February 2009 Archives

Talk about wanting to micromanage a personal bodily function. From the UK Guardian:
American taste for soft toilet roll 'worse than driving Hummers'
Extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply toilet roll made from virgin forest causes more damage than gas-guzzlers, fast food or McMansions, say campaigners.

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country's love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public's insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

A campaign by Greenpeace seeks to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands.

More than 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace this week launched a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products.
That is, if you will excuse the expression, one of the biggest crocks of shit that I have heard in a long time. Virgin Forests carries the mental picture of towering stands of old-growth timber. Bullshit. These forests have been planted specific for the purpose of pulp production and they are a renewable resource much like a grassland, only with a 10-times longer growing cycle. The webpage of photographer Michael Durham has an excellent photo of a hybrid poplar tree farm with these comments:
Tree Farm Color
The storms currently pounding Oregon and Washington have blasted off the remaining fall leaves giving trees the bare look of Winter. Just a few weeks ago however, I was captivated by the fall leaves at a hybrid poplar tree farm.

These are fast growing trees that are ideal for paper production. If they are processed quickly, the produce a brilliant paper with minimal bleaching.
So, let us say that the greenies get the production of hybrid Poplar shut down and we revert to John Wayne toilet-paper (rough, tough and don't take no shit off anybody). That would be perfect, yes? BZZZZZTTT! NO! This same Poplar is a prime candidate for Cellulosic Ethanol production:
"It allows GreenWood to benefit from the development of the growing market demand for cellulosic-based chemicals and ethanol, while providing ZeaChem with a dedicated long-term cellulosic feed stock source from the leader in intensively-managed hybrid poplar trees."

Hunter Brown, a spokesman for GreenWood Resources, said his company also talked with Pacific Ethanol, which has announced intentions to build a cellulosic ethanol plant near its Boardman plant.

"GreenWood Resources believes that hybrid poplar will be a feedstock of choice for dedicated energy crops, for cellulosic ethanol," he said.
Using Corn as the feedstock in Ethanol production is making a few people very rich but is driving up the price of Corn worldwide to the detriment of the poorer nations. Switching to a non-food feedstock is the right thing to do and these Poplar trees are an excellent choice.

Always classy - Mr. Robert Mugabe

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He turned 85 this month and, yep, you guessed it, spent $250K on a party while hospitals are closing because they have no medicines. From CNN World News:
Mugabe hosts lavish party despite national crisis
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was celebrating his 85th birthday with a lavish all-day party Saturday despite the fact that the country is gripped by an economic and health crisis.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said it raised at least $250,000 to hold the party in Mugabe's hometown of Chinhoyi, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) outside of the capital, Harare.

Critics of the president say the country is desperate for that amount of money to be spent instead on its citizens, who are suffering from a cholera outbreak, food shortages, and spiraling hyperinflation. On Friday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai visited a hospital's closed intensive care unit that he said needed $30,000 to resume operating.
I would not wish the fires of hell on anyone but in Mr. Mugabe's case, I'll make an exception...
From CNN/Fortune Magazine:
Hearst to launch a wireless e-reader
The publisher plans to introduce a large-format device this year based on electronic-ink technology.

Against a backdrop of plummeting ad revenue for newspapers and magazines, and rising costs for paper and delivery, Hearst Corp., is getting set to launch an electronic reader that it hopes can do for periodicals what Amazon's Kindle is doing for books.

According to industry insiders, Hearst, which publishes magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Esquire and newspapers including the financially imperiled San Francisco Chronicle, has developed a wireless e-reader with a large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements of newspapers and magazines. The device and underlying technology, which other publishers will be allowed to adapt, is likely to debut this year.

So-called e-readers like Kindle and the Sony Reader are hand-held gadgets that use electronic "ink" displayed on a crisp, low-power screen to deliver an experience that approximates reading on paper - without the cost of paper, printing and delivery, which can account for as much as 50% of the cost of putting out a periodical.
Talk about a stupid business decision. Their profits are tanking and they venture out into a field that is outside of their core competency. Let's see: "large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements" I am willing to bet that they promised the advertisers full color and motion. That will mean a traditional LCD screen as opposed to the ePaper that the Kindle and the Sony Reader use. You are talking about a serious case of short battery life here and a much heavier and larger package. The Kindle can last a week between recharges if the wireless is turned off and the Sony product routinely gets 20+ hours of continuous use. It will be interesting to see -- after all, this is the company that invested so heavily in the CueCat Hat tip to BoingBoing Gadgets for the link.
From Ottawa's National Post:
Gatineau considers poutine ban: 'Like banning rainbows and happiness'

Hull,Que., across the border from Ottawa, used to be the party town where late-night drinkers went for extra beers, but these days it�s no longer known as Hull - it�s called Gatineau - and the place is quickly joining Ottawa as the town fun forgot. The city is considering banning poutine from hockey rinks. Fatty food, like poutine and regular fries would be dropped if the plan goes ahead, as would chips and chocolate bars and sugary drinks.

Gatineau hospitals have announced similar plans. There have been no complaints about hospitals introducing healthy cafeterias but the prospect of poutine being phased out of arenas has caused a minor uproar.

Even bloggers who don�t live in the city are upset. One person wrote online: �I understand a ban on smoking, but poutine? That�s like banning rainbows and happiness.� Another pointed out that nobody would consider banning alcohol in Quebec, surely. So why mess with the national food?

News has also reached America. One blogger wrote: �What really needs to happen is the rise of poutine here in the states. There aren�t enough people who have tried this amazing wonder of artery-clogging junk food wonder yet.� Last week, the Ottawa Citizen�s Kelly Egan, wrote in his column how Gatineau officials have managed to turn the �home of the all-nighters, casinos, strip clubs, corner-store beer, mandatory smoking ... into a place more boring than Nepean.�
It is funny how micromanagement is such a fscking joke in business circles but such an accepted tradition in political ones...

That's it for the evening

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Since Jen is lounging in Hawai'i with some friends, I have been working at the store slaving away at paperwork, etc... A couple of people I knew were playing at the local quasi-Mexican place and there was an incredible jam session between Knut and some guy I had not seen around before. The band was playing and I was about ready to leave, walked out into the main room and was transfixed for the next 30 minutes until they stopped playing. For a small town in the middle of nowhere, there are some profoundly talented people ere...

Nice conjunction tonight

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The Moon and Venus were in conjunction tonight and they put on a gorgeous display. Here is a reduced size JPG of a photo I took -- 450MM lens @ F11, 2.5 Seconds at ASA250. The lens is an older design so you get some staring artifacts on Venus. Earthshine shows up very clearly -- with all the snowfall, this planet has a very high Albedo.
Click to embiggen...

We have another comment

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My old post Awww - a bit of blood on a Koran seems to incite the uneducated frothing at the mouth that is the stereotype for your garden variety Islamist. Witness today's addition. There were some obscenities so I did a minor bit of editing:
go have incest with your sister, thats what you wig heads are known for.
I believe the pathology at play here is Projection. From the Wikipedia article:
In psychology, psychological projection (or projection bias) is a defense mechanism where a person's personal attributes, unacceptable or unwanted thoughts, and/or emotions are ascribed onto another person or people. According to Wade, Tavris (2000) projection occurs when a person's own unacceptable or threatening feelings are repressed and then attributed to someone else.
A quick session on Google:

Shows a certain bias now, doesn't it...

Hillary Clinton does a Volte-Face

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Typical Clinton triangulation. They must not be clear on the concept of long-term memory. From the flagship station for CBS in New York - WCBS:
Jewish Leaders Blast Clinton Over Israel Criticism
Zuckerman, Lawmakers, Local Jews Say Secretary Of State Not The Hillary Clinton They Used To Know
Hillary Pressuring Israel To Speed Up Aid To Gaza

In a swift about face from her views as New York's senator, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now hammering Israel over its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.

As First Lady, Clinton raised eyebrows when she kissed Suha Arafat.

Since she was then seeking a Senate seat the resulting brouhaha caused her to "re-think" her positions.

"I'm a very strong supporter of Israel," Clinton said back in February 2000.

On Thursday, as Secretary of State she had yet another about face in the form of angry messages demanding Israel speed up aid to Gaza. Jewish leaders are furious.

"I am very surprised, frankly, at this statement from the United States government and from the secretary of state," said Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and member of the NYC Jewish Community Relations Council.

"I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York," Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, said. "Now, I wonder as I used to wonder who the real Hillary Clinton is."
The real Hillary Clinton is whomever she needs to be to get to the next level of power. She has no morals, no ethics, only a lust for power that outshines anything else. I have no respect for her.
Not so fast said the voter. From The Rasmussen Reports:
59% Still Believe Government Is the Problem
In early October, as the meltdown of the financial industry gained momentum following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 59% of U.S. voters agreed with Ronald Reagan that �government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.�

Since then, the stock market has fallen roughly 3,000 points, millions of jobs have been lost, nearly a trillion dollars has been spent so far to bail out the financial industry, an additional $787-billion government stimulus package has been approved, and a new president has taken office who has proposed spending billions and billions more.

Despite all that, a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows that the basic views of the American people have not change: 59% of voters still agree with Reagan�s inaugural address statement. Only 28% disagree, and 14% are not sure.
The report quotes some interesting demographics, talks about Regan's vision for a bit and then delivers this little gem:
In a corollary to Reagan�s assessment of government, most voters believe that no matter how bad things are, Congress could always make them worse.
To quote from the above (01/10/2009) link:
58% Say Most Congress Members Won�t Know Stimulus Plan When They Vote On It
The Senate is scheduled to vote today on an $838-billion economic stimulus plan, but 58% of U.S. voters say most members of Congress will not understand what is in the plan before they vote on it.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 24% believe most of Congress will understand the contents of the 700-page-plus plan before they vote. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

Two-thirds of the nation�s voters (69%) lack confidence that Congress knows what it is doing when it comes to addressing the country�s current economic problems. Just 29% are even somewhat confident in the legislators.
2010, 2012 - years to look forward to.

Some more pork???

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More details about the Stimulus Package are coming out including the 8,500 earmarks contained within. From the New York Post:
Congress went on a pork-a-palooza yesterday, approving a massive spending bill with big bucks for Hawaiian canoe trips, research into pig smells, and tattoo removal - all while the nation faces an economic crisis.

Among the recipients of federal largesse is the Polynesian Voyaging Society of Honolulu, which got a $238,000 "earmark" in the bill.

