Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Very Serious Threat

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a week, but can't seem to find the time. Thanks to Jacob for the comment that has spurred me on to get it written.

Have you ever heard of a chemical called Dihydrogen Monoxide? It's a very dangerous chemical, and can kill you if it's accidentally inhaled. It has been known to cause severe burns, it contributes to the Greenhouse Effect, and can kill you if you experience withdrawals. Please...take a moment to visit DHMO.org and then come back to finish reading this.

It could be a matter of life or death, and information about it may save your life, or the life of a loved one.

Ok, so either you've followed my advice and read it, or you already know that DHMO is more often chemically referred to as H2O.

So, why am I writing this? Because I know that looking at any issue from one point of view, and not looking to see why anyone would disagree with you is dangerous. Any topic on the face of the planet can be twisted into something it's not, and not looking to see what the person on the other side sees can leave you blind. Ignorance is no excuse.

Many of the things I post about on my blog are things that I have only looked at from one point of view, and I know it. Part of why I post is that if someone disagrees with me, it's a great opportunity to learn something new. I'm very much against the war in Iraq, for example. If there were a realistic way for us to pull out today, I'd be all for it. I think we've made a big mistake, and continue to make a big mistake, going over there. But, I realize that pulling out totally and completely today would also be a mistake. Part of the reason I know that is through intelligent discussion with other people, who know different things than I, who know more than I, who know better than I. But, I also think that our government is supposed to be run by the people. And if I disagree with how it's being run, then I'm at fault for it, if I don't take a stand and do my part to change it, even if that part is nothing more than learning about the issue and voting for the right person, even if that part is as big as making a phone call to my congressman to see how he's voting. Anything easily within my power is also my responsibility. And so, I write about things the way I see them. We're in a digital age, where someone else can come along and show me something that might change my viewpoint, without leaving their chair. I wish everyone would find an issue that they care about, and then talk about it. How would I have ever known about Signing Statements, if not for the blogger who wrote of it before I did? What issues do my friends care about that I don't have a scrap of information on?

Too bad politics is such a taboo issue for so many people. Americans NEED to talk about it, even when they don't see eye to eye.

I just realized something else that goes along with this topic. CNN says of American Idol:

More than 63 million votes were cast, "more than any president in the history of our country has received," Seacrest said.

This is an alarming statement. Or maybe not. A better comparison would be the total number of voters in an election, since 63 million was the total number of voters for the show. I hope if I any of my viewpoints are as skewed as that statement was, that my friends would show me a fact or two to correct my thinking.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Signing Statements

According to Wikipedia, a Signing Statement is:

a proclamation, normally written, issued by a member of the executive branch of a government, usually the head of that branch, to accompany the signing of a law passed by the legislative branch and generally sets forth how the executive branch intends to interpret and enforce the new law.

Some interesting facts on signing statements:

  • They are neither permitted or prohibited by any law.
  • Until 1981, only 75 had been issued
  • President Reagan issued 71 in two terms in office
  • President Bush (the older) issued 146 in one term in office
  • President Clinton issued 105 in two terms in office
  • President Bush (the younger), has issued over 750 in two terms in office
  • President Bush has never vetoed anything

An example of a signing statement from President Clinton seems to be in accord with what I think the purpose of a signing statement should be. He praises the points of the bill he agrees with. Then he states what he disagrees with, and what matters concern him. He says he is troubled by a provision requiring the Department of Defense to seek authorization before paying fines for environmental violations, but that he will direct them to comply, ensuring full accountability.

He does vaguely address one issue that could be taken multiple ways, saying that the bill prohibits the Deparment from contributing to the American Heritage Rivers initiative, but that he would direct the Department to continue to support community oriented service and environmental projects, within exisiting laws, on rivers that may be part of the initiative. Though vague, I understand this to mean that while he will not violate that prohibition, he intended to go around it to support the projects through a different means - which is basically his way of defending having signed the bill in the first place.

As of right now, I am unable to find examples of other presidential signing statements, to see how they have been used historically, but I did find many that tracked Bush's signing statements, and many people who are outraged by their use.

Boston.com News has 10 Examples of the President's Signing Statements:

March 9: Justice Department officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.

Bush's signing statement: The president can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.

Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.

Bush's signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.

