Thursday, November 20, 2003

Giving Blood

Here in Knoxville, we have a little thing called UT Football. It seems to be a big deal around the city, but I don't see the big appeal. The football team has several rivalries going back any number of years. One of the oldest is with the University of Kentucky.

Each year the two schools have a competitive blood drive prior to the football game. Medic Regional Blood Center is the blood center for 21 counties in East Tennessee and portions of Southeast Kentucky -- and the only center for all eight Knoxville hospitals. The Battle of the Blue and Orange is a big deal.

My dad has donated blood,and platelets, for years. He has donated so much that he and my mom are covered for any blood they may have to receive up until the year 2038. He has bugged me for years to donate blood. Well, I finally listened to him. I donated this morning during a break in my classes. I'm a little scared of needles and was not looking forward to having one in my arm. However, it didn't hurt at all. I don't know why I was so scared. I feel good about helping someone who needs blood -- plus I got a nifty t-shirt, certificate for a free pint of ice cream, and a chocolate chip cookie.

Now (although I'm afraid I sound like my dad) go give some blood. It doesn't hurt, it only takes 20 minutes or so (total time for donation and paper work), and you will be doing a good deed.


Prescription Drug Plan

Yet another reason that I am disappointed in the Republican Party -- the prescription drug plan for senior citizens. The Social Security system is basically a giant Ponzi scheme and I don't expect it to last until I retire. Medicare is going to run into problems once the baby boomers start retiring in droves. Now we are expected to pay for their prescriptions as well? The vast majority of senior citizens are quite able to pay for their own prescriptions -- either out of pocket or through their supplementary insurance. There is no need for the government to add this entitlement.

I saw the latest AARP advertisement last night supporting the drug plan. The line that scared me the most was "This is a good first step." Good first step? Why should the government pay for anyone's medicine, much less the medicine of the wealthiest (overall) bloc of citizens. Are drug prices too high in America? I don't think so. It takes a lot of time and money to develop a new drug. The drug companies need to recoup their investment if they are to continue producing new drugs. Our pharmaceutical companies are also absorbing the cost of price controls on their products in other countries.

I'm afraid that this is another step toward some form of socialized medicine. I don't understand why anyone would want that for this country. There are complaints now about a two-tiered medical system that allows the poor to fall through the cracks. What do people think will happen if we have socialized medicine? Those who are in the government health system will wait months, or even years, for the most routine surgeries and treatment. Those who can pay out of their own pocket will be treated like kings. Even a Canadian says that you shouldn't get sick in Quebec...


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Lottery Follies

Tennesseeans have traveled to Georgia and Kentucky for years in order to play the lottery. Since the Legislature saw all that money going into the coffers of other states, it decided to act. Because the Tennessee Constitution specifically prohibited lotteries, it was necessary to get the voters to vote to change the Constitution. That was accomplished in 2002. After that, all the Legislature had to do was hammer out the details of who the lottery will benefit. Just in time for the fall semester of 2004, Tennessee will have its very own HOPE scholarship.

Now, you may think that since this is a scholarship, there must be some merit involved in obtaining one, right? Wrong. Any Tennessee graduate who can breathe has an almost 100% chance of receiving one of these “scholarships.”

From the Tennessee Lottery FAQ here are the requirements for the scholarships (which consist of $3,000 per year for a 4-year state institution or $1,500 per year for a 2-year state institution):

Score at least a 19 ACT (890 SAT) OR
3.0 unweighted overall grade point average (GPA) and college core GPA out of a possible 4.0 and all required college core courses.

Other categories of students may also qualify for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship.

GED applicant must have a 525 GED score and at least a 19 ACT (890 SAT).

Home schooled graduates must score at least a 23 ACT (1060 SAT) OR
GED and 19 ACT (890 SAT).

Students eligible for a waiver of tuition because a parent in the U. S. armed forces was either killed in hostile action, prisoner of war, or totally disabled

In addition to the above money, there are additional awards that can be awarded to the student:

The General Assembly Merit Scholarship requires a 3.75 unweighted and college core GPA and at least a 29 ACT (1280 SAT) and completing required college core courses.

The Need-Based Supplemental Award requires a parent(s) adjusted gross income of $36,000 or less.

A student may receive either the General Assembly Merit Scholarship or the Need-Based Supplemental Award in addition to the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship.

The Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant is awarded to students in a Tennessee Technical Center. There is no GPA or ACT requirement. These students are not eligible for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship

It is not too terribly difficult to obtain any of the basic requirements for the HOPE scholarship. A 19 ACT or 890 SAT is almost laughable. Anyone who cannot get these scores maybe shouldn’t be in college in the first place. And a 3.0 GPA does not mean what it used to mean, with grade inflation running rampant through the schools.

