Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Budget Cuts in Air Marshall Program:MSNBC

Air marshals pulled from key flights

Despite renewed warnings about possible airline hijackings, the Transportation Security Administration has alerted federal air marshals that as of Friday they will no longer be covering cross-country or international flights, has learned. The decision to drop coverage on flights that many experts consider to be at the highest risk of attack apparently stems from a policy decision to rework schedules so that air marshals don't have to incur the expense of staying overnight in hotels.

SEVERAL AIR marshals contacted by Tuesday confirmed that they were alerted via text messages on their TSA-issued cell phones to check their schedules for changes.
"All overnights, starting from August first through the ninth, were canceled," an air marshal told "My [supervisor] told me overnights for all [field offices] were being canceled for an indefinite amount of time," said the air marshal, who requested anonymity. "The supervisors said they only had time to change schedules through the ninth."

Current flight schedules, which run through the end of July, Thursday, are staying intact, another air marshal told

Federal air marshals are armed undercover agents deployed on U.S. airlines and authorized to use deadly force to thwart a terrorist incident. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, there were only a few dozen marshals who flew mainly on international flights. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Congress authorized a huge increase in air marshals. From a pool of 250,000 applicants, a few thousand -- the exact number is classified -- were hired and given special advanced anti-terrorist training.

Several marshals told that the program is suffering budget troubles and that the agency is looking to make cuts wherever it can. Recently, enrollment in upgraded training for air marshals, known as "Phase II," was suspended.

The TSA declined to comment on the details behind this week's schedule change. "The agency cannot comment on details of federal air marshal mission operations," said Brian Turmail, a TSA spokesman. However, "TSA remains committed to aviation security and will take all appropriate steps necessary to respond to credible threat information," he said.

As to the allegation that budgetary constraints were at the root of the pullbacks, Turmail said that all programs within the TSA are "subject to ongoing review." In addition, "TSA's current task is to balance the need to meet changing threats with the need to live within the agency's budget," he said. "The federal air marshal budget is under review to determine how best to meet these two objectives."

The move to pull air marshals from any flight requiring them to stay overnight is particularly disturbing to some because it coincides with a new high-level hijacking threat issued by the Department of Homeland Security. That warning memo says that "at least one of these attacks could be executed by the end of the summer," according to a source familiar with the document.

The DHS memo also warns that new intelligence indicates that hijackers this time may simply try to crash the planes rather than fly them. "Hijackers may attempt to use common items carried by travelers such as cameras modified as weapons," and hijackers "may try to calm passengers" by making them believe they are only being taken hostage and "not on a suicide mission."

"Al-Qaida planners have primarily considered suicide hijackings and bombings as the most promising method to destroy aircraft in flight as well as to strike ground targets," the memo says. "Attack venues may include the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia or the East Coast of the United States due to the relatively high concentration of government, military and economic targets," the memo warns.

The cancellation of overnight stays has been floating around the air marshal rumor mill for weeks, based on conversations has had with various sources in the air marshal program.

When the reality hit, several air marshals voiced their disbelief that the cutbacks were coming now, in the wake of newly issued warnings.

"The fact that this is coinciding with the new airline threats, it just blows our minds," an air marshal said. "We can't cover [every flight] but at least put us on the high-threat planes, the ones traveling across the country," the air marshal said, noting that the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11 were all scheduled cross-country flights and therefore filled to capacity with aviation fuel. Not having air marshal coverage on those types of flights, "it's just plain scary," the air marshal said.

The air marshal program has been beset by a number of problems during its quick ramp-up from a few agents to thousands. reported in June that more than 100 federal air marshals had been fired or stripped of their flight status for problems stemming from their security clearance background investigations. In addition, some air marshals were flying without having received their final security clearances, Transportation Security Administration sources said.

And they say the Bush administration is serious about the war on terror. What a joke! Billions and Billions in a war of choice not necessity, but millions in cuts on a war of necessity within our own borders.

New warnings are issued are possible highjackings, they are specific enough to say they could happen by the end of the summer, but they are "too vague" to raise the color coding. Yet, please feel free to fly and go about your normal duties, oh, by the way, you may die on one of these hijacked planes and we'll take away air marshalls too, to leave you with less protection.