The group organizes sea voyages in ancient-style sailing canoes like the ones that first brought settlers to Hawaii.

The sailing club has a powerful wind at its back in the person of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
I am all in favor of preserving Hawai'ian culture but they should be doing their own fund raising and not getting money from Federal taxpayers. The NY Post article references this report from Taxpayers for Common Sense:
$7.7 Billion In Earmarks In 2009 Omnibus Spending Bill
Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) has been going through the omnibus to pull together a total number of earmarks and dollar amount. TCS found 8,570 disclosed earmarks worth $7.7 billion. When you add the $6.6 billion in disclosed earmarks that were in the three FY09 spending bills that passed in the fall (Defense, DHS, MilCon/VA) you end up with $14.3 billion worth of disclosed earmarks in FY09. The apples-to-apples comparison from 2008 yielded $14.8 billion, so there was a $500 million reduction in disclosed earmarks between FY08 and FY09. Click here for the preliminary analysis.

A big disparity between TCS�s number and the Committee number ($3.8 billion) is that the Appropriations Committee chooses not to include earmarks from project-based accounts in their totals, despite the fact that they were not requested by the administration. For example, the Corps of Engineers budget is made up of hundreds of projects that add up to the agency total. These numbers are not included in the committee totals or in their reduction predictions. In addition, the committee ascribes many operations and maintenance projects to the President when they were not actually requested as part of the FY09 budget.
Unnnhhh... Didn't Obama run on a platform of transparency and no earmarking?
It seems that he liked children. I mean really really liked children... From The Smoking Gun:
Ex-NPR Editor In Child Porn Bust
Second time this month a D.C. media figure is nabbed on federal rap

For the second time this month, a Washington, D.C. media figure has been charged with possession of child pornography. David Malakoff, who until recently worked as National Public Radio's science editor and an on-air correspondent, was named in a felony criminal information filed Tuesday. The information, a copy of which you'll find below, offers few details about the 46-year-old Malakoff's alleged criminal activity, except to note that he possessed the illicit material between April and June 2008 (Malakoff resigned from his job last June, according to NPR spokesperson Anna Christopher). The Department of Justice's filing of an information--as opposed to a criminal complaint or indictment--often indicates that a defendant has agreed to plead guilty to charges.
Porn between consenting adults is one thing but to involve a child is heinous. The child doesn't know what they are doing and the memory of this is something that will be with them for the rest of their lives...

An interesting movie - Transcendent Man

Ray Kurzweil is one of the more intelligent people out there. An inventor and polymath. This is a trailer for a movie about him -- looks really interesting:
I have two of his synthesizers -- computers that process music rather than bits of light on a screen. A twenty year old design but still incredibly powerful and versatile. He initially made reading machines for the blind. A scanner and speech synthesizer with a mini-computer running some software. Stevie Wonder was one of his customers and he asked Ray if the speech synthesizer could do music as well as speech. A new industry was born...

That's it for the night

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To the DaveCave(tm) for a bit and then to bed. There has been a (fortunately short lived) nasty cold going around. Jen has it and very thoughtfully gave it to me. Time for an early night.

Comment of the day

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I was reading another story on Anthony Watt's page Watts Up With That and this comment from reader Larry Kirk popped out at me.
The thing that I do enjoy about the AGW / Natural GW debate is that it is a genuine raging scientific controversy, alive in our times, on a par with that of the �flat earth� or the �sun as the centre of the universe� (and it�s not hard to see how the egos and financial interests of the Mediaeval church got so hot under the collar that they resorted to execution to �prove� their point).

And it is a consequential debate, the outcome of which matters, which amusingly enough, will be settled not by ego or opinion, but by incontrovertible reality, a reality that will be demonstrated with hard work and integrity by scientists such as David Hathaway.

(My instincts and geological background suggest that AGW is probably just another Y2K, and that its chief promoter, AG, is just another politician running on ego and lining his pockets en route. But I may be shamefully wrong about both).
Anthony has been on quite the roll for the last couple of months and it is not uncommon to see leading Climate Scientists from around the world commenting on various posts. If you are interested in the climate and the scoence behind it, his blog is an excellent place to start reading. Again, Watts Up With That

Stop the Pain - part two

Came back from Acupuncture session tonight to 22 degrees air temp, five inches of white crap on the ground at the farm and complete whiteout conditions for parts of the drive home. Forecasted light snow mixed with rain my eye... The Powder Hounds will be ecstatic -- perfect conditions for Champagne Powder on the slopes but to have snow at 800 feet is too much, too often for our usual winters. Anthony Watts reports that it isn't just us:
Dumpus Maximus
Here is a weather curiosity. We've been hearing a lot about snowfall in the northern hemisphere this year. In Oslo, they have given up on trying to pile it up so they have resorted to dumping it in the sea. If this happened in Seattle they'd probably get into a tizzy for polluting Puget Sound with fresh water snow. And it is not just Oslo, the problem seems widespread. Here are some other news stories in London, UK Geneva, Ohio Chardon, OH Wasatch, UT Chicopee, MA and Rochester, NY where they say the piles are making driving dangerous. In Wenatchee, WA they want to spray warm sewage water on the snow to melt it. I know they could use the USHCN temperature sensor at the sewage treatment plant there to check the temperature to make sure conditions are right. Yeah, that's the ticket! - Anthony

Stop the Pain

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It's late February and it is snowing outside. It wasn't sticking an hour ago but it is now. Kneeling down in front of my Icon of the AlGoreacle and praying for some warming. That and firing up my truck for a run into town... Great for the skiers and boarders though!

A cool art installation

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A 200 foot long tunnel with 41,000 LEDs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Villareal "Multiverse" National Gallery of Art, Washington DC from Walter Patrick Smith on Vimeo.
Hat tip to Gizmodo for the link.

Take Microsoft Songsmith

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Feed it the data from various financial organizations. And here is the result:
A tip 'o the hat to the ever wonderful Miss Cellania for this link.

The one good thing Jimmy Carter ever did

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was to sign Senate Amendment 3534. From Reason Magazine:
Draft Dodgers
For DIY brewers, Prohibition lasted until 1978. But once unleashed, they revolutionized the industry.

For connoisseurs of Budweiser, the 1970s were a pale golden age. In every supermarket across the land, the King of Beers maintained its status as the grocery world�s most superfluous monarch, reigning over just a handful of domestic taste-alikes and one or two upstart imports. The American public had decided it liked its beer cheap, bland, and less filling, and the industry�which, after decades of consolidation, consisted of a mere 44 breweries in 1979�was happy to oblige. Consumers with a thirst for something tastier, or at least different, had few options. Things were so bad, in fact, that Coors, distributed in just 11 Western states, was considered such a rare delicacy in other parts of the country that bootlegged cases went for three times their retail price in New Jersey and Tennessee. Was it any wonder that the nation was feeling weak and watered down?

Then Jimmy Carter took pity on our wretched souls. In 1978 he signed Senate Amendment 3534, a portion of which gave each household permission to produce up to 200 gallons of tax-exempt beer each year.

Three decades later, the U.S. boasts 1,463 breweries, including 975 brewpubs. Bud Light and its analogs still dominate the market, but even your corner market may have at least a few selections to tempt the palate of Joe Microbrew: summer ales, double bocks, black lagers, maybe even a honey orange wheat ale. If you�re looking for a textbook example of how government can stifle innovation and discourage productive activity, even when operating in Regulatory Lite mode, the story of home brewing in America should hit the spot.

In colonial times, home-brew was as much a part of American life as burning witches or shooting Redcoats. George Washington had a brew house in his backyard. Thomas Jefferson gave beer-making seminars to friends at Monticello. By 1872, however, there were 3,421 commercial breweries in America, or roughly 17 times as many per capita as there are now, and home brewing was a less necessary endeavor.
Now we need to get the ability to distill legally - Europeans, Australia and New Zealand have this. Doesn't have to be 200 gallons -- 20 would be more than enough. Distilled Mead is glorious stuff...

WA State economists - not really

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Heh... The Tacoma News Tribune ran this article last Thursday:
Economists urge Legislature to raise taxes to deal with budget
Twenty-two of them signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and many of them will be meeting with Brown today (about an hour before Brown meets the press.)

Of course, these economists will be preaching to the choir. Brown, an economist, said before the 2009 Legislature session that tax increases have a "de-stimulating" effect on the economy. But that doesn't mean she thinks we should not raise taxes as part of the remedy for what is expected to be an $8 billion budget problem. Far from it.
Some digging was done and Eric Earling at Sound Politics came up with this:
"Economists" Who Support Tax Increases
Remember those "economists" who signed a letter urging the state to raise taxes? It turns out the Washington Policy Center discovered:
...that nearly half of letter signers, eleven of 28, are not economists. The non-economists include:
  • an associate professor of public health administration
  • a sustainable systems analyst
  • an assistant professor of social work
  • a research associate in sustainable agriculture
  • a public policy researcher
  • two historians
  • four professors of public affairs
Oops indeed...
From TMZ:
Bailout Bank Blows Millions Partying in L.A.
A bank that received $1.6 billion in bailout money just spent a fortune last week in L.A. hosting a series of lavish parties and concerts with famous singers ... and TMZ cameras caught it all.

Northern Trust, a Chicago-based bank, sponsored the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in L.A. We're told Northern Trust paid millions to sponsor the PGA event which ended Sunday, but what happened off the golf course is even more shocking.

Northern Trust flew hundreds of clients and employees to L.A. and put many of them up at some of the fanciest and priciest hotels in the city. We're told more than a hundred people were put up at the Beverly Wilshire in Bev Hills, and another hundred stayed at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Still more stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey and others at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica.
And to top it off:
Now how's this for outrage? Northern Trust laid off 450 workers in December, 4% of its workforce.

And here's what's absolutely amazing: The United States Government flat out gave Northern Trust the $1.6 billion in bailout money, and the bank didn't even request it!
These institutions will never learn -- this sort of behavior is embedded in their corporate DNA. Time to close them down...

California - spending money wisely

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From FOX News:
California School Spends $10G a Year to Teach AP Spanish to Kids Who Speak Spanish

A middle school in Southern California is spending $10,000 a year to teach Advanced Placement Spanish to 35 of its 650 students -- and all but one of them are already fluent in Spanish.

Thirty-four of the kids in the AP class are from Mexico or are the children of Mexican immigrants. They all grew up speaking Spanish at home.

