Thursday, September 29, 2005

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By

I've been posting lightly this past week because my PC has slowed down considerably for some unknown reason. I will try to fix this problem over the weekend, and resume posting at a normal rate within a few days. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pictures of the Day

Trying to avoid bedtime, Russell runs away from his bedroom Posted by Picasa

The Brewster Boys enjoy a video before going to bed Posted by Picasa

Punky shows his brother Russell the loot Posted by Picasa

Caught red-handed! Posted by Picasa

Looking for booty, Punky opens his mother's make-up drawer Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Today's Lesson in Liberal Economics

Ever wonder why liberals are always looking to raise taxes? Maybe it's because haven't even mastered basic arithmetic. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal comes this disturbing news:

For every $1 put into preparing 4-year-olds for learning, Wisconsin schools would save 68 cents on later costs such as special education and teacher turnover, according to a new economic impact study. The same report finds that Milwaukee would save 76 cents for every $1 invested in high-quality 4-K. The study, to be released at a meeting of school superintendents in Madison Wednesday, aims to make a case for expanding 4-K in Wisconsin.

"You're not spending a dollar, you're spending more like 32 cents," said Clive Belfield, an economist at Queens College, in Flushing, N.Y., who co-authored the Wisconsin study with Dennis Winters, research director at NorthStar Economics Inc., in Madison.

Using cost estimates from the state Department of Public Instruction and savings projections from existing research, Belfield and Winters figure Wisconsin schools would be able to recover 68% of their 4-K costs by the time the children graduate from high school. Much of the savings would come from a reduced need for special education, as well as increased job satisfaction from teachers, resulting in lower turnover and less of a need for substitute teachers. Milwaukee schools would recover 76% of the costs in 4-K, according to the study, because Milwaukee would benefit more from reductions in special education and grade repetition.

"It's much easier to educate children who are prepared," Belfield said. "The school can maximize learning, and that's going to pay off."
In other words, the State of Wisconsin is proposing to spend a dollar now on pre-school education to save 68 cents in costs later. How can we put these people out of their misery, and save the taxpayers 32 cents (not adjusted for inflation)?

Blame Bush for Global Warming

...on Mars.

According to NASA scientists, the polar ice caps on Mars have been shrinking noticably. Can we blame this on President Bush, since their size reduction occurred on his watch? From the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

And for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress.
Hat tip: Drudgereport

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why We Love Alameda, Part 2

Jenny and I took off a couple of hours on Sunday to partake in the annual Alameda Architectural Tour of homes. When we first moved to Alameda, we hadn't realized that the island had so many beautiful houses dotted throughout the city. As we started driving around Alameda, we then realized what a hidden gem it was, even when compared to San Francisco.

Eight of the nine houses we saw were Victorians. While they are bright and cheery on the outside, Victorians are typically dark and dreary on the inside. Some of the home owners compensated by painting in bright colors and making the best use of the available lighting. But most of the houses used wallpaper styles from the period, which made the interiors appear even darker. I would show you some of the interiors, but indoor photography was not allowed.

Virtually all of the homes were furnished with period antiques and decor. To keep in the spirit of day, the tour guides were dressed in period costumes. They must have been roasting inside since the day turned out to be pretty warm.

Typical Alameda Victorian house in the Eastlake style Posted by Picasa

Queen Anne cottage that once belonged to the Knowland family; one son was a U.S. Congressman and another became a U.S. Senator Posted by Picasa

Close up of a home on the tour just a few blocks away from our house Posted by Picasa

Not on the Alameda Architechural Tour, but one of many beautiful vintage homes that dot our hometown Posted by Picasa

A garden behind one of the restored Victorian mansions Posted by Picasa

Several homes had vintage cars packed outside, such as this 1940s Cadillac Posted by Picasa

Pictures of the Day

Punky says: "Get me out of this cage!" Posted by Picasa

Russell holds his collection of Sesame Street DVDs Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Russell Speaks

"I want fish."

His first sentence ever. I feel like crying tears of joy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Role of the Federal Government

I've often had debates with friends and family members about the role of the Federal Government in our lives. This includes recent discussions about Hurricane Katrina and where the ultimate responsibility rests for the people's well-being.