I think it is all pathetic. All their doing by telling us about the possible terrorist attacks is covering their butts to cover their incompetence. They want to have their cake and eat it. On the one hand, they want life to go on as though we were not afraid of any new attacks, but at the same time they want to say, if anything happens, "I told you so," and "it's not my fault."

If they are so concerned with informing the American people about threats, and not about covering their behinds,then they should make available the daily threat matrix that the President receives. That way, we can all make intelligent and informed decisions. But of course, that won't happen, because it really isn't about informing the American people, but covering behinds.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Table of the Lord my science fiction novel in the works, is now at 65,000 words. Not bad for a story that started out at 20,000 words. I am working feverishly to complete and edit the manuscript, before I send it in to PublishAmerica for the production process to commence.

I am quite happy with it, but I'll be happier when my preliminary edits are done. I have a super editor who is cleaning up the script before I send it in.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Democrats Embrace Tax Talk: Washington Post

Democrats Not Shying Away From Tax Talk Candidates Discuss Raises, Not Cuts

Democratic presidential candidates are following the politically risky strategy of embracing tax increases as key parts of their economic agendas, hoping to make mounting federal deficits and President Bush's economic stewardship major issues in the 2004 campaign.

When Bush signed his third tax cut into law last month, the legislation was supposed to put Democratic candidates in a political bind. They could no longer say they favored delaying or canceling future tax cuts, because the legislation put those planned cuts into law immediately.

But the candidates have shown little reluctance to reverse tax cuts already in force. Although they couch it as "rolling back" Bush's tax policies, virtually all the major Democratic candidates say they would raise taxes on some or all of those who pay income tax. The proposals range from repealing all the tax cuts enacted in the past three years to raising taxes only on the wealthiest Americans.

"Most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they paid under President Bill Clinton if they could just get the Clinton economy back," said former Vermont governor Howard Dean, one of the leaders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. "People are not stupid out there."

The new tack on taxes is a switch from recent years, when Democrats countered widespread Republican tax cut proposals with modest tax reduction plans of their own. Democratic candidates have been wary of tax increase pledges ever since Walter F. Mondale's tax promises proved disastrous in his 1984 campaign against President Ronald Reagan. But, Democrats say, they also have a more positive role model in Clinton, who campaigned in 1992 on tax increases for the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class.

This time around, Democratic candidates believe they can frame the debate in the broader context of Bush's economic and fiscal stewardship, and can convince voters that some tax increases are necessary to reverse the government's rising tide of red ink and revive job growth. Jim Jordan, who manages Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign, said Kerry (Mass.) does not relish making tax increases a fundamental piece of his platform, but the senator's attacks on Bush policies made taxes an inevitable issue.

Data from Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg suggest anger over taxation is aimed not so much at individual burdens but at a pervasive sense that corporations and the rich are not paying their fair share. "It's not a question of how much but who pays," Jordan said.

I think there is room to talk about tax increases. The trick is in the wording. Words like "repeal," "reverse," "roll back," etc are death words. They should use the word "restore," which has a much more positive ring to it. "I, John Kerry, want to retore to the American people, what this administration has taken and given to friends and wealthy corporations." That sounds better than repealing or increasing anything.

Another key would be to avoid the whole tax debate all together. If it comes up, say that taxation as a key to economic policy is based on the faulty idea that an economic recovery and maintenance plan is solely based on taxes. Then go on and spout your plan, is how I would advise them.

Even if the economy begins to recover, that means that mortgages will begin to go up and housing numbers look negative. So if Bush says, economic growth is at 3%, they say, but housing starts are down three months in a row, or mortages have risen 8 percentage points resulting in thousands of dollars for the average American home buyer. Even if there is economic growth, it is unlikely that all the people who lost jobs in the past three years of this administration's failed economic policy, would be at work, so the job imbalance in Bush's tenure is always a benefit.

