustrates the political weakness in dealing with the transit union.  Like President Reagan did with the illegal air traffic controller strike, back in the 1980s, so, to, the mayor, or governor, or whoever is in charge, should just up and fire every worker that refuses to go to work.  If that inconveniences commuters for a longer while, so be it.  If workers have a no-strike clause and then go on strike, I can't imagine why we should accept this breach of contract.  And, I am sure that there are plenty of people willing to work at the MTA who are willing to abide by such a no-strike clause.  Don't even get me started on the inane reason for the strike in the first place - requiring new workers to wait until they are 62 to retire instead of 55, which all current workers (i.e., the ones on strike) will remain eligible for.

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