The program -- the only one of its kind in California -- has outraged some critics who say they are concerned that the AP course wastes public resources � including taxpayer dollars � to teach native Spanish speakers how to speak their native language in an American public school.

�In public schools, Spanish speakers should put their focus on making sure that they are fluent in English and equipped to speak the kind of English that will open the doors of opportunity to them in this country,� says K.C. McAlpin, executive director of Pro English, a non-profit organization promoting English as the official language of the United States.
Advanced placement English I could understand. Spanish beggars the imagination...

Putting a name to the meltdown

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Financial crash on Wall Street? Blame this:
From Wired Magazine:
Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street
A year ago, it was hardly unthinkable that a math wizard like David X. Li might someday earn a Nobel Prize. After all, financial economists�even Wall Street quants�have received the Nobel in economics before, and Li's work on measuring risk has had more impact, more quickly, than previous Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the field. Today, though, as dazed bankers, politicians, regulators, and investors survey the wreckage of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, Li is probably thankful he still has a job in finance at all. Not that his achievement should be dismissed. He took a notoriously tough nut�determining correlation, or how seemingly disparate events are related�and cracked it wide open with a simple and elegant mathematical formula, one that would become ubiquitous in finance worldwide.

For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels.

His method was adopted by everybody from bond investors and Wall Street banks to ratings agencies and regulators. And it became so deeply entrenched�and was making people so much money�that warnings about its limitations were largely ignored.

Then the model fell apart. Cracks started appearing early on, when financial markets began behaving in ways that users of Li's formula hadn't expected. The cracks became full-fledged canyons in 2008�when ruptures in the financial system's foundation swallowed up trillions of dollars and put the survival of the global banking system in serious peril.

David X. Li, it's safe to say, won't be getting that Nobel anytime soon. One result of the collapse has been the end of financial economics as something to be celebrated rather than feared. And Li's Gaussian copula formula will go down in history as instrumental in causing the unfathomable losses that brought the world financial system to its knees.
That is something that is studiously avoided in large computing systems -- the Single Point of Failure. How they could have allowed this to happen in the Financial market is unconscionable, especially when there were warnings about its overuse... Especially when it was not their money to begin with.

That's it for the night

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Heading out to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then to bed. Long day today and tomorrow will be the same...

Like this is going to turn out well for the USA

From the UK Telegraph:

China prepares to buy up foreign oil companies
China is preparing to open a new phase in its race for the world's resources by using its huge currency reserves to buy foreign oil and gas companies.

This proposal may risk a backlash from countries who fear that China is using the world's economic crisis to tilt the balance of trade and diplomacy in its favour.

A conference of officials from the National Energy Administration has agreed to consider establishing a special fund for China's state-owned companies to buy oil and gas firms overseas. The beneficiaries would be the Beijing's three giant energy companies - Petrochina, Sinopec and CNOOC.

"Firms will be able to benefit from low-interest loans and, in some cases, direct capital injections," according to China Petroleum Daily.

This state money would be used to fund takeovers or mergers with resource companies abroad. Which foreign firms, if any, have been identified for takeover has not been disclosed. But the dramatic fall in oil prices since last summer, and the strains caused by recession, have driven down the share prices of many energy companies, making them more affordable targets for predatory competitors.

Jiang Jemin, the chairman of Petrochina, recently remarked that the "low share prices of some global resource companies provide us with fresh opportunities".

The possibility of a Chinese state subsidy for overseas acquisitions may ring alarm bells in Western economies. Four years ago, CNOOC tried to buy an American oil company, Unocal, and succeeded in outbidding its main US rival. But the Chinese firm eventually withdrew its offer amid opposition from American Congressmen. They opposed the idea of a private US firm falling into the lap of a state-owned company, bankrolled by the Chinese Communist Party.

This time, China may calculate that Western governments are in a weaker position to object. They are, after all, spending billions on taking over their own companies, notably the banking sector.

And Hillary is in the exact wrong place to be now -- our Sec. State needs to be ruthless -- Hillary has balls but they are in the pockets of the Chinese. Time for another Tea Party...

For a small town (population 200), there is a lot going on here... Our economy is primarily tourism based (with logging and agriculture coming in second and third) so events are scheduled and committees made. I'm on a few of these and had two meetings to attend. After posting the blurb about Hanson earlier today, I ran into this wonderful image:
So true...

Doctor James Hanson jumps the shark

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Doctor James Hanson is lending his voice to promote this group: Capitol Climate Action Slight problem -- in so doing, he is in direct violation of the Hatch Act of 1939 which prohibits Federal Employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Anthony Watts has the goods:
Jim Hansen supports civil disobedience
Some have said in the past that Jim Hansen of NASA GISS is no longer a scientist, but an advocate. Today, by his own hand, I believe that description rings true.
Here is what Greenpeace is using Dr. Hansen for:
It�s time to take a stand on global warming. Dr. James Hansen, an internationally-recognized climate scientist, calls for Americans to take part in the Capitol Climate Action on March 2 at the Capitol power plant in Washington DC � expected to be the largest display of civil disobedience against global warming in US history. Dr. Hansen warns that unless we stop burning coal, the country�s largest source of global warming pollution, young people will inherit a dramatically different world than the one we know. For more info visit capitolclimateaction.org.
Let us hope that nobody is injured or killed at this demonstration. Hansen may run afoul of the Hatch Act, see below.
What follows is a list of email addresses for people to use to protest this protest. This is getting downright ludicrous folks -- the science is sub-prime, the last ten years indicate cooling and the focus on CO2 is about making money and not on anything that could function as a greenhouse gas. They should be looking at water vapor if they were serious...
Funny turn-around up North. British Columbia generates about 80% of its electricity from Hydroelectricity. (BC Hydro) So, when people install Compact Fluorescent Lamps in their house (which are heated with Natural Gas) their overall Carbon footprint goes up. From the Vancouver Sun:
Energy-efficient bulbs increase greenhouse gases: BC Hydro
Because they burn cooler, they cause home heating costs to rise, utility reports

Compact fluorescent lights are a darling of the environmental movement, but they're also likely to cause a net increase in greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a BC Hydro document.

Over the past five years, Hydro's promotion of compact fluorescents, or CFLs, has been so effective that British Columbia is now a North American leader in using the energy-saving bulbs.

However, in a recent filing to the B.C. Utilities Commission, Hydro states that widespread adoption of CFLs will have unintended consequences for the environment.

That's because conventional incandescent light bulbs throw off a significant amount of heat, in addition to lighting a room, because they are inefficient users of electricity.

Switch to cool-burning fluorescents and you use less power -- but your house is bit colder so you turn up the thermostat to compensate.

If you live in a house with a gas furnace, you're going to burn more fuel -- and cause more greenhouse gas (GHG) to be emitted into the atmosphere.
You're damned if you do and damned if you don't...

Arlo Guthrie on the banking industry

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From the E3 Gazette who notes:
I'm Changing My Name To.. "Fannie Mae"
Our old buddy Don alerts us via the tip line that even Arlo Guthrie (not exactly known as a conservative) recognizes the unholy alliance between Fan/Fred, the banking industry, and the US government, is not a good thing for our nation. So he does what he does best, which is mercilessly mock them all.

Life in the economic paradise of Dubai

A three-fer from BoingBoing; First the workers (01/09/2009):
Dubai airport clogged with cars abandoned by fleeing construction workers
The roads around Dubai airport are clogged with abandoned cars left behind by guestworkers from the construction industry who are fleeing the country ahead of the economic collapse:
On the night of December 31, 2008 alone more than 80 vehicles were found at the airport. "Sixty cars were seized on the first day of this year," director general of Airport Security, Mohammed Bin Thani, told DNA over the phone. On the same day, deputy director of traffic, colonel Saif Mohair Al Mazroui, said they seized 22 cars abandoned at a prohibited area in the airport.

Faced with a cash crunch and a bleak future ahead, there were no goodbyes for the migrants -- overwhelmingly South Asians, mostly Indians - just a quiet abandoning of the family car at the airport and other places.

While 2,500 vehicles have been found dumped in the past four months outside Terminal III, which caters to all global airlines, Terminal II, which is only used by Emirates Airlines, had 160 cars during the same period...

"The construction and real estate industry has been hit following the global slowdown and the direct fallout is that professionals working in the realty industry are rapidly losing their jobs," said a senior media professional, in-charge of a realty supplement in Dubai. "In fact, my weekly real estate supplement usually had 60% advertisement and ran into 300-odd pages. In the last seven weeks, it's down to 80 pages and with fewer advertisments," he added.
Next, the businessmen (01/17/2009):
People are pouring out of Dubai
Excellent rant about what a crappy place Dubai is, and how people are getting the hell out.
Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world�s worst business idea, and there isn�t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.

It looks like Manhattan except that it isn�t the place that made Mingus or Van Allen or Kerouac or Wolfe or Warhol or Reed or Bernstein or any one of the 1001 other cultural icons from Bob Dylan to Dylan Thomas that form the core spirit of what is needed, in the absence of extreme toleration of vice, to infuse such edifices with purpose and create a self-sustaining culture that will prevent them crumbling into the empty desert that surrounds them.
And this video:
Lastly, the government weighs in (02/22/2009):
UAE plans ban on negative economic reporting
The United Arab Emirates is considering legislation that would criminalize publication of anything that would "harm the economy." Already, the local press is pulling back from their coverage of the steep decline in Dubai property values and the rise in deportations, voluntary departure, and abandonment of unsaleable assets, such as cars.
Instead of moving toward greater transparency, the emirates seem to be moving in the other direction. A new draft media law would make it a crime to damage the country�s reputation or economy, punishable by fines of up to 1 million dirhams (about $272,000). Some say it is already having a chilling effect on reporting about the crisis.

Last month, local newspapers reported that Dubai was canceling 1,500 work visas every day, citing unnamed government officials. Asked about the number, Humaid bin Dimas, a spokesman for Dubai�s Labor Ministry, said he would not confirm or deny it and refused to comment further. Some say the true figure is much higher.

�At the moment there is a readiness to believe the worst,� said Simon Williams, HSBC bank�s chief economist in Dubai. �And the limits on data make it difficult to counter the rumors.�
And the irony is that Dubai was supposed to be the economic engine that powered their kingdoms after their oil ran out. It will come back but not as strong as it was before -- investors will be shy and people that were forced to flee will not feel comfortable about coming back. Having an incomplete infrastructure doesn't help either...