Another Bush weakness is in "the buck doesn't stop here" process that the White House runs. Bush needs to take responsibility for the incompetence of his staff and undermining the credibility of the State of the Union speech, the President of the United States' most important annual speech.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Hope Seen For Poultry Industry Study Says Companies Can Address Pollution-Washington Post

The Eastern Shore's share of the U.S. poultry market has slipped in recent years amid regional and global competition, but the industry remains strong and should be able to adapt to new environmental standards, a new report from the University of Maryland concludes.

"The Eastern Shore economy has a huge stake in the poultry industry, but that investment is not at immediate risk of going down the drain," said Bruce Gardner, chairman of the university's Agricultural and Resource Economics Department and co-author of the report released yesterday.

The report comes as Maryland farmers scramble to control pollution caused by poultry manure they use as fertilizer -- and as a new Republican governor evaluates whether those standards are too strict. Researchers acknowledge that there are "reasons for worry" and that "seemingly small events or policies could worsen the industry's prospects considerably."

But even with "razor-thin" profit margins, production of broilers on the peninsula that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia remains a lucrative business for national poultry processors. For that reason, the study's authors conclude that even with tighter environmental regulations and development pressures, the poultry industry is not in imminent danger of collapse.

"The industry has a large investment in people and infrastructure on Delmarva," said Wesley N. Musser, co-author of the study and a U-Md. agricultural economist. "If they moved elsewhere, they would have to rebuild all that."

Commissioned by the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, a nonprofit research arm of the university, the report evaluates the economic and environmental stresses on the industry and considers the effects on farmers and processing plants across the peninsula.

Researchers conclude that farmers could meet their obligation to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay watershed by planting buffer crops that would absorb excess nutrients and by expanding the use of new technologies that turn poultry manure into a marketable commercial fertilizer.

The researchers may prove to be more optimistic than farmers and companies in the poultry industry, however.

Perdue Farms Inc. spokeswoman Tita Cherrier said company officials' initial reaction to the study was that it used old data and reached contradictory conclusions. "They're making you believe things are rosy and it's a cash cow," she said. "If I was a professor grading this as a paper, it wouldn't get very high marks."

A panel of industry representatives appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is expected to release its assessment of the business climate in Maryland early next month.

So far, participants have been less than enthusiastic about the environmental controls Maryland is imposing on poultry farmers and the state's efforts in recent years to hold national poultry firms responsible for the manure produced by birds.

Five years ago, scientists linked farm runoff to an outbreak of toxic algae that was blamed for killing hundreds of thousands of fish off the Eastern Shore. Then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) shut down parts of three rivers and began a campaign that led Maryland to become the first state to hold poultry companies responsible for the polluting effects of the manure.

Last month, Ehrlich said that Glendening had overstepped his authority and that the state would abandon restrictions on national processors. Instead, he said he would use voluntary measures or economic incentives to stanch the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous into the bay.

Last week, at a day-long conference sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, at least one scientist asserted that there would be no poultry manure problem on the Eastern Shore if all farmers applied it to their fields.

Environmentalists expressed concern that the Ehrlich administration is seeking to minimize the pollution problems.

"There is far too much [chicken manure] to use on Delmarva without damaging water quality," said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the Center for Agro-Ecology's board. "It is critical that the poultry industry increase their efforts."

I am part of our local chamber of commerce which is an organization for county businesses and they seem to hate the "environmentalists" because the environmentalists are always fighting for the environment at the expense of business. Well I am an environmentalist and a business man and I don't see the conflict. Saving the environment is an investment. The Chesapeake dying and being polluted and having tons of chicken crap poured into is not doing anyone any good.

If I could go back in time, one of the things I would most like to see is the Chesapeake bay in the 1600 hundreds when it was clear, clean, beautiful, sustaining and all that soppy environmental stuff. It breaks my heart to see what it has become and that there is little hope for its restoration. It is further disheartnening that we have a governor, Republican I might add, who seems to be on a personal mission to destroy the bay.

I think businesses and Republicans need to look at the bay as an economic asset and then maybe preserving it would not be considered as such an evil thing.