Aug. 5: The military cannot add to its files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can use any specific piece of intelligence.

FindLaw.com has an article titled The Problem with Presidential Signing Statements: Their Use and Misuse by the Bush Administration, which takes an in-depth look at how Bush has used them. I think this paragraph sums up the problem nicely:

This kind of expansive use of a signing statement presents not only Presentment Clause problems, but also clashes with the Constitutional implication that a veto is the President's only and exclusive avenue to prevent a bill's becoming law. The powers of foot-dragging and resistance-by-signing-statement, are not mentioned in the Constitution alongside the veto, after all. Congress wanted to impeach Nixon for impounding money he thought should not be spent. Telling Congress its laws do not apply makes Nixon's impounding look like cooperation with Congress, by comparison.

FindLaw also has a couple of other interesting columns related to specific uses of signing statements by Bush. How Much Authority Does the President Possess When He Is Acting as "Commander In Chief"? and The Unitary Executive: Is The Doctrine Behind the Bush Presidency Consistent with a Democratic State?.

It's really easy when reading about these things to let your eyes glaze over and assume that, as a democracy, the United States would never let Bush abuse his power this way, and that maybe these signing statments are silly little tantrums on the part of President Bush. Remember though, that even though he's issued over 750 signing statements, he has never vetoed any bill crossing his desk.

It's enough to make you think maybe there's something to the article Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Divine Strake Postponed "Indefinitely"!

According to KLASTV.com, the Divine Strake test has been postponed again, this time indefinitely. Initially scheduled for June 2, 2006, it was postponed a few weeks ago "until at least June 23". The Spectrum, a St. George news site, said that the National Nuclear Security Administration sent out a press release indicating that "the Nevada Site Office of the NNSA will withdraw its Finding of No Significant Impact related to the environmental assessment for the test". I have been unable to find this press release online to verify that statement.

I am personally very much against Divine Strake, unless it can be proven that there is no chance that even one person will experience harm as a result of the test. I find it highly likely that it could kick up radioactive materials from the nuclear testing that went on just over a mile away in the 50's and 60's. I also find it rather ironic that we've spent so much time in Iraq looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction, when we're testing WMDs on US soil. But, regardless of anyone's feelings towards the war in Iraq, I think everyone should be concerned that it will create more "Downwinders". It could be, it could be my kids, it could be someone I'll never meet that lives in Nevada or surrounding states. I don't think they can prove that there is no risk of radioactive material surfacing as a result of the blast, and subsequent 10,000 foot mushroom cloud expected as a result.

This explosion is a "bunker buster", which is designed to penetrate the ground and go after underground facilities. The nuclear testing from the 50's and 60's was done all over Nevada, and one known site of this testing, which is a radioactive hotspot, was a mere 1.1 miles away. The reason this site was chosen was for the limestone tunnel below.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Good News For Utah Politics!

Pete Ashdown is running against Orrin Hatch for Senate!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Utah politics, Hatch is the guy who thinks it's a good idea to require technology that would allow the RIAA to remotely destroy (physically damage) a user's computer if they think they are pirating software or music. He sponsored a bill that would require everyone to install a GPS device on their vehicles so that the state could tax people's mileage, rather than just taxing the gas, since so many vehicles are getting better gas mileage now, and the state isn't receiving as much revenue from gas. These are just a few of the ideas that Hatch has had. I may have to come back and elaborate more, because this guy is just a complete idiot when it comes to technology, and he's sponsored not only idiotic bills, but ones that would violate our rights.

Pete Ashdown is the founder of the first independent ISP in Utah, XMission. He has a wiki that I hope to check into further later today. He has some really good ideas, as shown in the Wired News interview today.

I'm really excited to have ANYONE running against Hatch, but for it to be Pete Ashdown is really exciting to me. It's only in the last year or two that I've begun to care about politics, and I haven't had the opportunity to delve into Utah politics very much. I'm definitely going to be watching Pete Ashdown, and learning more about what his ideals are. If he is the type of candidate I think he is, I will definitely be talking to people, hoping to make a difference in the outcome of the election. We don't just need Hatch out, we need someone like Pete Ashdown in!

Note: The above was originally posted on another blog, but I am moving all of my political writings from there to this one, in an effort to be more organized.