Taking the conservative side, I've asked those persons who would prefer more Federal Government control over their lives why adding an extra layer of bureaucacy based in Washington D.C. would be more efficient or better than letting the state and local municipalities be responsible for most governmental aspects of our lives. This includes disaster planning and recovery, two issues recently on display in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

With the media's latest finger-pointing towards--who else!--President Bush after Katrina, people seem to have lost perspective on how getting the Federal Government involved at the lowest level of citizens' affairs often leads to massive waste of taxpayer money. Today's Wall Street Journal provides a perfect case in point with "A Moronic Proposal":

Some public-spirited folks in Bozeman, Montana, have come up with a wonderful idea to help Uncle Sam offset some of the $62 billion federal cost of Hurricane Katrina relief. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that Montanans from both sides of the political aisle have petitioned the city council to give the feds back a $4 million earmark to pay for a parking garage in the just-passed $286 billion highway bill. As one of these citizens, Jane Shaw, told us: "We figure New Orleans needs the money right now a lot more than we need extra downtown parking space."

Which got us thinking: Why not cancel all of the special-project pork in the highway bill and dedicate the $25 billion in savings to emergency relief on the Gulf Coast? Is it asking too much for Richmond, Indiana, to give up $3 million for its hiking trail, or Newark, New Jersey, to put a hold on its $2 million bike path?

And in the face of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, couldn't Alaskans put a hold on the infamous $454 million earmark for the two "bridges to nowhere" that will serve a town of 50 people? That same half a billion dollars could rebuild thousands of homes for suffering New Orleans evacuees. One obstacle to this idea apparently will be Don Young, the House Transportation Committee Chairman who captured the funds for Alaska in the first place. A spokesman in his office told the Anchorage Daily News that the pork-for-relief swap was "moronic." Sounds like someone who wants Mr. Young to become "ranking Member" next Congress.

In all there are more than 6,000 of these parochial projects -- or about 14 for every Congressional district -- funded in the highway bill. The pork reduction plan is particularly appropriate as a response to Katrina, because we have learned in recent days that one reason that money was not spent on fortifying the levees in New Orleans was that hundreds of millions of dollars were rerouted to glitzier earmarked projects throughout the state of Louisiana.
In hindsight, the issue of the failed New Orleans levees was thus not a lack of money, but the mistakes made in allocating federal taxpayer dollars towards useless pork spending such as bike paths in New Jersey and parking lots in Montana. Responsibilty for this ultimately lies with Congress, which created the Highway Bill montrosity, and President Bush, who actually signed this piece of crap.

Which leads me to the following questions: Why is the Federal Government paying for rarely-used bridges in Alaska and hiking trails in Indiana? Why should my federal tax dollars be paying for projects that serve only the citizens of another state? Shouldn't the State and Local Governemnts be responsible for infrastructure within their borders?

The citizens of hurricane-stricken Louisiana should be asking these questions as well, and in particular, why their elected representatives at the local and state-level failed to adequately prepare for the hurricane and instead used hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars to fund other less important projects throughout the state. It should also be clear to sound-minded individuals that the responsibility to evacuate the City of New Orleans lies with locally-elected officials, including the Mayor and the Louisiana Governor, and not with some bureaucrat sitting in an office in Washington D.C.

The hurricane-related deaths of nearly 80 people at a New Orleans nursing home and hospital are a perfect illustration of failure at the local government level. To my earlier point, I find it difficult to understand how any rational person could blame these fatalities on President Bush or FEMA, who ranks include fewer than 8,000 employees nationwide. In contrast, the City of New Orleans alone employs some 6,000 persons, all of whom should be more familiar with their city than your typical FEMA employee. Nevertheless, people will be tempted to follow the lead of the mainstream media, who most recently twisted President Bush's statement of apology for federal failures during the crisis into a general mea culpa of overall responsibilty.

Without a doubt, there will be more natural disasters and perhaps even a terrorist attack on the scale of Hurricane Katrina in the coming years. The last thing we should do is to give citizens the idea that the Federal Government will ride to their rescue come hell or high water.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Weekend for the Weary

Now that I am a parent, weekends don't hold the same alure as they used to. Whereas I once looked forward to Saturdays and Sundays with glee, today I am somewhat indifferent to them. The reason is because I actually get less rest on the weekends than I do on weekdays.

We've been keeping a busy schedule these days. Lately, we've been trying to catch up with so many friends and relatives that we are constantly on the go, either hosting lunches and dinners, or attending them as guests. And yes, I've gained back almost half the weight I lost earlier this year. Blame it on restaurant food and my lack of self-control.

