Archive for July, 2005

Accountability of the Elected

July 22, 2005

So I was recently reading an article on Foxnews.com about the House of Representatives approving the reauthorization of the USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Act. Your views on that subject are irrelevant, my point is not to talk about the act rather the article and more particularly a function in the article.

About two paragraphs into the article there is a link in red that says "Click here to see how your representative voted". I think this is a very useful function that should be incorporated more in online news websites to increase the accountability of elected officials and to increase people's awareness of what the officials they elected are doing, or NOT doing. Actually I can't brag on it too much yet because the link tried to send me to http//*the website* instead of http://*the website* but I could type in the missing colon to get it to send me to the right place.

Anyways, before my liberal friends start hooting and hollering about how biased Fox News is, the link sends you to an 100% objective page hosted by the House of Representatives. If you ever for whatever reason wanted to go to that page the address is very complicated… House.gov.

What I think is the coolest thing about this function is that the page it send you to is written in XML. Most people have probably heard of HTML but XML can be much more useful to automate the creation of web pages using a standard format and pulling information from a database. The standard format in short shows the bills name, the date and time the vote occurred, a table with the breakdown of ayes and noes from republicans, democrats, and independents, and then a list of representatives' names who voted aye, noe, or did not vote. So say a bill is voted on today all of those numbers and names will be entered in a database and a webpage will be automatically generated to be linked to news websites for the purpose of informing the public and holding parties and representatives accountable.

The reason I think that this may be worth the trouble is that people do read the news, and with the internet becoming more a part of our lives people read the news on the internet. Very, very few people are going to go out of their way to go to the House website or the website of their rep to investigate how someone voted on an issue. However, if someone, while reading an article about an issue they are passionate about(abortion, anti-terrorism acts, tax reform, social security, affirmative action, etc) runs across a link to open a window where they can quickly find out how their rep voted I think there is a chance they may take advantage of that. I am not delusional thinking that everyone who reads any news article concerning legislation is going to double check how their rep voted, those who do will be rare but even if a VERY small percentage do check then that will be a great increase from those who went through all the trouble and leg work before.

While I don't expect it to catch on in a huge way, I do think it would be a habit that America would benefit from in the long run. I also think it is a noble step on the behalf of news agencies, in this case Fox News, to try and better inform the public of the cold hard facts involving their elected officials. If every time a controversial issue came up that you read about on the internet you checked your rep, when election time comes around you would have a much better feel of who that person is rather than just listening to both sides spin the crap out of the other guy's record until you have no idea who either guy is or what they stand for. In my case I clicked on the link and checked out Lamar Smith and saw that he voted Aye to reauthorize the Patriot Act. I gave him a little check plus in the back of my mind.

"The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch." -Michael Armstrong

Check your rep:
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll414.xml

hj

President Larry Faulkner

July 13, 2005

I'll be honest, if you are not a University of Texas student or alumni this blog may not be too interesting to you. Texas' President, Larry Faulkner, will resign this spring after taking over at the university in 1997. Under Faulkner Texas has had numerous accomplishments across the board implementing programs and increasing prestige of the athletic program, individual colleges, and the university as a whole.

He implemented the FIG program which resulted in higher freshman retention rates. When Faulkner took over in 1997 the freshman retention rate was 86% which increased steadily to last year's rate of 91%, maintaining the best retention rate of all Big 12 schools ever year. He re-opened the observation deck of the Tower. The soccer and track stadium, Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, and the Basketball Practice Facility were completed during his term. Renovations to the Football stadium and Basketball stadium were also completed and renovations on the Baseball stadium will start soon(NO MORE TURF!!!). He instituted the flat rate tuition program to improve four year graduation rates making it more economical for students taking over 15 hours and less economical for those taking less. Faulkner obtained the Watergate archives for the university as a private gift. He created the Blanton Museum of Art. He created the Commission of 125 to investigate policies to address the future of the University in the next 25 years recommending that all academic programs not ranked in the top 20 nationally be eliminated. He established an Honor Code for the university. He ran the "We're Texas" fund raising campaign which raised $1.6 Billion with a "B", the most successful campaign ever for a University without a Medical School. Under Faulkner the University climbed to second, only behind MIT, in federal funding for research programs. He implemented salary increases for faculty and staff every year he was president.