Mouse the Horse

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Great story from Julie Carter over at The Westerner:
Where there's a will, there's always a way
Julie Carter

A bad-to-the-bone cowboy hates more than anything to be "footback," - without a horse.

Odds are the condition is caused by a cash flow problem, a regular experience for cowboys.

Dan was facing this predicament when good fortune smiled on him.

A friend of his offered him an outstanding grulla mare, for a minimal price.

His friend informed him the mare might possibly respond quicker to commands in Espa�ol.

No problemo, the cowboy was fluent in the language.

He was also told that she was a mite headstrong, but her speed, as in she could literally fly down the arena, would make up for that shortcoming.

As a further incentive to buying this mare, he was advised that she wore a solid No. 2 shoe, which the current owner had an ample supply and would throw them in as part of the deal.

Dan parted with his life savings of $600 and put himself horseback - where the real things of the world took place.

He test-drove Mouse at his friend's arena. Following the precept that if you can't have the one you love, love the one you have, Dan decided Mouse would be perfect.
Drink alert on the rest of the story...

Doing it right - buying a house

From This Goes to 11 comes this story of the correct way to buy a house:
The upside of the foreclosure "crisis"
A quick anecdotal observation:

I am in the mortgage business. Yesterday, I met with a 42-year old single mother. She is raising 2 teenagers in a crappy studio apartment in a crappy neighborhood.

She makes just over $25,000 a year. According to the government, she is officially in "poverty".

She does not have an X-box, plasma screen TV, or microwave oven.

She DOES have (and pays for) health insurance for her and her children.

She is a LEGAL immigrant from Mexico who entered our country legally, assimalated, learned English, and became a US citizen.

She drives a 1996 Toyota Corolla.

She has paid every bill on time and has perfect credit.

Somehow, she saved $8,000...$25 here, $50 there...

This weekend she bought a cute little foreclosed home for herself and her two children. Purchase price? $145,000.

The home was purchased by the previous owners for $409,000.
How come we never ever hear these stories in the MSM? This woman is a true American and I bet the kids are well-behaved and doing well in school...

A question of ethics

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The Mainstream Media is starting to notice that things aren't quite rite in Democrat Land***. From Google News/Associated Press:
Analysis: Democrats self-destructing over ethics
The Obama administration and the new Congress are quickly handing over to Republicans the same "culture of corruption" issue that Democrats used so effectively against the GOP before coming to power.

Freshman Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is only the latest embarrassment.

Senate Democrats accepted Burris because they believed what he told them: He was clean. Burris now admits he tried to raise money for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who authorities say sought to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

"The story seems to be changing day by day," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday.

The political mess for the Democratic Party, however, isn't Burris' conduct alone; it's the pattern that has developed so quickly over the past few months.
  • The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is the subject of a House ethics investigation. It's partly focused on his fundraising practices for a college center in his name, his ownership financing of a resort property in the Dominican Republic and his financial disclosure reports.
  • Federal agents raided two Pennsylvania defense contractors that were provided millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
  • Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges, including allegations he schemed to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder.
  • Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, abandoned his bid to become health and human services secretary and the administration's point man on reforming health care; and Nancy Killefer stepped down from a newly created position charged with eliminating inefficient government programs.

  • Both Daschle and Killefer had tax problems, and Daschle also faced potential conflicts of interest related to working with health care interests.
  • Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed after revealing he had tax troubles.
  • Obama's initial choice for commerce secretary, Bill Richardson, stepped aside due to a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors.
  • While the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, Obama had to waive his ethics regulations to place the former defense lobbyist in charge of day-to-day operations at the Pentagon.
***Although the Republicans aren't exactly lily white themselves... Interesting times -- on one hand, the Stimulus Package is doing some good work. On the other hand, about 80% of it is political favors being repaid and just plain Pork.

Killer Coal?

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An interesting pair of lists. The original post is from 2006 but the numbers have been updated through 2008:
U.S. coal mining deaths: 1990-2008
Here are the number of coal mining deaths in the United States, from 1990 through 2008, and the fatality rate (deaths per 200,000 work hours).
And here are the last three years:
2006: 47 deaths, .040.
2007: 33 deaths, .029.
2008: 29 deaths.
Compare and contrast to the other list -- China:
2006: 4,746 deaths.
2007: 3,786 deaths.
2008: More than 3,200.
More data at the site.

A lot of Links - Global Warming

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The Daily Bayonet has an excellent collection of links for your perusal:
Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Feb. 20th 2009
Welcome to the hottest weekly round-up since last week's edition. It's been a very busy week in the world of global warming changey-hoaxy, so I have a lot of links for you. In fact, if this post were a breakfast cereal I'd tell you that you're getting 20% more sugary goodness FREE, there's that much more stuff this week. Dip in and get your skeptic fill of news and laughs, you know you want to.
This one caught my eye:
The Soros Threat To Democracy
George Soros is known for funding groups such as MoveOn.org that seek to manipulate public opinion. So why is the billionaire's backing of what he believes in problematic? In a word: transparency.

How many people, for instance, know that James Hansen, a man billed as a lonely "NASA whistleblower" standing up to the mighty U.S. government, was really funded by Soros' Open Society Institute , which gave him "legal and media advice"?

That's right, Hansen was packaged for the media by Soros' flagship "philanthropy," by as much as $720,000, most likely under the OSI's "politicization of science" program.

That may have meant that Hansen had media flacks help him get on the evening news to push his agenda and lawyers pressuring officials to let him spout his supposedly "censored" spiel for weeks in the name of advancing the global warming agenda.

Hansen even succeeded, with public pressure from his nightly news performances, in forcing NASA to change its media policies to his advantage. Had Hansen's OSI-funding been known, the public might have viewed the whole production differently. The outcome could have been different.
The science is not 'settled'. All indications point towards a temporary warming trend which is ending. The Kyoto models don't account for the sun which is entering a cooling phase.

Today's quote of the day week Year

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Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.
Emphasis mine. The speaker? Dwight D. Eisenhower The speech: his "Military-Industrial Complex Speech" from 48 years ago. There were two warnings in that speech. Everyone remembers this one:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
We need to remember the other warning as well... A big hat tip to Anthony Watts who reminded me of the "other" warning.

Not just Jindal

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Earlier today, I ran into this news item about how Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was rejecting part of the bailout money as the strings attached were too draconian for his liking. Turns out, it's not just him. From ABC News:
Offered Millions, Some Govs Just Say No
The nation's governors descended on the capital this weekend to consider how to spend their share of the $787 billion economic stimulus and to lay the groundwork for more federal largess to come.

Nearly all the governors have been demanding help from Washington for months, and 46 states are facing budget shortfalls. Some have already been forced to lay off workers. So they need the money, but at least four Republican governors say they will turn at least some of it away.

Leading the critics was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

"The stimulus is a huge mistake," Sanford told ABC News, "a political promise that's been made but not paid for."

Sanford said he would reject unemployment insurance because of what he said were federal strings attached to it, and also said he would not take $42 million in funding for green buildings.

Like Sanford, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi said he would reject the federal unemployment extension money, which requires that states extend the benefits to workers laid off from part-time jobs.

"We will not be accepting unemployment insurance money because it requires us to have a significant tax increase in the future," Barbour told ABC. "Most states like Mississippi do not allow people to get unemployment compensation unless they are willing and able to take a full-time job."
A bit more -- from a Democrat:
Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, the head of the National Governors Association, which sponsored the event this weekend, had a message for the gubernatorial critics.

"If you don't take that money on ideological grounds, the only ones you're hurting are the citizens of your state," Rendell told ABC News. "So suck it up, say you disagree but say that you're going to take it because it's going to be helpful to the citizens of your state."
No, it is not hurting the citizens of the state to refuse to give unemployment for part-time jobs. If you don't want to work full-time***, you should not be receiving the benefits. Removing $12M from the workers paychecks each and every year will be hurting them a lot more. *** By full-time, I mean people who have the same shifts each and every week, even if they do not work 40 hours. We have people at the store who only work 10-15 hours over the two week pay-period and we are still putting money into their unemployment accounts. My praise for Jindal is that he recognized this and realized that if he took money from the Federal teat, this would require a major change in the Louisiana state law regarding unemployment in the future. The United States of America is a federated Republic of States and States Rights are paramount.

Amazon books - a list of weird ones

Quite the list of book titles. From Amazon comes:

Amazon Oddities and Weirdness: The Books
The list author says: "Amazon started off primarily as a book-seller, so I decided to start my listing of weird Amazon items with books. The list is of items that are, in and of themselves, weird, odd, insane, or offbeat. So this isn't a listing of great works of literature that are weird. These are weird items from a glance."
Heading up the list at Number One: How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday

From one of the reviewers:

In a flurry of humor, depression, and morbid curiosity, I actually went and bought this damn book. I haven't read it cover to cover, but I've digested a good chunk of it. A significant portion of it is dedicated to reprinting USENET posts, where Nishigaki posts his ideas to a depression newsgroup, and every other poster gets completely and utterly baffled. The first few chapters are just this sense of back and forth. Then it launches into heavy theory, written in that zesty sense of "Engrish" as seen in the description. Its method for combating depression is something that I have yet to even consider trying, but as a general humor book, this is probably one of the funniest and most bizarre reads you'll encounter. I still randomly open to a page, read it, and feel better about whatever the heck was bringing me down in the first place. Get this book for comedy, not for advice.
The remaining 39 books in the list are just as bizarre and curious.

Agriculture in Florida

Bad news but hope. From Gourmet Magazine:

Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes
If you have eaten a tomato this winter, chances are very good that it was picked by a person who lives in virtual slavery.

Driving from Naples, Florida, the nation's second-wealthiest metropolitan area, to Immokalee takes less than an hour on a straight road. You pass houses that sell for an average of $1.4 million, shopping malls anchored by Tiffany's and Saks Fifth Avenue, manicured golf courses. Eventually, gated communities with names like Monaco Beach Club and Imperial Golf Estates give way to modest ranches, and the highway shrivels from six lanes to two. Through the scruffy palmettos, you glimpse flat, sandy tomato fields shimmering in the broiling sun. Rounding a long curve, you enter Immokalee. The heart of town is a nine-block grid of dusty, potholed streets lined by boarded-up bars and bodegas, peeling shacks, and sagging, mildew-streaked house trailers. Mongrel dogs snooze in the shade, scrawny chickens peck in yards. Just off the main drag, vultures squabble over roadkill. Immokalee's population is 70 percent Latino. Per capita income is only $8,500 a year. One third of the families in this city of nearly 25,000 live below the poverty line. Over one third of the children drop out before graduating from high school.

Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area's largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is "ground zero for modern slavery."

The beige stucco house at 209 South Seventh Street is remarkable only because it is in better repair than most Immokalee dwellings. For two and a half years, beginning in April 2005, Mariano Lucas Domingo, along with several other men, was held as a slave at that address. At first, the deal must have seemed reasonable. Lucas, a Guatemalan in his thirties, had slipped across the border to make money to send home for the care of an ailing parent. He expected to earn about $200 a week in the fields. Cesar Navarrete, then a 23-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, agreed to provide room and board at his family's home on South Seventh Street and extend credit to cover the periods when there were no tomatoes to pick.

Lucas's 'room' turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas's pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.

But when Lucas 'slightly built and standing less than five and a half feet tall' inquired about the balance, Navarrete threatened to beat him should he ever try to leave. Instead of providing an accounting, Navarrete took Lucas's paychecks, cashed them, and randomly doled out pocket money, $20 some weeks, other weeks $50. Over the years, Navarrete and members of his extended family deprived Lucas of $55,000.

Taking a day off was not an option. If Lucas became ill or was too exhausted to work, he was kicked in the head, beaten, and locked in the back of the truck. Other members of Navarrete's dozen-man crew were slashed with knives, tied to posts, and shackled in chains. On November 18, 2007, Lucas was again locked inside the truck. As dawn broke, he noticed a faint light shining through a hole in the roof. Jumping up, he secured a hand hold and punched himself through. He was free.

What happened at Navarrete's home would have been horrific enough if it were an isolated case. Unfortunately, involuntary servitude - slavery - is alive and well in Florida. Since 1997, law-enforcement officials have freed more than 1,000 men and women in seven different cases. And those are only the instances that resulted in convictions. Frightened, undocumented, mistrustful of the police, and speaking little or no English, most slaves refuse to testify, which means their captors cannot be tried. "Unlike victims of other crimes, slaves don't report themselves," said Molloy, who was one of the prosecutors on the Navarrete case. "They hide from us in plain sight."

Fortunately, there is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and they are doing a lot to help these poor people.

Like they say, buy local, grow your own and change your diet to reflect the changes in the seasons.

Here is one site dedicated to this trend: Locavores.

Here is the WikiPedia entry: Local Food

A not-so-good benefit of extreme sports

It seems that extreme mountain climbing can be bad for your brain. From the New York Times:

Mountain Climbing Bad for the Brain
If you've ever fantasized about scaling Mount Everest, think again. A new study of professional mountain climbers shows that high-altitude climbing causes a subtle loss of brain cells and motor function.

Italian researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to look at the brains of nine world-class mountain climbers who had at least 10 years of experience, including expeditions to Mount Everest and K2. The climbers ranged in age from 31 to 52, with an average age of just under 38, and were used to climbing to altitudes of at least 4,000 meters (two-and-a-half miles, or over 13,000 feet) several times a year.

The scientists, who published their findings in the October issue of the European Journal of Neurology, compared the climbers' M.R.I. brain scans with 19 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects. A number of neuropsychological tests were also carried out to assess the climbers' cognitive abilities, including memory and motor functions.

On scans, the climbers showed a reduction in both white and gray matter in various parts of the brain. Overall, the researchers found that the cognitive abilities that were most likely to be affected were the climbers' executive function and memory.

Makes a lot of sense -- spending that much time in the Death Zone has got to have some adverse long-term effects. An abstract of the paper is here: Reduced oxygen due to high-altitude exposure relates to atrophy in motor-function brain areas

The always classy Clintons

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Hat tip to Charles at LGF for this link -- from Yahoo/AFP:
Activists 'shocked' at Clinton stance on China rights
Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.

Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.

"But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis," Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was "shocked and extremely disappointed" by Clinton's remarks.

"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues," he said.

"But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights in China," he said.

Students for a Free Tibet said Clinton's remarks sent the wrong signal to China at a sensitive time.

"The US government cannot afford to let Beijing set the agenda," said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of the New York-based advocacy group.
And what makes this waffling even more poignant:
China has greeted President Barack Obama's administration nervously, believing he would press Beijing harder on human rights and trade issues than former president George W. Bush.
We had them on the fucking ropes and we let them not only walk away, we let them set their own agendas. Talk about piss-poor management, the Clintons have always been in the pockets of the Chinese and this proves it... 2010 and 2012 are not that far away!
While the people in Congress that voted on it didn't read the bill, I'm glad that at least one Governor did. There is a lot of "free" money being handed out but there are some not--so--free strings attached. From New Orleans station WWL:
Jindal rejects unemployment money in stimulus
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday he doesn't want Louisiana to tap into $98 million in stimulus money for expanding unemployment benefits for thousands of people who wouldn't normally be eligible to receive them.

The Republican governor repeatedly had said he wasn't sure the state should draw down all the stimulus money it's eligible to receive, but the announcement was the first detail he's offered about dollars he wants to refuse.

However, Jindal - one of several GOP heads of state considering turning away some of the stimulus - said he wants Louisiana to use money earmarked for boosting unemployment aid by $25 a week and for road and bridge work.

The rest of Louisiana's share of the federal package still was under review, Jindal said.
And the reason?
The dollars that Jindal intends to reject could provide unemployment aid to 4,000 to 6,000 more Louisiana residents, the state labor department estimates. But the acceptance would require a permanent change in state law that would force businesses to pay higher unemployment taxes once the federal dollars run out, Jindal said.

The labor department projects it would cost businesses an extra $12 million a year after the stimulus money ends - in less than three years.
Emphasis mine -- looks like Jindal is in favor of business owners. Very cool! The idea that a federal grant like this could carry such draconian strings makes me wonder what else is in the Porkulus package and how many states will adopt the quick and free money without realizing the impact of the strings attached.

Change - three examples and a heads up

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From Theo:

A shift in the spam spew

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The overall level of comment spam has dropped quite a bit. Nice to get some peace and quiet from the script kiddies. Yesterday and today though, there is a new "signature" out there. I have been having single computers repeatedly hammer on the blog with the same spam message over and over and over again. Both from the East Coast -- today's was North Carolina with 35 attempts spread out over the last six hours. The system at would send out precisely five attempts every 50 minutes (+/- five). Needless to say, not one of these posts was successful and the moke is now in our blocking file.


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Had his 200th B-Day a week ago. Swiped from Charles at Little Green Footballs who got it from Mikero.

The Big Picture @ Work

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Newspapers used to have a special rotogravure section (here and here) each week featuring interesting pictorials -- The Boston Globe is reviving this feature with their 3X weekly "Big Picture" This week, the theme is At Work and it features 45 gorgeous photographs from around the world.

New York State buys a boat

New York State needed another ferry boat. Here is what they bought. From the Albany, NY Times Union:
State sinks $500K into bad boat
Ferry boat for Governors Island development project found to be junk

A ferry boat for New York Harbor, purchased by taxpayers for $500,000, has turned out to be a useless rusting hulk officials are now desperately trying to sell on eBay.

Top bid so far: $14,800.

New York taxpayers bought the boat, called the Islander, in August 2007. After decades of trips between Woods Hole and Martha's Vineyard, a Massachusetts authority had put it up for auction.

"We were the winning bidder," said Jon Meyers, director of real estate for the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corp. He added that the state got the boat for $250,000 less than the asking price from the Martha's Vineyard and Woods Hole Steamship Authority.

But Meyer said the 200-foot passenger and car carrier has never been used since: Once it got to New York Harbor, inspectors realized it was not seaworthy. In fact, it had been run beyond its lifespan.

Fixing it would cost $6 million for steel work alone to get it in shape for its intended purpose backing up a 50-year-old vessel called the Coursen, which transports people between Manhattan and Governors Island hourly from 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A week ago, the state Office of General Services moored the rusted vessel on eBay. The three-deck ferry has been on auction for a week. Thursday's top offer of $14,800 at press time came after 34 bids.
Cannot find the boat auction on eBay so it was either pulled or it closed with a successful sale. You think that the sales contract would stipulate that the boat successfully pass a marine survey. What lunkhead signed off on that boondoggle?

A fun aspect to your daily commute

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Quite the cool driveway - from Jalopnik:

What could quite possibly be the coolest driveway ever was found outside of Lakeland, Florida. Our friends at The Car Lounge used Google Earth to get a closer view of this killer not-so-mini racetrack driveway.

If you look closely you'll notice that he's even installed FIA curbs to each of the corners. We're wondering what kind of ride he has lurking under those trees - a shifter kart, some Italian muscle or what.
Very cool!

Fun with servers

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Check out The Gallery of Exploding Servers:
Some servers die quietly in their racks, with little fanfare. But not these servers. Some failed to meet expectations. Others were found to be convenient fodder for marketing stunts. All of them had their demise preserved on video and posted on the Internet. We present the Data Center Knowledge Gallery of Exploding Servers, with some falling and crushing servers thrown in for good measure. (Note: please don�t try any of this at home, or anywhere else. If you have issues with your servers, live vicariously through these videos).

The recession and Beer

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An interesting chart -- compare the price of Beer with the GDP adjusted for inflation. From Five Thirty Eight:
BREAKING: Beer No Longer Recession-Proof
The chart that follows details the quarterly change in alcohol purchased for home consumption, adjusted for inflation and dating all the way back to 1959. We can compare this against the quarterly change in real GDP:

As you can see, there has generally not been much of a relationship between alcohol purchases and changes in GDP -- the correlation is essentially zero. Nor have alcohol purchases historically been any kind of lagging or leading indicator.

But something was very, very different in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sales of alcohol for off-premises consumption were down by 9.3 percent from the previous quarter, according to the Commerce Department. This is absolutely unprecedented: the largest previous drop had been just 3.7 percent, between the third and fourth quarters of 1991.

Beer accounts for almost all of the decrease, with revenues off by almost 14 percent. Wine and spirits were much more stable, with sales volumes declining by 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.
We have noticed this very much at the store. Grocery sales have risen (meaning that people aren't driving into town to shop) but luxury items have fallen.

Shovel Ready

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Swiped from the Cajun:
Click to embiggen...
By Michael Ramirez

Tastes like... Chicken?

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From National Geographic News:
PHOTO IN THE NEWS: "Extinct" Bird Seen, Eaten


A rare quail from the Philippines was photographed for the first time before being sold as food at a poultry market, experts say.