If I were a Democrat, I could also blame President Bush for my expanding waistline. It's that new Food Pyramid from the Federal Government--I'm soooooo confused!!! Damn you, Chimpy McBush Haliburton Hitler!

Pictures of the Day

Brotherly love: Russell plants a kiss on his brother Punky Posted by Picasa

Punky has taken a liking to red Play Doh Posted by Picasa

Russell watches God's latest gift to mankind: the portable DVD player Posted by Picasa

A close shave for Punky Posted by Picasa

Russell reacts to the news that dessert will be served Posted by Picasa

Russell stares at a piece of bread while Jenny's Aunt Linda finds that caring for two children can be a handful Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

There He Goes Again

Back from his long vacation, Op-Ed Columnist Nick Kristof joins the post-Hurricane Bash Bush Brigade at the New York Times with his latest column emphasizing President Bush's alleged neglect of the poor and increasing US infant mortality rates. These are topics that Kristof has already covered in previous columns, and not surprisingly, he rehashes some misleading statistics from his earlier work on infant mortality.

His first point, that President Bush is responsible for increasing poverty in the US, is based on recently released US Census Bureau statistics:

The wretchedness coming across our television screens from Louisiana has illuminated the way children sometimes pay with their lives, even in America, for being born to poor families. It has also underscored the Bush administration's ongoing reluctance or ineptitude in helping the poorest Americans. The scenes in New Orleans reminded me of the suffering I saw after a similar storm killed 130,000 people in Bangladesh in 1991 - except that Bangladesh's government showed more urgency in trying to save its most vulnerable citizens.

But Hurricane Katrina also underscores a much larger problem: the growing number of Americans trapped in a never-ending cyclone of poverty. And while it may be too early to apportion blame definitively for the mishandling of the hurricane, even President Bush's own administration acknowledges that America's poverty is worsening on his watch. The U.S. Census Bureau reported a few days ago that the poverty rate rose again last year, with 1.1 million more Americans living in poverty in 2004 than a year earlier. After declining sharply under Bill Clinton, the number of poor people has now risen 17 percent under Mr. Bush.
To drive the point home, Kristof notes that the US infant mortality rate for blacks in Washington, D.C. is higher than in Beijing or parts of India (Kerela, to be specific).

Indeed, according to the United Nations Development Program, an African-American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban parts of the state of Kerala in India.
The Beijing comparison is merely repeats a theme of his January 12, 2005 column criticizing President Bush for not reducing infant deaths on his watch. But by citing two predominantly African-American cities--New Orleans and Washington, D.C.--as examples of Bush neglect (along with high rates of black infant mortality), Kristof subtlely plays the race card that has loomed large in the media's recent coverage of Hurricane Katrina. In several major American newspapers, including the New York Times, opinion writers have all but accused President Bush of racism in their belief that the Federal Government's response to the disaster was deliberately downplayed because its victims were primarily African-American.

Although he doesn't go as far as accusing President Bush of murdering blacks, as fellow Times columnists Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert have already done, Kristof basically accuses President Bush of abandoning poor black Americans, with hurricane death toll in New Orleans being the end result of his negligence.

A quick check of the US Census Bureau data on poverty reveals an interesting fact, something that even Reuters noticed in a pre-Hurricane report filed on August 30:

The U.S. poverty rate rose in 2004 for the fourth year in a row, driven by an increase in poor whites, the government said on Tuesday in a report that White House critics called proof the economic recovery has bypassed most Americans. Non-Hispanic whites were the only group that saw its poverty rate rise, hitting 8.6 percent for 2004 compared with 8.2 percent in 2003. The poverty rate declined for Asians and held steady for blacks and Hispanics, the report showed.
In other words, the data shows that if President Bush is guilty of anything, it is of neglecting poor whites, not blacks as Kristof states. Curiously, the poverty rate for Asians actually decreased, a fact that should please Kristof, since he himself is married to a Chinese-American (Sheryl Wu-Dunn).

To Kristof's other point about increasing US infant mortality, his conclusion has already been debunked by studies that show the rise is due to the increase in low birth-weight babies from older mothers, not poverty. Last year, AP reported on this topic:

U.S. infant mortality has climbed for the first time in more than four decades, mainly because of complications associated with older women putting off motherhood and then having multiple babies via fertility drugs, the government said Wednesday. The rise in infant mortality may reflect the long trend among American women toward delaying motherhood, said Joyce Martin, Lead Statistian at the Center for Disease Control. Women who put off motherhood until their 30s or 40s are more likely to have babies with birth defects or other potentially deadly complications.
As for the unfavorable comparison to Beijing infant mortality statistics, blogger Ed Morrissey earlier this year accused Kristof of "cherry-picking" Chinese data. The CIA World Factbook reports that China's nationwide rate is 24.18 deaths per thousand live births. "Perhaps the rate is better in Beijing, but it hardly matters if the rest of the country has that [higher death] rate," Morrissey writes.