Washington Post: New Estimates on Whale Population

Scientists may have profoundly underestimated the number of whales that once lived in the North Atlantic Ocean, a controversial finding that could have critical implications for the future of whaling and whale conservation, a new genetic study concludes.

The gulf between the new estimates and those from existing historical-statistical studies is so vast -- a difference of several hundred thousand animals -- that it has already provoked a spirited debate over scientists' techniques in gathering and analyzing the data.

"We're suggesting that the oceans can support these populations in the long term, and in fact did," said geneticist Joe Roman, a Harvard University graduate student and co-author of the new study with Stanford biologist Stephen R. Palumbi. "There are all kinds of different views on this, and we knew it was going to be controversial, but this is what the data show."

Roman and Palumbi analyzed DNA from three species of North Atlantic whales and found the genetic variation to be unexpectedly high in all cases -- a result indicating that before commercial whaling began in the 17th and 18th centuries there was a much larger pool of animals than historical records suggest.

In fact, the authors report today in the journal Science, their analysis showed that the pre-whaling, or "historic," population of humpback whales in the North Atlantic was 240,000, 12 times as many as the current historical-statistical estimate of 20,000. There are about 10,000 now.

Roman and Palumbi also estimated the historic population of fin whales at 360,000, nine times more than historical-statistical estimates of 40,000, and the population of minke whales at 265,000, as against statistical estimates of approximately 100,000.

My wild streak must be coming out now. One of my dreams is to go an a whaling reasearch or hunting expedition.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

NFP and Romance

One of the arguments or talking points used by NFP advocates is that fact that the use of NFP, which creates natural periods of absinence, develops romance in a relationship because the couple finds other ways than sex to be intimate.

I think for clarity sake, NFP provides the opportunity for couples to focus and develop other aspects of romance independent of sex, but NFP is not a direct cause of increase in romance.

I do think that NFP is a direct cause of chastity in marriage, chastity being proper integration of sexuality in a person. I note quickly that celibacy is not the same thing as chastity. A celibate person could easily be as unchaste as a married person can be chaste. If a celibate is obssessed with the notion of sex then he or she is not chaste. On the other hand a married couple who has found a way to fit sex into their relationship so that it is not the center of attention is chaste. I do think NFP can do that for a couple.

One problem in our society is that sex has become front and center in most relationships so that it is the determinant of where the relationship goes. A relationship should be about friendship and sex should fit into that equation in a balanced way. I think NFP is good for that balancing act and creating natural conditions for the development of a friendship.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

We live in a town home and not much of a yard, actually, very little. But my wife has found a way to grow one bell pepper plant, one jalapeno plant, one cucumber plant, one zuchini plant and three mammoth tomato plants. Now, I was expecting a harvest of a couple of cucumbers before the plant gave up the ghost, but the cucumber plant has been churning the cucumbers out like no man's business. The zuchini is getting into the swing of full production and the tomatoes are on the move. She says she sees jalapenos and bell peppers, I don't seee them. But, hey, if this works out, maybe I'll quit my job and become a vegetable farmer.

Someone did a google search and found my site under "online store" paddle spanking.

I've been bubbling with a few new story ideas, one is a sci fi drama and the other is real world story of five friends. As it works with me, I have the characters firmly in my head, but the story is relatively weak. I have the outline of the stories but you have to find ways to make them interesting, that's the angle I am looking for.

I think I may have been wrong in thinking that this uranium flap was not going to go anywhere. Now it does seem that there was a cover up and underlings are taking the fall, probably for Cheney. The problem for the White House is that the more questions are raised, the clearer it seems that something not right went on in there regardng the intelligence flap. I wonder whose going to come out first with the book 16 Words in January.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Here's a new website supposedly to make the Catholic Faith more appealing to the young,

Monday, July 21, 2003

According to the Geek Test, I scored an 11.63708% - Geekish Tendencies, which is the lowest on the Geek scale.

Dissappointed? Actually, I just sighed a sigh of relief.

