I’m a Pilot!

October 30, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Flying 

Mark Smith Temporary Pilot Certificate

I’m an FAA-certificated Private Pilot – Airplane Single-Engine Land!

It’s taken me 16 months and more money than you’d like to imagine to get here. You can read my whole story in My Flight Training Diary.

A Useful Voting Test

October 27, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Laurence Simon has come up with a brilliant voting test.

Basically, you give voters conflicting directions and if they fail to question them, their vote doesn’t count.

It’s a great idea. It combines a basic IQ test with a test that the person involved questions authority when necessary.

Unfortunately, we’ll never implement it. Our system guarantees the right to vote to idiots and human sheep.

NJ Congressional Race Preview

October 26, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

This year, the Command Post Election 2004 board has asked me to be a local New Jersey correspondent for this year’s election. I will be posting at that site starting November 1, 2004. This is intended to be fairly objective, though if it is skewed it will likely be due to my general support for liberal causes and Democratic candidates (a fair disclosure, yes?).

In order to get ready, here’s a preview of the NJ Congressional races. All 13 House seats are up for election – neither Senate seat is due for election this year.

Summary: The incumbents are favored heavily in all districts. No House party balance shifts are likely from NJ.

Read more

Blaming the Victim

October 22, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Sports 

In Boston, 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove was killed by police firing “pepper balls” into a crowd of revelers celebrating the Red Sox victory over the Yankees in the American League Championship series. (AP Article via Yahoo)

The mayor blamed the revelers for her death. Apparently, someone standing near her threw a bottle at a mounted police officer, and another officer fired the plastic balls filled with pepper spray into the crowd. One of the balls pierced her eye and she later died of head injuries.

As a result, the mayor is storming about banning alcohol in Boston during the World Series, and asking colleges to expel any students involved in criminal activity.

I think we have two problems here:
1. The fans rioted some.
2. The police overreacted. According to the story, the police are supposed to avoid shooting the pepper balls at people’s faces – something that clearly didn’t happen.

I think that the rowdy fans take responsibility for the riots, but that the police have ultimate responsibility for Victoria’s death. Training was clearly broken in the use of pepper balls anywhere near someone’s head.

(Disclaimer – my brother is a police officer. He probably wouldn’t be too happy about what I’ve written here.)

Freedom of the Press?

October 19, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Sinclair Broadcasting has fired a reporter and chief of it’s news department’s Washington bureau for making comments in the media critical of Sinclair’s decision to air an anti-John Kerry “documentary” just a week before the election. (Yahoo News Story)

In case you’ve missed the story to date, here’s a recap. Sinclair Broadcasting is controlled by right-wing executives. They’re highly critical of John Kerry. They have ordered their 62 broadcast stations to pre-empt programming (in some cases major network programming) in prime-time next week to air the documentary “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal”. This documentary is a scathing account of John Kerry’s anti-war activities after returning from Vietnam in the early 70’s. It’s being called by some as the right-wing equivalent to “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

Here, Sinclair has clearly crossed the line. Most journalists are careful not to criticize their news organization’s owners, but in many cases when they feel the need to do so they do. Usually, they aren’t fired. In this case, Sinclair took retribution against one of it’s objective news reporters for not toeing the company line in the election. That is wrong.

For that matter, airing the documentary for free is wrong and shows partisan control of the media in many markets. Imagine what would happen if ABC (for example) required all of its stations to air “Fahrenheit 9/11”? This free program is clearly a donation in-kind to the Bush campaign from Sinclair, and as such (given the value of air time) it exceeds the limits allowed by federal election law. It should be stopped.


Side note: Can you remember when campaigns used to talk about how good THEIR candidate was, not how bad the OTHER candidate is? I think I vaguely remember this from my childhood, but I’m not sure.

Presidential Debate #1 – after picture

October 1, 2004 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Current Affairs 

(I may flesh this out later – I have a meeting in 15 minutes but I wanted to get my thoughts down before I talked to others.)

John F. Kerry

Overall, I thought Kerry did a good job. He was weak in the first half of the debate – constantly criticizing Bush without offering his own plan. When Jim Lehrer finally asked him point blank about his plan, he started offering about 50% plan and 50% criticism.

I was comfortable with his plans. Many others are likely to complain that his Iraq plan is too vague, but I think he said what had to be said. We will leave when we can, we will bring in more help, and we will train the Iraqis to take over.

I don’t know what the whole thumb thing is about. I know that it’s not polite to point, but the thumb thing is weird too.

Kerry generally appeared much more Presidential than he has in the past on the campaign trail. He also appeared more Presidential than Bush.

George W. Bush

Mr. Bush was on the defensive far too often for this debate. He came across as whiny and shrill. Like Kerry, he settled down and was better on these points later in the debate.

I still don’t agree with many of Bush’s policy decisions, but I do admire the fact that he sticks to them. He did fail to pin the “flip-flopper” label on Kerry. You can expect consistency from Bush.

I was very surprised that Bush managed to use a 5-syllable word (“vociferously”) correctly and also pronounced it correctly. There were several points where real intelligence showed through the “common folk” facade. Bush did show that he’s not an idiot – but I still can’t understand why he wants us to think that he is an idiot.

Format and General Decorum

I was pleasantly surprised that the candidates followed the format more or less successfully. Kerry lost points here by using his time to reinforce a previous point rather than answering the current question several times. Bush lost points here by being the first to break the rules – by demanding (on several occasions) the one-minute discussion time. Jim Lehrer had made it clear that the one-minute discussion time was at HIS discretion.

The only real difference between the candidates showed in their reactions to each other’s speech. I was surprised that the TV coverage showed the other candidate while one was speaking. I’m sure I’d read that this would not be allowed. Anyway, Kerry took the lead here. He nodded when Bush scored a point against him. This showed respect for his opponent. Bush on the other hand scowled and grimaced when Kerry said something that upset him. I got the sense from Kerry that he respects Bush as a person and a leader, but Bush seems to have nothing but contempt for Kerry. That probably explains the diplomacy problems that Bush is having in the world.

Winner: I declare this a tie. Kerry might have led slightly on the intangibles, but otherwise they were even. Kerry did improve his standing in my mind as a result, however.