Given Kristof's past behavior, we can safely assume that Kristof has done similar "cherry-picking" this time by citing the name of some obscure, tiny Indian state (Kerala) with the lowest infant mortality rate in India. For India as a whole, this rate is 56.29 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While it is far from clear why thousands of African-American residents of New Orleans failed to heed the pre-hurricane evacuation warnings, there is little doubt that the New York Times and Nick Kristof will continue to blame President Bush for the damage to the city and its citizens. Along with their shameful attempts to brand the President as a racist, their accusatory cries of Bush neglect have seemingly failed to resonate with the public as recent polls have shown.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

That's One Small Step for Punky, One Giant Leap for the Brewster Boys

The big news in the Chen household is that Punky is now walking around the house, like a miniature version of a drunken sailor. As you can see from the photos below, Punky is a rather talented and outspoken little fellow. His brother Russell now has competition for most things, including toys and food. Their fights can get quite heated, although Russell sometimes plays the good older brother and allows Punky to have his way.

Punky strolls out of the bathroom after tossing his daily quota of rubber ducks into the bathtub Posted by Picasa

Punky suspends a Hot Wheels truck in midair Posted by Picasa

Punky is mesmerized by the television coverage of Hurricane Katrina Posted by Picasa

Punky reacts to criticism of President Bush from NPR/Democratic hack Mara Liasson on Fox News Posted by Picasa

Clutching his yellow Play-Doh egg, Russell wonders what all the fuss is about Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Brief Comment on the Gulf Coast Hurricane

Someone who shall go unnamed recently had this to say about the Hurricane Katrina disaster: "It's fortunate that journalists were there to report on the event."

It's a interesting comment, coming from someone that leans to the left-side of the political spectrum. I've been following the coverage from the so-called "journalists" down in the Gulf region, and I can say that I am simply disgusted by what I am reading. Not just about the horrific conditions that the victims are facing, but the inevitable finger-pointing by these reporters in the direction of President Bush--as if he were the reason why the brand-new concrete-reinforced dikes in New Orleans were breached during the storm.

Prodded on by their Democratic allies, these reporters are looking to blame the President for the disaster, with reasons ranging from the diversion of Louisiana National Guardsmen to Iraq, to recent cuts in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, which assists in the upkeep of the New Orleans dike system. They'll even go as far to say the "Global Warming" is responsible for the storm, and that the Bush Administration is therefore to blame for the disaster and resulting chaos in the city of New Orleans. The lowest of the low, The New York Times, will somehow mention that President Bush was on vacation at the time Hurricane Karina reached land, and that he only cut short his trip when he learned of storm's deadly aftermath.

Never mind the fact that storm preparation and planning are the exclusive jurisdiction of the state and local authorities, not the Federal Government, and that the system of dykes and levees around New Orleans were only rated to sustain a Category 3 hurricane (not the Category 4 that Katrina was). New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat, was clearly unprepared for the severity of the storm, a problem which was compounded by his administration's failure to completely evacuate the city. Let us also not forget that the Louisiana National Guard, over 2/3 of which are still in the state and NOT in Iraq, remains under the direct control of the Governor Kathleen Blanco, also a Democrat, and whose most important unit, the 225th Combat Engineer Group, is also still in the region.

Hurricanes are a fact of life for the Gulf region, and they have been ever since people settled the area. For the past one hundred years, there have been scores of devastating hurricanes as recorded by the National Hurricane Center, with hurricane season peaks (Categories 4 & 5, the most destructive) in the 1930s and 1940s. That's 70 and 80 years ago, folks, when hurricanes were at their worst in the region.

The facts are not important to these people. All they want to do is damage the image of the President in order to further their leftist political agenda. Through their twisted reporting and carefully aimed barbs at the President, they might well achieve their goals.

For the record, my first reaction to the disaster was, "Thank God for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other groups like them." I most certainly did not think about the reporters, and neither should anyone who cares about providing relief to those hurricane victims who need it most.