Friday, July 18, 2003

I heard a review for this movie, Dirty Pretty Things on NPR and I am very intrigued. I am not normally the independent, avant garde, elite movie watching type, but something about the description of this movie has caught my attention. It might be the darkness of it all, who knows.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Cardinal Bevliacqua has finally been allowed to retire. I think the hierarchy has lost one of its most talent individuals. I met him once at Toronto during World Youth Day. He was a great person to work with, made my job a lot easier. He also gave me a blessed pendant for my daughter.

The very interesting thing about him was the kids absolutely loved him. I still cannot get over how they were literally hanging all over him like he was their grandpa or something. I had just never pictured him that way.

There is what I think may be a disturbing trend given the recent scandals, which is probably acceptable to many, it seems that the Vatican is looking to fill Cardinal spots with Vatican bred prelates and not home bred, O'Malley being the exception, but Egan and Rigali fall into this category and then Maide and Keehler will be retiring relatively soon.

I just don't think that Vatican types are good fits in the US. Rigali seems to have a good reputation, and wouldn't be a rubber stamp for the Vatican.

Look for Bishop Gregory to go somewhere pretty high profile soon. St. Louis would not be out of the question, or they may wait a while for a Baltimore or Detroit to open up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The North Korea situation is getting very interesting and dire. They have prepared enough plutonium to make a few bombs accoriding to what they have told the US. What irks me is that this has become primarily a US-North Korea issue, when infact the UN and NATO need to be heavily involved as well as the Pacific Rim countries.

The lack of ostensible participation is a clear result of the the US's lack of leadership displayed in a frequent disdain for international sensitivities and opinions. Like the India Pakistan potential nuclear conflict that was brewing last year under the radar, this is a potential grade A problem.

Yesterday, NAACP leaders made inflammatory remarks describing Republicans as people who hide behind the flag and the Confederate Swastika. Now I'm no friend of the Republican party but such a characterization is uncalled for and does nothing but inflame the situation.

I do think 2004 is now shaping up to be interesting. It is clear that there will be an economic recovery in 2004 but will that be enough to keep Bush in office? I'm not so sure, I do think passions are rising on both sides and next year's turnout could be phenomenal which could greatly affect swing states and even the South. If the Black and Hispanic turnout is very good, Republicans may suffer some surprising defeats. The one good thing about a good election fight is that it pumps millions of dollars into the economy.

Pat Buchanan had a very interesting criticism of the Bush administration regarding this whole Uranium flap. His criticism is that how is it that an Egyptian career diplomat, 3 months after Bush's state of the Union speech, could look a the Niger document and conclude that it was forged, on the other hand, the $35 billion CIA could not?

I'm reading a science fiction novel right now and to be honest, it reads like a bad movie script. I think one mistake many emerging writers make is that they focus on a "movie" type story in their heads and then put that "mental movie" down on paper which makes for poor story telling. Movies can fly through events at almost break neck speed, but written stories can't. Even then, the great movies, the classic, both old and recent, distinguish themselves by their deliberate story telling, letting the scenes and the actors develop and draw you into the story. For instance, I watched parts of The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman last weekend. And I immediately noticed how deliberate the movie was. A scene in which he had to enter a hotel was almost 60 seconds long because they he had to "compete" or jostle with others to get in. That kind of filming is interesting because it gives time for a story to be told. My all time favorite movie, Ben "we keep you alive to serve this ship" Hur is similar, they aren't rushed but let the actors draw you into the story.

In my opinion this idea is what separates the top tier writers from the emerging ones. The one good thing is that it has made me paranoid about my writing. I now scour my manuscipts looking for and exterminating cheesy lines and silly ideas. I really do think one should write as though one intends to win a distinguishing award for their book.

Friday, July 11, 2003

I have all of a sudden become very interested in fan fiction. I am planning a story on Fox's 24 meets ABC's Alias, how about that? If you had one shot at getting things done, who would you want on your side, Jack Bauer of 24 or Jack Bristow of Alias. My wife would want the Keith Sutherland character of Jack Bauer of 24 because he has a conscience. I would want Jack Bristow because the man is a cold relativist who will do what has to be done, nonetheless, he is still human and serves the good cause.

I also want to do fan fiction on Star Trek Voyager. That may be a little trickier because I always forget the star trek lingo after the show.