Found only on the island of Luzon, Worcester's buttonquail was known solely through drawings based on dated museum specimens collected several decades ago.

Scientists had suspected the species�listed as "data deficient" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 2008 Red List�was extinct.
There are new species being discovered every week and since people thought this critter was extinct, there haven't been people out looking for it.

Watch it with Neodymium magnets

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Not going to publish the photos as they are not for the faint of heart but check out Dirk's story:
Dirk's Accident
Dirk had an accident. Below is the X-ray showing his totally crushed finger tip. It took 1 1/2 hours of surgery to remove the shattered bones and repair the damage. Medically speaking, he crushed his right index finger distal phalange. The magnets had a 50 cm (20 inch) separation when they decided to fly together.
Yikes -- these are a lot of fun to play with but be very very careful. And it's not just the big ones -- a child can swallow several small ones and they can pinch through the intestine if they line up right...

Jackson's Junk

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Ex Pop Star Michael Jackson is selling off a lot of his crap. Auction is being handled by Julien's on April 21st � 25th, 2009. Browsing through the catalogs is fascinating. He has a lot of great stuff and a lot of utter crap. A big hat tip to Neatorama for the link.

WTF - farming in the news

Talk about trying to micromanage those very people who are growing your food. From the Hanover, Pennsylvania Evening Sun:
Farms must control odor
New rules aim to help farms' neighbors

New state odor regulations aimed at keeping the peace between big farms and their neighbors take effect next week.

The rules will force farms known as CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, to get state approval for an odor-management plan for a new or expanded barn or manure-storage facility. The regulations will not affect existing farm buildings.

The new rules are especially important with increasing sprawl in farm communities, Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said.

"These new regulations are geared to help minimize conflict be tween those not accustomed to farm odors and the agricultural producers working to meet our increasing world food needs," Wolff said in a news release.
Thank God our county has right-to-farm statutes. These people moving out from the city onto a few acres of land need to know that there will be sounds and smells coming from the farm and come harvest time, the trucks and tractors are working in the field from dawn to dusk. We just finished a long battle with the county planning board -- they wanted to take a nearby community and railroad a bunch of growth there. A developer was wanting to put in about 800 houses and a 40 acre shopping development. The majority of the people who live out here do so because the rural character is something that they treasure so the public meetings on this ruling were well attended and the comments were hot on both sides of the issue. Fortunately, the decision was made to put that area under LAMIRD status (Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development) which allows for some development but only in a very small area. This was a major concern to us as this is the last bit of really rural land in the Pacific Northwest. There are large pieces of land closer in to Bellingham but they are working farms. Nothing with the mountain views and the two creeks we have on our property.

Islamic loonies in England

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What a whiny bunch of self-absorbed little pigs -- from the UK Telegraph:
Bible moved to library top shelf over inequality fears
Muslims have complained that the Koran is often displayed on the lower shelves, which is deemed offensive as many believe the holy book should be placed above "commonplace things".

Now library officials in one city have been told to keep all holy books, including the Bible, on the top shelves in the interests of equality.

It has caused concern from Christian charities that this will put the Bible out of the reach and sight of many people.
Here is how these people appear to me:
Well color me surprised. From Yahoo News/AFP:
Biofuels may speed up, not slow global warming: study
The use of crop-based biofuels could speed up rather than slow down global warming by fueling the destruction of rainforests, scientists warned Saturday.

Once heralded as the answer to oil, biofuels have become increasingly controversial because of their impact on food prices and the amount of energy it takes to produce them.

They could also be responsible for pumping far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they could possibly save as a replacement for fossil fuels, according to a study released Saturday.

"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks," warned Holly Gibbs, of Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment.
Well duuuhhh... If I was king:
  • Nuclear power for electricity.
  • A $500M investment to these people: EMC2
  • Nuclear powered conversion of coal into liquid fuels (Fischer-Tropsch)
That would take about ten years to fully implement, would kill our dependence on foreign oil, would provide clean electrical power for the next five hundred years or so (we have lots of Uranium and Thorium). If the Polywell Fusion pans out, Energy will no longer be an issue. The US Navy is funding them but not to the levels that they need to move forward.

Life in a small town - Los Alamos

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The folks at Atomic Nerds have posted a wonderful story about life in Los Alamos:
Mayberry, With Extra Pu238
Peter, the Bayou Renaissance Man, along with a fairly good sized chunk of the rest of the nation, has noticed that Los Alamos National Labs has once again done screwed up (article courtesy of him). To people outside the town, and frankly to a good number here too, these ongoing security problems boggle the mind. How could we go from developing the bomb in near total secrecy to this current shoddy state of affairs where classified material can be found in meth labs?

If you�re one of the people asking those questions, I think the most accurate response is another question: Mister, you�re not from around here, are you?

I suppose it�s probably best to start with the basics. Los Alamos, and its detached suburb White Rock, holds around 20,000 people, give or take a few thousand. Roughly eight or nine thou live in White Rock, with the rest �on the hill.� That�s not the smallest small town in America by any stretch, but I think it�s a safe bet to say it�s the smallest small town that could manufacture the capacity to destroy all life on this planet. We have more PhDs per square mile than any other place on earth, including MIT. The town itself is very small, roughly 100 square miles, much of which is mountain-goat steep. Locals joke that the only way our high school football team can advance the ball is to put it on the field and just let it roll end over end towards the goal post. There isn�t a whole lot of land that�s suitable to build housing on, and that�s reflected in the local market for such. Surrounded by federal land such as Bandelier National Monument, the huge tracts of acreage that LANL occupies, and the Indian Reservations, we don�t have much in the way of expansion options either. That means you have to actually want to live here to find a place and stay in it.

Penn and Teller - an oldie but a goodie

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Penn and Teller prank Dr. Arno Penzias in this 1989 video. Dr. Penzias is the head of Bell Labs, Nobel Prizewinner for Physics (Cosmic Background Radiation) A very fun eight minutes.

Nutcases in Bellingham

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I can't fathom how anyone can take this seriously. From the Bellingham Herald:
Blaine woman trying to get anti-evolution initiative on state ballot
Kim Struiksma doesn't think evolution should be taught in schools.

So the 25-year-old Blaine resident, along with a group of friends from her church, have fashioned Initiative 1040, which "concerns a supreme ruler of the universe."

The initiative would prohibit "state use of public money or lands for anything that denies or attempts to refute the existence of a supreme ruler of the universe, including textbooks, instruction or research," according to paperwork filed on the Washington Secretary of State's Web site.
Jen and I are both deeply spiritual and we both have strong science backgrounds. Evolution is a fact of life -- there is so much evidence for it that to claim anything else is to mis-use your God-given intelligence and to shut your God-given eyes to the truth. Next, they will be taking up Bishop James Ussher's robes and claim that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And these ninnies want to regulate what public school children are taught...
This beggars belief -- from the New York Times:
E.P.A. Expected to Regulate Carbon Dioxide
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.

The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States� negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.

The environmental agency is under order from the Supreme Court to make a determination whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers public health and welfare, an order that the Bush administration essentially ignored despite near-unanimous belief among agency experts that research points inexorably to such a finding.
We should not 'negotiate' at the United Nations. We are a sovereign nation and beholden to nobody. The E.P.A. is the perfect example of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy that I referred to yesterday:
In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.
The effect that CO2 has on the overall temperature is minimal. A couple hundred parts per million either way is not going to make any major change compared to other gases like water vapor. The sun is the key driver of climate -- something that Kyoto failed to address. The whole CO2 cap and trade bullshit is political and not based on anything that could be considered to be sound science. It's a way to impose a tax on businesses that are successful. I am all about being green and saving resources but when the government does such a passive-aggressive stunt like this, I cannot help but see that all they are for is their own Benjamin's -- this is not about "Saving the Earth", the Earth is just fine. It's about entrenched power and the Cultural Marxism that is creeping out of academia and into our current lives. Looking forward to 2010 and 2012. On firearms blogs, people have been observing that guns and ammo are becoming very hard to find. A lot of people are stockpiling food. It's going to be an interesting couple of years...

Quite the tip

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From United Press International:
$250B hotel tip worthless in Britain
Employees at a British hotel said they were ecstatic to receive a $250 billion tip -- until they discovered the money was Zimbabwean and worthless in Britain.

Clare Vidler, duty manager at the Metropole Hotel in Leeds, England, said a group left 25 billion-dollar notes for hotel staff before embarking on their trip back to Zimbabwe, where inflation is 23 million percent, The Sun reported Wednesday.

"We thought we'd won the jackpot and imagined how we'd spend it. Then we realized it wouldn't even buy a penny chew," hotel worker Deborah Heather told The Sun.
The rumor has been floating around that the Mugabe family has a bolt-hole in Asia somewhere and they are planning to flee. The idiot should stand trial and rot in jail for all that he has done...

Detroit's Zoo - doing business in a corrupt city

An article about an abandoned Zoo in Detroit with a subtext of what the levels of corruption are like there. Check out Where the wild things aren't One brief excerpt:
In 2002, disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick closed the Belle Isle Children's Zoo despite opposition from the City Council, claiming the pressure of the city's $75 million budget deficit. City council overrode his veto and freed up $700,000 to reopen the zoo. In that year's November election 88 percent of Detroit voters approved a nonbinding ballot initiative to reopen it. Kilpatrick ignored both and shuttered the zoo, shipping off the animals and calling the move temporary. "We need to really figure out what we want there," Kilpatrick said. Of course the "temporary" closure became permanent. Kilpatrick used money appropriated for the reopening of the zoo to fund a "Nature Center" on the most remote and unvisited part of the 982-acre island, including $1 million for a brand new enclosure for the island's dwindling herd of 20 fallow deer.