University, College, and Program Rankings and Awards under Faulkner

  • In 2005 Newsweek ranked the University of Texas the "Hottest State University" in the nation.
  • In 2004 the Times of London ranked the University as the 15th best university in the world based on a survey that spread across 88 countries.
  • In 2002 Sports Illustrated ranked UT #1 among the 324 Division 1 Athletic Programs.
  • The University's Business(18th), Law(15th), Engineering(12th), Education(15th), and Pharmacy(2nd) programs rank in the top 20 according to U.S. News and World Report. That same report ranked UT's Petroleum Engineering program #1 in the nation while Accounting ranks #3, Civil Engineering ranks #3, Entrepreneurship ranks #9, Marketing ranks #9, Chemical Engineering ranks #7, and Mechanical Engineering ranks #10.
  • And, although I doubt Faulkner had much to do with it, Playboy ranked UT #1 in their "Top 10 Colleges With The Best-Looking Girls".

Athletic Accomplishments

  • 2004-2005 UT was the only school to see its football team play in a bowl game, its men and women's basketball teams reach the tournament, and its softball and baseball teams reach the College World Series. All 19 men's and women's sports teams saw postseason play while Baseball, Gymnastics, and Women's track brought home National Championships.
  • During his tenure he saw the football program finish in the Top 10 3 times, both basketball programs reach the Final Four, the baseball team win 2 national championships, and the softball team reach the College World Series 3 times. Also, men's swimming won 3 national championships, and women's track and field won 3 national championships.
  • TJ Ford and Cat Osterman(2) won Player of the Year awards and Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy.

Needless to say during Faulkner's time the University of Texas has advanced as a nationally elite institution. Hopefully whoever replaces him can keep up the momentum.

hj

T.O. GO HOME

July 5, 2005

I hate Terrell Owens. His antics constantly clutter the sports world. He only cares about his money and his popularity and could care less about the sport of football or his teammates. Let me break down why T.O. needs to GO HOME!

Some of you may remember the 49ers playoff game in San Francisco against the Packers maybe 10 years ago where the announcers spent much of the 4th quarter focusing on Terrell Owens and how little he had produced that game and how he was about to be let go in the off-season. On one of the last drives of the game Steve Young hit Owens on a post route over the middle in traffic and despite getting sandwiched by two Green Bay DBs T.O. held on for the game winning score. The cameras were glued to him on the sideline the rest of the game showing him crying his eyes out knowing that single catch was probably going to be enough to prevent him from being filtered out of the NFL. A good humbling story for a kid with a humble background growing up in small town Alabama and playing his college ball at small time Tennessee-Chattanooga. Looking back now I think how much I would have loved to have seen that pass hit the turf or at least have fallen into the hands of Jerry Rice or J.J. Stokes.

Since that day T.O. has been on a path of destruction. He has torn apart the 49ers organization, the careers of many of his teammates and coaches, and any respect opposing players and fans ever had for him. After he ran Jerry Rice out of San Francisco and became the Niners go-to guy he started his habit of playing games in the media. He blasted his quarterback Jeff Garcia in the media even trying to start rumors that he was gay. He would throw tantrums on the field yelling at Garcia and Coach Steve Mariucci to get him the ball. None of this bothered me at the time because I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and watching the Niners tearing themselves apart wasn't particularly disappointing.

T.O.'s childish behavior entered my realm when during a game in Texas Stadium after a touchdown he sprinted 50 yards to the middle of the field and stood in the middle of the star with his hands raised as if he was God's gift to man. He scored again in the fourth quarter and sprinted to middle field attempting to do it again when Cowboys' Safety George Teague blind sided him. The next day before the league handed down their punishment Mariucci suspended his best player for his showboating. This time T.O. blasted his coach and the Niners front office in the media. Owens went on to embarass himself pulling a sharpie out of his sock and signing a ball after a TD and borrowing a Niner cheerleader's pom poms to celebrate another touchdown.