But, rest assured that even those students who cannot meet the bare minimums above will have their chance at a scholarship.

The Tennessee Hope Access Grant is available to students entering freshmen who do not meet the eligibility requirements for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship. The student must have a 2.75 unweighted overall and college core GPA with all required college core courses and 18 ACT (860 SAT) and have a parent(s) AGI of $36,000 or less. This award is valued at $2,000 at a four-year institution or $1,250 at a two-year institution. The Tennessee HOPE Access Grant is non-renewable. Students receiving this grant may qualify for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship in their second year.

So these students are even less qualified for college yet they will be eligible for a state scholarship.

Will these scholarships help some students? Of course they will. But at what cost? The state institutions will most likely see an increase in enrollment, but will receive no additional help from the state to support those students (increased traffic, dorm requirements, etc.). This at a time when the Governor is asking state departments to cut an additional 5% from their budgets. For the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus alone that is $8 million dollars.

The lottery requirements that irritates me the most are the higher standards to which home schoolers are being held. Every study that I see and every newspaper or magazine article that I read shows me that home schoolers are already further ahead than children in a public school. Why should this group have to have an ACT score 4 points higher or a SAT score 200 points higher than their public school peers? This seem patently unfair to me.

Finally, what about the Georgia and Kentucky scholarships? Well, both programs are forecasting that they will not have enough funds to cover all of the eligible students. Granted this shortfall will be in 2-5 years, but this is a problem that Tennessee will be facing eventually as well – especially since the eligibility requirements are so low.

I don’t think that the state should be in the gambling business, which is why I voted against the Constitutional amendment. After seeing the scholarship structure that the Legislature came up with I’m even more convinced that this was a bad idea.


Sunday, November 16, 2003

Master and Commander

Like tall ships? How 'bout action movies? Are you looking for a movie that tells a story and entertains? Then you have to go see Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

My husband and I don’t usually go to the theater to see movies because we can’t stand the other patrons. However, we thought that this would be a good movie to see on the big screen. The story is (gasp!) historical – set in 1805 – and the subject matter is not what would appeal to your general hoodlums. I have not read the books that the movie is based upon (I will rectify that) but the story kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole 2.5 hours. Russell Crowe is perfect as the captain of the ship. He combines the right mix of leadership, bravery, and friendship to his crew in their difficult journey.

Usually we just watch movies from our Netflix list. Last night we watched Below, a thriller set aboard a US Navy submarine in 1943. For what it is worth I highly recommend this movie as well.


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Patriot Act redux

The Patriot Act has come under an increasing barrage of fire—even from those who voted for the law. Yes, I’m talking to you John Kerry and John Edwards. The law is not nearly as flawed as the critics may think (something that should become apparent once it is actually read). It merely collects in one place a number of laws that have been on the books for quite a while. This law does not allow the federal government to start acting like the Gestapo. The Bush Administration needs to get these facts out before the public.

Andrew McCarthy , a former federal prosecutor (not the actor), has a clear, concise, easily read analysis of the law and its so-called flaws. This, along with the actual Patriot Act, should be required reading. I’m not going to repeat everything he says, but there are some points worth drawing attention towards.

If the foolishness of elevating the privacy interests of terrorists over the safety interests of the public was not manifest on its face, six years of terrorist attacks culminating in September 11, 2001, illuminated that the false dichotomy between law enforcement and counterintelligence had to be scotched. The Patriot Act does precisely that. It is no longer necessary for agents seeking a FISA wiretap to establish that foreign counterintelligence is the primary purpose for its application — it is enough to certify that it is "a significant purpose," which is considerably less burdensome. More importantly, Patriot dismantles the OIPR firewall, expressly permitting intelligence agents conducting FISA surveillance to "consult with Federal law enforcement officers to coordinate efforts to investigate or protect against" terrorism and other hostile acts.

And this -- near and dear to my heart as a future librarian. Librarians have been called hysterical due to their reaction to Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Those who claim to speak for all librarians are acting hysterically and there is no need for this reaction…
Mention must be made of specious attacks on two aspects of Patriot. The first is the hissing over Section 215 — the provision that allows investigators, pursuant to court order, access to library records, among numerous other types of business records that, from time immemorial, have been the bread and butter of criminal investigations. Of all the argumentum ad hominem aimed at Ashcroft, this is the most inane. The bookshelves of thoughtful people run the gamut from Dickens to Disney and most anything in between; seeing their library checkouts would tell us precious little about their propensity, if any, toward crime. After two decades in law enforcement, I can now break the secret: The government doesn't care what you read (a fact that would be palpable to anyone who'd slogged through a Justice Department press release). Consequently, it should shock no one that, as the beleaguered Ashcroft recently reported, the government has not yet sought library records a single time under the Patriot Act.