Seven companies submitted bids to build it, and the city building authority (run by the mayor's cousin), selected a company that had never before built an animal enclosure against the bids of several experienced zoo contractors. The first act of the winning bidder was to subcontract the construction to a company owned by the former mayor's longtime best friend (and fellow convicted felon) Bobby Ferguson [source], a man who has benefited from an untold number of similar schemes over the years (to the tune of hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars). That is how business is done in the city of Detroit.
Lots of photos of the abandoned structures.
Impossible to excerpt. Check out Caravan (a Caravan is what the Brits call a house trailer)

The Stimulus Package

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BOHICA* As much as I am opposed to this steaming pile of pork, I am really pleased that they are being transparent about it. Check out Recovery.gov From this page on the website:
The President has made it clear that every taxpayer dollar spent on our economic recovery must be subject to unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability. He has identified five crucial objectives for Federal agencies, to ensure that:
  • Recovery funds are awarded and distributed in a prompt, fair, and reasonable manner;
  • The recipients and uses of all recovery funds are transparent to the public, and that the public benefits of these funds are reported clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner;
  • Recovery funds are used for authorized purposes and every step is taken to prevent instances of fraud, waste, error, and abuse;
  • Projects funded under the recovery legislation avoid unnecessary delays and cost overruns; and,
  • Programs meet specific goals and targets, and contribute to improved performance on broad economic indicators.
To meet these objectives, the President is directing Federal agencies to take critical steps in preparation for the Act�s implementation. See here, for the White House�s February 9, 2009 initial implementation memorandum and February 18 detailed guidance memorandum.
It will be interesting to see what level of transparency is really published. There might be some very privacy-loving pigs out there who would not appreciate having the light of public scrutiny shone into their stys... *BOHICA = Bend Over, Here It Comes Again

The Flu Wiki

Haven't delved too deeply into it but it looks to be a good collection point for various flu data. Check out the Flu Wiki

Fixing Detroit?

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Two interesting articles comparing the current automobile industry with the steel industry of the 1970's. From A Brief History:
The car czar and why it won�t happen
There was considerable discussion about Obama appointing a �car czar� to solve the problems of the Big Three auto makers. That has now been canceled. Why ? This might explain it:
President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will appoint, not a �car czar,� but a �Presidential Task Force for Autos� to �fix� the Detroit Three. The task force will headed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, but it is the first name appointed by Geithner � �Senior Advisor� Ron Bloom � is of real interest for a number of reasons.
Ron Bloom is the UAW�s man in the administration. The only chance to solve the Big Three�s problems is bankruptcy. Not only are their union contracts too expensive, the work rules and other adversarial factors in the relationship will prevent the auto makers from restructuring and becoming competitive once again.
Bloom (and Keilin) made their reputation battling steel companies which, burdened by excessive union costs, suffered through a very similar experience to the Detroit Three thirty years ago. In fact, as the New York Times�s David Streitfeld points out in this superb article, five U.S. steel companies received over $300 million in bailout loans from the Carter Administration in the 1970s.
They still ended up in bankruptcy but, in the meantime, the unions had extracted millions in additional money from the taxpayer. Mickey Kaus knows what the problem is but Obama isn�t interested. This will be another boondoggle and will cost millions, if not billions.

But what�s a billion between friends
And this article at the New York Times:
Is Steel�s Revival a Model for Detroit?
A few years ago, an industry whose history and mythology were indelible parts of the American identity was dying. The great steel mills of Pennsylvania and the Midwest had literally built this country, but the twin burdens of competition and self-inflicted wounds had brought them to the edge of extinction.

If they were allowed to go under, their partisans warned, the consequences would ripple through the economy at a cost too high to bear. The old saying, �As steel goes, so goes the nation,� was as much a threat as a boast.

The Detroit automakers are using the same argument as they seek a $25 billion bailout from Congress. �What happens in the automotive industry affects each and every one of us,� a General Motors Web site declares, warning that the consequences of a shutdown would be �devastating.�

Yet steel�s savior was not the government bailouts it ardently sought but exactly what it so long tried to avoid: bankruptcy. Only when the companies failed were they successfully slimmed down and retooled into smaller but profitable ventures. As debate continues over what, if anything, should be done for G.M., Ford and Chrysler, the steel industry may offer a model.
And a bit more showing the infinite wisdom of my favorite president:
The steel industry was beginning its long stumble when it turned to Washington for help in the late 1970s. The Carter administration responded by committing $300 million in loan guarantees to five struggling companies. Nearly a third of the funds went to help Wisconsin Steel, a Chicago outfit that had been around since the previous century.

Thanks to a strike at a key customer, Wisconsin Steel promptly went under. The company locked its gates one winter day without even bothering to notify its 3,000 employees that their wages were history. So was most of the government�s money.
As I have said in other posts, I am not a big fan of organized labor. Back 100 years ago, when there was only one major place to work in most towns and when people did not move as often as they do today, the large businesses had a captive labor market and if someone quit over bad working conditions or poor pay, there would be twenty people lined up to apply for that job. The companies took advantage of this. Now, the labor pool is a lot more flexible and companies have "seen the light" regarding keeping their employees happy. So why is organized labor still thumping around the landscape making things bad for everyone. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy comes to mind:
In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.
President Obama, let them sink...
From Neatorama: Gin & Titonic Ice Tray
Ice ahoy! Go ahead and make your party's fun unsinkable with this Gin & Titonic (get it?) ice cube tray. Be sure to watch your guests' faces light up as you hand them their drinks chilled with Titanic and icebergs (and be sure to tell 'em you're King of the World!)

The hot new toy - "Smash-Me Bernie"

From United Press International:

Toy lets consumers 'smash' Madoff
A toy that lets users trash the likeness of Ponzi scheme investment mastermind Bernard Madoff was unveiled this week at the New York Toy Fair.

The "Smash-Me Bernie" toy, which has a $99.95 price tag, resembles the disgraced investor dressed in a red devil suit and includes a hammer for consumers to smash the figure, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Heh... Order here.

The bail-out funds

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Remember TARP -- the Troubled Asset Relief Program? Wonder where some of that money is going? Here are three interconnected stories: From Huffington Post:
Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.
From Overruled:
Banks Spend TARP Funds on Anti-Consumer Lobbying Campaign
Last month, the Huffington Post�s Sam Stein reported that three days after Bank of America accepted $25 billion in TARP funds, it hosted a conference call with movement conservatives and business heavyweights in order to organize opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, a key bill intended to protect the right of workers to organize and join unions. Two weeks later, Change to Win discovered that the Financial Services Roundtable, a financial industry lobbying group whose members received 78% of the hundreds of billions of dollars distributed by the TARP program, intended to host a meeting of CEOs at a $530/night resort on the Gulf of Mexico, where they could coordinate their anti-worker lobbying campaign.

The banking industry�s efforts to limit the rights of the American worker, even as it is kept afloat by hundred of billions in taxpayer dollars, is shameful�and it is only the tip of the iceberg. According to lobbying disclosure forms recently filed in Congress, the banking industry has engaged in a massive anti-consumer lobbying campaign at the same time that received TARP funds intended to rescue the industry from insolvency.

As of February 11, 2009, Bank of America has received $45 billion in TARP funds�$15 billion in direct aid to Bank of America, $20 billion to fund its purchase of Merrill Lynch, and another $10 billion in direct aid to Merrill Lynch itself. Accordingly, to provide a window into how the financial industry has focused its lobbying efforts since it started accepting taxpayer funds, this report examines the fourth quarter 2008 lobbying disclosure reports from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and from the Financial Services Roundtable itself. During this period when the industry relied on TARP funds to remain afloat, it lobbyied on a number of bills intended to stop some of the industry�s most exploitative practices.
And finally, from Change to Win:
In Which I Explain to the Wall Street Journal How Free Speech Works
Take a look at that picture. Sure looks like a nice place, huh?

It�s a plush Florida getaway on the Gulf of Mexico that includes three miles of white-sand beaches, a 51,000 square-foot spa, a 36-hole golf course, three pools (two heated and an �interactive� one for the kids, whatever that means), and six restaurants.

Naturally, access to all that doesn�t come cheap; room rates start at $530/night.

Now, if you�ve got that kind of money and you want to spend it on a vacation at a luxury resort, more power to you. But if you want to go there on my dime � and use your time there to figure out ways to limit my human rights, no less � that�s a different matter altogether.

Which is why we were alarmed to discover that the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR) � the lobbying organization for the banking industry � was organizing a meeting there that would bring together CEOs from several bailed-out banks to coordinate their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.
Now, I am not a big fan of organized labor -- they had their day but are now more a dinosaur serving little evolutionary purpose. Still, this is dirty politics and the idea that it's being paid for on my (and your) dime is downright nasty.... These mokes get their nickers in a bunch, come to us for a bailout and go and do the same kind of behavior that got them in dire straits in the first place. I am glad that we took all of our and all of my Dad's accounts out of the banks and into a local credit union...

Living in the city is not good for you

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Well Duuuhhhh - could have told you that from the start. I put my time in Boston and Seattle and moved out here as soon as I could afford to. From the Boston Globe:
How the city hurts your brain
The city has always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars of modern Paris, where Pablo Picasso held forth on modern art. Without the metropolis, we might not have had the great art of Shakespeare or James Joyce; even Einstein was inspired by commuter trains.

And yet, city life isn't easy. The same London cafes that stimulated Ben Franklin also helped spread cholera; Picasso eventually bought an estate in quiet Provence. While the modern city might be a haven for playwrights, poets, and physicists, it's also a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place.

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting -- that's why Picasso left Paris -- this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
We live about thirty miles away from a smallish-sized city (120K) and love it -- far away enough to not intrude in the quiet but close enough that a shopping run is not a major expedition. Plus, Bellingham is the closest major USA Port city to Alaska so a lot of industrial supply places have warehouses here. Great for finding the odd bit of hardware that would otherwise have to be ordered online...

Another Ponzi scam - Texas this time

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From the NY Times:
U.S. Accuses Texas Financial Firm of $8 Billion Fraud
In Texas, Robert Allen Stanford was just another wealthy financier. But in the breezy money haven of Antigua, he was lord of an influential financial fief, decorated with a knighthood, courted by government officials and basking in the spotlight of sports and charity events on which he generously showered his fortune. On Tuesday, his reign was thrown into turmoil as a caravan of cars and trucks with dark tinted windows carrying federal authorities pulled up to the Houston headquarters of his company, the Stanford Group, to shut down what the regulators described as a �massive ongoing fraud� stretching from the Caribbean to Texas, and around the world.

Unknown is the status of investments in as much as $8 billion in high-yielding certificates of deposit held in the firm�s bank in Antigua, which the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a civil suit, said Mr. Stanford and two colleagues fraudulently peddled to scores of investors.