I finally signed the publishing contract and will mail it later today. In anticipation of the marketing I will be doing for the book, I have reserved the domain name as a place to showcase the novel. I finally got it to 50,000 words yesterday and I think I have a few more hundreds of words to add to fill in gaps.

Hillary Clinton was on Letterman yesterday and I think David Letterman surprised everyone by engaging in a real intelligent conversation about politics. I was looking fort something light hearted, but he went deep. Me like.

I don't think this Uranium charge against Bush has much traction, I think Democrats would be better off dropping it. It is clear that someone else besides bush willbe the fall guy, presumably George Tenet because the administration's line now is that the CIA review the speech and offered no ammendments. Both Rice and Powell said this. What is interesting is that whenever the Bush administration needs to overcome a credibilty gap, they put Rice and Powell, the administration two top moderates and most trusted people, on the offensive.

I saw on another blog, someone called Catholic deacons "liturgical furniture." Unfortunately, these very talent men are used much as design pieces and not given serious roles. Not to even bring up the neglect of the laity.

I'm thinking of writing a quick primer on moral theology based on an adult education course I frequently teach. I find that many Catholics are still unaware of theory behind Catholic morality and there is a need to fill that gap. I still get eyebrows arch when I say one must follow one's conscience at all times even when it is wrong.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I joined the John Kerry group but I'm not sure that I'll go to the meetings yet. part of the problem is that they are being held in DC but I am an hour from the city and do not feel like logging my butt all the way up there besides for work purposes. Hopefully, a meetup group will form closer to SoMD.

I hate going to the dentist, but, I guess, thank God for them.

I am about to sign a contract with PublishAmerica to publish my first novel. They are step up from the other guys like 1stBooks Library that you pay $600 for them to to publish your book, but no other services. PublishAmerica publishes and edits at their costs. They also put the books in the distribution channels, the Ingrams, Amazon, etc, but they don't do marketing, that is all up to the author.

I wonder if it is worth it to try out with a larger publishing house that does everything including marketing. It may possibly work out better, but it would also probably take another year of waiting and discussions, etc. I think I can handle doing the leg work and publicity. First things first, get a webpage.

When I first turned in the manuscript it was 32,000 words, but after revisions and edits it is almost 46,000 words, which I am quite comfortable with. It is interesting science fiction story and I now need to be able to convey that through marketing.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Well, I finally watched Die Another Day, the James Bond flick. I was entertained. I am dissappointed with Halle Berry's role, they gave her horrible lines and she just didn't come off as classy. I sure hope the Jinx movie based on her bond character allows her to shine more.

The movie was quite good, good story angle and all. Of course, it wouldn't be a Bond movie if someone wasn't bent on world domination or creating the ultimate weapon. The one problem in this one was they did not show or speak to how a North Korean renegade was able to get access to an unstoppable space based weapon unbeknownst to the West. I did like the focus on North Korea and that opening scene was pretty cool.

We went to the Baltimore National Aquarium on Wednesday. I can tell you that it is not the ideal field trip for two little little girls. We once visited the aquarium in New Orleans and that was a much better and fun trip. The Baltimore aquarium is definitely not user friendly. The spaces are very narrow, it is very dark in there and there were way too many people (but that's to be expected). They do have tons of exhibits, but with that many people, summer camps, etc, it is no fun. Besides you can't take a stroller with you, which means you have to carry a floppy thirty pound toddler around.

The Dolphin show was kind'a weak. Of the 30-45 minutes for the show, 15-20 minutes was dedicated to education about Dolphins. Truth is, for the kind of money we were paying, I came to see Dolphins balance balls on their noses, jump through hoops, dance on the platform, flip and triple flip in the air . . . you get the gist. Well, these dolphins were fun, but they certainly did not produce a high wow factor, even the splashes were weak. But I think the girls enjoyed it, somewhat, as much as little ones that age can.

I do have to say though, that the Baltimore Inner Harbor is very nice and I was impressed. We also went to the ESPN sportzone place and it looked like fun but we had had a long enough day.