After the 2003 season Owens' bitching to the media and the San Fran front office resulted in the firing of both Mariucci and quarterback Jeff Garcia. But after finally getting his way and running those guys out of town he decides he is going to jump ship and test the free agent waters. Long story short he flat out misses the deadline to file for free agency so the Niners still have rights to him. Now the Niners are in an awkward situation because they do still have rights to Owens but he obviously doesn't want to play for them. So San Fran trades Owens to Baltimore. With any other player that would have been the end of the story but Owens being the biggest crybaby in professional sports whines that he doesn't want to go to Baltimore he wants to go the Philadelphia. The Niners finally fold and reverse the trade and send Owens to Philly.

Now Owens is in Philly and signs a huge contract. He is getting paid and he is in the best situation he has ever been in to win a championship. So T.O. lives happily ever after, right? Of course not. In two-a-days he complains to the media that Eagles Coach Andy Reid conducts too many full pads practices. I have two huge problems with this. 1) Football is a physical contact sport, get tough. 2) If you have a problem with a teammate, coach, whoever settle it behind closed doors. Don't run to the media with it like a 14 yr old girl and try to get as many people on your side as you can. So Owens plays a huge part in helping the Eagles get to the Super Bowl where they lose to the Pats.

Now Owens is going to holdout until the Eagles give him a new contract. He claims he just wants to put "food on the table" for his kids. If $7 million a year isn't enough to put food on the table what the hell kind of food are you feeding your kids, T.O. If you get traded you get traded. You honor the trade. If you sign a contract then you commit to the contract. You honor that contract. Then he blasts standup QB Donovan McNabb in the media for his play in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl and for being the Eagle's "company man". This guy can't go 2 weeks without showing his face in the media. Some people think its entertaining, to me its just embarrassing. His latest shenanigan is attempting to play basketball for the Sacramento King's summer league team in Las Vegas. The Eagle's response when asked for permission… ARE YOU KIDDING? Lets get this straight you blast our franchise QB in the media, you skip all the off-season minicamps, you threaten to holdout through camp until you get a new contact, and now you are seeking our permission to risk a $7 million asset by allowing you to play in a basketball summer league?

Terrell Owens will never be one of the great wide receivers to play this game because he does not love this game. He loves money. He loves fames. He loves being controversial but he does not love football. Football is his means to an end. Michael Irvin loved football. It is possible to love football and controversy because Irvin did just that. He had his high rolling life style that involved fancy clothes, strip clubs, cocaine arrests, run ins with the law, etc.

But the difference is he loved the game and he at least respected his quarterback and coaches. He didn't play games in the media besides offering the guaranteed win to pump up his team before an NFC Championship game against T.O.'s Niners. Not a peap came out of Irvin when he was passed up on his first Hall of Fame ballot despite finishing his injury shortened career 10th all-time in receptions, 9th all-time in yards, to go along with 3 super bowl rings and 5 Pro Bowl appearances. I heard a radio talk show host talking about Irvin's intensity and love of football and competition and he described Irvin by saying if you called him up at 4 in the morning and told him they were going to have a pickup game of touch football in the park in 10 minutes he would be there ready to go.

Irvin played his entire career with one team, never heldout, was normally underpaid(making less than $1 million for the majority of his career), and won 3 super bowl rings. He never did quit, rather he was forced into early retirement after landing awkwardly on his neck on that infamously crappy Veteran's Stadium turf. Ironically, it was the Eagles fans who cheered when Irvin was down and cheered louder when he left the field on a stretcher. Emmitt Smith said he was the one player played with in his career who you looked at across the locker room before games and thanked God he was on your side.

Unlike Irvin, Owens plays for himself and will not go down as one of the greats. He will go down as one of the most spoiled, ungrateful, players in NFL history who embarrassed himself, his team, and his sport.

hj