So why have the provision at all? Because hard experience — won in the course of a string of terrorism trials since 1993 — instructs us that it would be folly to preclude the government a priori from access to any broad categories of business record. Reading material, we now know, can be highly relevant in terrorism cases. People who build bombs tend to have books and pamphlets on bomb making. Terrorist leaders often possess literature announcing the animating principles of their organizations in a tone tailored to potential recruits. This type of evidence is a staple of virtually every terrorism investigation — both for what it suggests on its face and for the forensic significance of whose fingerprints may be on it. No one is convicted for having it — jurors are Americans too, and they'd not long stand for the odious notion that one should be imprisoned for the mere act of thinking.

When a defendant pleads "not guilty," however, he is saying: "I put the government to its proof on every element of the crime, including that I acted with criminal purport." Prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt not only that the terrorist engaged in acts but did so intending execrable consequences. If an accused says the precursor components he covertly amassed were for innocent use, is it not relevant that he has just borrowed a book that covers explosives manufacture? If he claims unfamiliarity with the tenets of violent jihad, should a jury be barred from learning that his paws have yellowed numerous publications on the subject? Such evidence was standard fare throughout Janet Reno's tenure as attorney general — and rightly so.

Huh… “The government doesn’t care what you read…” Of course that’s true for law abiding citizens. Yet what criminals read (and lied about reading) was introduced as evidence during the Clinton years. Sounds like common-sense to me.

As they say, go read the whole thing. Make up your own mind and don’t just assume that the critics are automatically correct about the law.

And speaking of John Kerry and John Edwards…why did they vote for a law that is so flawed? Why didn’t they go out on a limb with Sen. Fiengold and vote against the bill – or even support some of his proposed changes? Could it be that the Senators wanted to look good for their constituents? U.S. Senators acting opportunistically for their own political future? No, I’m sure that’s not the case.


Senate filibuster

Well, the Senate is well into its 30-hour filibuster event. Although I wouldn't call this 30-hour exercise a true filibuster. A true filibuster is when the cots are brought in and no one goes home until one side wins. If the Republican leaders really wanted to get this over with that is what they would insist upon -- however, they do not want to go through that themselves. So we are left with Sen. Reid from Nevada gripping the podium and talking about his lovely state for his allotted time frame.

The level of vitriol in the Senate is raised yet again. The next time an issue like this comes up it will be even uglier. The Democrats in the Senate are using a procedural rule in an end-run around the Constitution. Since the Senate is allowed to make its own rules the unlimited debate and attempts at cloture are perfectly legal. Yet, the purpose of the Democrats blocking the vote is to prevent a Constitutionally mandated vote on the merits of the judicial nominees.

Seeing both sides act in this manner has lowered my esteem for all members of the Senate. I am losing respect for the Republicans for not having the political courage to do what they believe is right and I do not like the tactics that the Democrats are employing.

I still say bring in the mattresses and lock them in the Senate Chamber until someone wins.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans’ Day.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the War to End All Wars came to an end. But as we all know war did not end.

Oh! My friends! what a wonderful thing it is to be remembered by our countrymen, in love and reverence, for great and noble deeds performed. And what a wonderful thing it is to have this everlasting monument erected to the memory of these brave men that all may know that they gave the greatest thing that men can give - their lives - for the salvation and safety of their country.

-- Brigadier-General Lawrence D. Tyson (Dedication of the Soldiers' Monument, Knoxville, Tennessee; May 22, 1922)

Twenty-one years after the War to End All Wars, another war began – World War II.

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

-- General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces (from Order of the Day, June 6, 1944)

The United State has been embroiled in other major wars since then:


In the final analysis, the issue now joined right here in Korea is whether Communism or individual freedom shall prevail, and, make no mistake, whether the next flight of fear-driven people we have just witnessed across the HAN, and continue to witness in other areas, shall be checked and defeated overseas or permitted, step by step, to close in on our own homeland and at some future time, however distant, to engulf our own loved ones in all its misery and dispair[sic].

These are the things for which we fight. Never have members of any military command had a greater challenge than we, or a finer opportunity to show ourselves and our people at their best -- and thus be an honor to the profession of arms, and a credit to those who bred us.

