Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Recently, we have been hearing about how President Bush claims that he has the constitutional power to authorize wiretaps that bypass the FISA Courts. We hear how Cheney has claimed that he has the right to de-classify secrets at his discretion.

Admittedly, the offices of President and Vice President are the embodiment of a great deal of power. The people who hold those offices for spans of 4 years have a mandate to do the best for America they can using the powers of those offices. That is what we expect, anyways.

But today, millions of Americans are suffering due to the bureaucratic fowl up that has been the response to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster. A sad example of this problem is seen with the thousands of trailer homes that are sitting in a field, some slowly sinking in the mud for months, while people whose homes have been destroyed are shuffling from one temporary home to another.

Why are those trailer homes sitting vacant?

Because FEMA regulations say they cannot be deployed on a flood plain, and most of the Mississippi Delta is a flood plain.

Now we have seen the President and Vice President exercise the executive powers of their offices any number of times recently...why not ask one of them to exercise that power to relax, even temporarily, the FEMA regulations to allow the deployment of those trailer homes so that the wandering people of New Orleans can have a place to rest their heads at home for the first time in over six months.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Why Canada should not join the US missile defense program

Bush's Missile Defense is not a viable system.

The big problem with the concept of the Missile Defense system of today is the same problem that Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program had. The system depends on computer software to drive the hardware, and as anyone who has had their Windows computer crash for seemingly no reason, software is not reliable.

Now think about this: If Microsoft, which admittedly hires some of the best and brightest programmers available, and deploys some of the best software development methodologies out there can't write software that can run one computer reliably, do you really think that the US Government could write software that would not only have to run hundreds, maybe thousands of computers reliably...but would have to work THE FIRST TIME the entire system is tested!

Back in the 1980s, when Reagan was the US President, I spent a lot of time in the US, and talked to a number of scientists and technology people about the "Star Wars" program. All of them told me it would never work, but would not tell the government that, as they were receiving huge amounts of money to do basic research into the science and technology. Much of that money has paid for itself today in technologies that have made our life better...but not given us the ability to build a continental missile shield.

So although the money put into the research was well worth it, let us understand that it best put to basic research, which we need to fund, not pull the wool over people's eyes saying it will protect us from incoming missile attacks from foreign powers.

From a policy point of view, it is also a bad program. Time and again, the mistake that the US has been making is relying on glitzy high tech solutions to international problems, rather than utilizing the tried and true solutions that are unglamorous and low tech. This was the basic finding of the 9/11 Commission. Too much reliance was placed upon "signals intelligence", essentially tapping of communications, rather than having people on the ground infiltrating Bin Laden's organization, and the radical Islamist movements.

Similarly, if we rely upon a glitzy high tech "Missile Shield" rather than upon tried and true methodologies like diplomacy, we will suffer possibly the destruction of our civilization. Are you willing to risk the human race on the possibility of literally a "Blue screen of Death"?