-- General Matthew B. Ridgeway, Lt. General U.S. Army, Commanding (from Why We Are Here, 1951)


[The enemy] believes in force, and his intensification of violence is limited only by his resources, and not by any moral inhibitions.

-- General William C. Westmoreland, U.S. Army (U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., April 28, 1967)

Persian Gulf….

The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.

--General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Operation Iraqi Freedom….

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

--President George W. Bush, March 19, 2003

The United States began to recognize Armistice Day, November 11, shortly after the end of World War I. In Britain and Canada the day is called Remembrance Day. In 1954 President Eisenhower declared November 11 to be Veterans’ Day – when veterans of all wars would be remembered.

Veterans’ Day is a holiday that, at least in the United States, is not remembered as it once was. Sure, the federal government offices shut down, some county offices close…but the majority of businesses remain open. The Day has come to symbolize yet another sale day.

We should be remembering the sacrifices made by the members of our military and not merely looking for the best deal on a new set of sheets. My family has its fair share of veterans. My grandfather is a WWII vet, my husband’s grandfather is a WWII, Pacific theatre, combat veteran. My uncle is an Air Force vet, as is my father. My husband is an Army vet. My brother and brother-in-law are currently serving in the Air Force.

Each of these men went into the service for a different reason, and each made different sacrifices. For my husband’s grandfather (known as Paps to us) this meant several years spent in the tail gun of a B-24 watching for enemy planes. My uncle spent two tours of duty in Vietnam as an MP patrolling an air base waiting for the enemy to attack. Veterans’ Day is not just another non-observed holiday for me.

Every time I think about what our veterans have done to ensure the freedom I enjoy I get teary eyed. I thank every veteran I meet for the sacrifices they made to serve our country – whether that service was spent in peacetime or in wartime. America would not be the nation it is today without our military.

As Winston Churchill stated in 1940: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." That statement is as true today as it was sixty-three years ago. So, as you go about your daily activities remember the sacrifices made by so many that make today possible.

If you are interested, please visit the following sites that honor our veterans:

Donald Sensing’s Veterans’ Day post

East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association

National D-Day Memorial Foundation

Korean War Memorial

Vietnam Wall

And an oral history of one man's war:

South Knox Bubba


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

No More Boomtown

This article confirms what I was afraid of -- NBC has canceled Boomtown. The show, which only had two episodes shown this season, was one of the best written, most interesting shows on television today. NBC never gave it a real chance to find an audience.

After ABC cancelled Miracles last season (another well written show with an interesting premise) I stopped watching that network. Now I'll stop watching NBC. Besides Boomtown the only shows I watched on the network were the three Law & Order shows and I can catch them on non-NBC owned cable channels. I know that the networks don't care about losing one viewer but it makes me feel better to stop watching.


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Disappointed in George Bush

As someone who began their voting life as a Democrat but then switched to the Republican Party, I have been on both sides of political arguments.

I made the decision to align myself with the Republican Party because I agree with most of the planks of their platform. I think that the Republican Party has the right ideas for moving the country ahead and for protecting the citizens from outside threats.

That being said, I find myself more and more disappointed in President Bush. His actions, or non-actions, make it look like he is playing it safe in order to be re-elected next year. He has let his judicial nominees hang out to dry (Pickering, Estrada, and possibly Brown being the most well known), he continually tries to get everyone to like him (such as giving Ted Kennedy an award), and I don't think he is forceful enough in speaking up for the troops in Iraq.

With regard to getting everyone to like him -- it is not going to work. This is a problem with the Republican Party (and conservatives) as a whole. The Democrats (and the liberals) are never going to "like" those on the right. Giving Ted Kennedy an award every single year is not going to make him support the Republican issues. It starts to look like pandering and that is not the image I want to see. Some people are just never going to support the Republicans. Instead of continually focusing on that faction, why not move ahead with what is best for the country.

On the whole, Bush is doing right by the troops. However, the incident concerning Lt. Col. Allen West causes me pause. This officer, while attempting to gain information about attacks on US troops, interrogated an Iraqi police officer. During the course of the interrogation Lt. Col. West fired a gun near the policeman's head. The gun was not aimed at the policeman, nor was he in any danger of being accidentally shot. After the shots were fired, the policeman gave Lt. Col. West the information necessary to stop the attack. US soldiers' lives were saved by Lt. Col. West's actions. So what is happening now? Lt. Col. West has been given the option of court martial or resigning before his retirement benefits go into effect. This is wrong. I have not heard Bush make one statement about this issue.

Nonetheless, I will be voting for Bush in 2004 because I still think he and the Republican Party are the best hope for America. However, I am beginning to wish that I had another choice within the Republican Party....