Also unknown Tuesday were the whereabouts of Mr. Stanford � or Sir Allen, as he became known after the Antiguan prime minister knighted him � whose financial activities on the tiny island had raised eyebrows among American authorities as far back as a decade ago.
It always makes me wonder why people set up Ponzi scams in the first place. #1) - you will be caught as eventually, it will crumble and #2) - it is impossible to gracefully 'unwind' a Ponzi without anyone knowing about it as the majority of the money has already been used to repay early investors and to prime the pump for later ones. In other news, our own Ponzi practitioner, Wes Rhodes was sentenced today to ten years in the pokey with another three years probation. Not long enough for all the financial loss he was directly responsible for but a good start...
Swiped from Mark Perry at Carpe Diem:
Three Gems From George Will
1. Gregg Easterbrook's "Law of Doomsaying": Predict catastrophe no sooner than five years hence but no later than 10 years away, soon enough to terrify but distant enough that people will forget if you are wrong.

2. An unstated premise of eco-pessimism is that environmental conditions are, or recently were, optimal. The proclaimed faith of eco-pessimists is weirdly optimistic: These optimal conditions must and can be preserved or restored if government will make us minimize our carbon footprints, and if government will "remake" the economy.

3. According to the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.
~George Will's column today
What George said...

No posting today

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Had to go into town to pick up more of the auction stuff -- got the shelving and the last of the office "desk litter" (pens, pencils, sharpie markers, etc...). We are set for ten years worth of office supplies! Got about 70 really nice three-ring binders so freecycling a bunch of those on Wednesday. Grabbed a bite to eat in town, came back, ran payroll for the store and unloaded the van so it can be used for the Tuesday buying run and then went out to a local restaurant for a couple margaritas. Heading out to the DaveCave(tm) to check email and then off to an early bed...

Gotta be a Photoshop

The JPG artifacts on the sign are different from the rest of the image and the shadows don't match but wonderful nontheless:
Click to embiggen...
Swiped from Maggie's Farm who got it from here.

A late night

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Worked at the farm most of the day and then Jen and I headed into town to pick up my Dad for dinner and the three of us then went out to hear the Bellingham Gospel Chorus. One of my Dad's caregivers mentioned that she was involved in this choir and they were doing a concert and that they sounded really good. It turns out that she doesn't just take care of old farts, she is Ordained, has her own Church, and is an amazing singer and conductor. She is also in the final stages of bringing some amazing Bar-B-Que sauces and rubs to commercial market (they just got approved for being a shelf-stable product) and of course, we will be selling these at the store. The evenings program was wonderful -- this was their first performance and we are looking forward to many more.
It is possible to core down through ancient ice deposits and determine what the level of CO2 was at the time that particular bit of ice froze. This is a no brainer. By looking at other gases dissolved in the ice, we can get a very accurate idea of the temperature at that time as well. What is prompting me to write this is that NASA's very own Dr. James Hanson lit off another one today, this time in the UK Guardian:
Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them
A year ago, I wrote to Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and other leaders. The reason is this - coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet.
And he goes on and on and on... Another nugget:
The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas, have increased this to 385 ppm; it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.
BZZZZZTTTTTT!!! Wrong! The pre-industrial CO2 level has fluctuated all over the map. It was around 280ppm for about the last million years or so but looking at the 800 million year record of data we have, this recent low level is an anomaly. The last time it was this low was 300 million years ago between the Carboniferous and the Permian eras. Wanna know what was happening then? Did you guess Ice Age? You got it right -- this was the second to last Ice Age that the Earth has been through; the last one ended about 10,000 years ago and we are (hopefully) still warming up from that one. Between these ice ages, the atmospheric CO2 has been as high as 6,000ppm (a lot more than the 280ppm that Hansen is bloviating about) and at that time, the average temperature was in the balmy 70's(F).

CO2 ≠ Anthropogenic Global Warming

For what prompted this rant, read the original Hanson editorial at the Guardian. Then read Anthony Watt's rebuttal. And one of Anthony's commentors left this wonderful snippet:
�� Every basket (of coal) is power and civilization. For coal is a portable climate� It carries the heat of the tropics to Labrador and the polar circle; and it is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted. Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta, and with its comfort brings its industrial power.�
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
And another states the obvious:
If there were no coal trains and no coal-fired power stations, millions of people would have died this winter. Seems more like life trains than death trains.
And finally, Anthony referred to this post at Junk Science which explores the historical record I was talking about at the start of this post.
Planetary Temperature and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
One point apparently causing confusion among our readers is the relative abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere today as compared with Earth's historical levels. Most people seem surprised when we say current levels are relatively low, at least from a long-term perspective - understandable considering the constant media/activist bleat about current levels being allegedly "catastrophically high." Even more express surprise that Earth is currently suffering one of its chilliest episodes in about six hundred million (600,000,000) years.

Given that the late Ordovician suffered an ice age (with associated mass extinction) while atmospheric CO2 levels were more than 4,000ppm higher than those of today (yes, that's a full order of magnitude higher), levels at which current 'guesstimations' of climate sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 suggest every last skerrick of ice should have been melted off the planet, we admit significant scepticism over simplistic claims of small increment in atmospheric CO2 equating to toasted planet. Granted, continental configuration now is nothing like it was then, Sol's irradiance differs, as do orbits, obliquity, etc., etc. but there is no obvious correlation between atmospheric CO2 and planetary temperature over the last 600 million years, so why would such relatively tiny amounts suddenly become a critical factor now?
What he said. Now, I am off to load some more firewood into the bin at the DaveCave(tm). Temperatures got down to 14 last night -- it is 33F outside right now so we are starting to come out of this abnormally hard winter. I could use some of that Global Warming right about now -- I can deal with high temperatures a lot better than low temperatures. Besides, as a Farmer, the extra CO2 will make my crops grow that much better...

She Blinded me

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with Science! Hat tip to Maggie's Farm for this link to the story over at Gateway Pundit about $1.6 Billion Dollars for Science in Porkzilla the Economic Stimulus Package:
Note line item #5/#6:
For an additional amount for "Science"
Gateway Pundit has the story:
Unreal... Dems Include Random-Undefined $1.6 Billion For "Science" In Stimulus With NO Description
Democrats rammed the largest spending bill through Congress yesterday without even giving members a chance to read it.

And, now we find out that they included whole undefined categories with hundreds of millions of dollars assigned to these mysterious pet projects.
Good Lord -- it will not affect us that much but the next couple generations are going to be paying and paying and paying for this political idiocy. Fiscal responsibility my giant hairy ass -- this is pure pork. 2012 - counting the days and 2010 is that much closer...

We have another comment!!!

This one is from "sk" who replied to my February 13th post regarding a classy gent -- a Mr. Muzzammil Hassan -- who murdered his wife by beheading her. "sk" comments:
you people are disgusting bringing in religion into crimes of passion or domestic violence. In case you noticed no one spoke of Scott Peterson's religion when he killed his wife with unborn child. You guys are racist and islamophobes!! shame on you!!
We had a similar post a few days ago from "trace" who didn't seem to like the images I posted of a Koran with pigs blood on it. My reply to "trace" can be found here. Last first: #1) - I am not a Racist. #2) - I am not an Islamophobe. I do not fear these 9th century misguided followers of the Prophet of Satan. Instead, I pity them. I detest them. I am sincerely saddened that such a once-great culture should fall so thoroughly to such a base level. sk's first point:
you people are disgusting bringing in religion into crimes of passion or domestic violence.
It was the uniquely Islamic technique that caught my eye -- beheading is not practiced anywhere else at this time but it remains to be something that the Islamofascists like to do as it gives them complete power over the victim. Piotr Stanczak is only the latest in a long long line. And maybe it was the sad irony -- that Hassan:
Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.
sk's second point:
In case you noticed no one spoke of Scott Peterson's religion when he killed his wife with unborn child.
All murder is vile under any circumstances. These people should be locked away for the rest of their lives with little or no contact with anyone else. Draconian, yes. Effective, you betcha! A murderer has forfeited his rights when he took the life of another human being. Drawing Scott Peterson's religion into this is a classic example of Straw Man logical fallacy. I farm. I kill and eat our chickens. My freezer in the garage has a half cow and a pig that came from local farmers. Life is a complex cycle and sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. Being at the top of the food chain has its advantages (tasty advantages!). That line is drawn when it comes to human beings. Thou Shalt Not Kill sums it up quite nicely, something the Islamist trash should take to heart. If you claim that Islam is the Religion of Peace, here is a website for you. Check out: The Religion of Peace If you scroll down about half-way, there is this: List of Islamic Terror Attacks For the Past 2 Months Here is an explanation of the list: About the List of Terrorist Attacks If you are serious about learning the truth, spend seventeen minutes over at this site: Fitna The Movie

Your rights in Canada - internet security

Shame shame shame... If this judge were in the USA, the EFF would be ballistic on her ass. From United Press International:
No warrant needed to trace Internet use
A judge in Canada has ruled that Internet users have no expectation of privacy and police can use track people through Internet protocols without warrants.

The ruling by Ontario Superior Court Judge Lynne Leitch is binding on lower courts, and gives law enforcement a new tool to use in investigating such matters as child pornography, the National Post reported Friday.

Ruling in a child pornography possession case, Leitch found that the Canadian Charter does not provide a "reasonable expectation of privacy" regarding subscriber information retained by Internet service providers.

Police asked Bell Canada in 2007 for subscriber information on an IP address used by someone who had allegedly accessed child pornography. Bell provided the requested information without inquiring whether police had a search warrant.
The idea of child pornography makes me sick to my stomach and I do not consider this to be a "free speech" cause as the mental well-being of the children are affected. That being said, Judge Leitch is opening up a whole other can of worms regarding people's privacy online. Her decision is circumventing one of the checks and balances of the legal system and reducing what was once due process down to a matter of hearsay. Ontario Superior Court Judge Lynne Leitch, you shame the bench.

Mmmmm - Venison steaks...

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From Central Pennsylvania's PennLive comes this story about some children's books:
Author pens books to educate kids on hunting
Mystery solved. Now we know who killed Bambi's father. It was Little Jake.

Utah-based author Rob Jacobs writes and publishes books about a little boy who likes to hunt. His "Little Jake's Big Bowhunt" is a re-telling of the Bambi story from the hunter's point of view.

Jacobs is part of a group of associated companies who have made it their business to help educate young people about hunting and the responsible, safe use of firearms.

Jacobs writes and sells the children's books. In the next booth at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show at the state Farm Show Complex, Alan Swartzlander and his crew from Keystone Sporting Arms in Milton specialize in the Davey Crickett brand rifles.

Jacobs has eight titles. There's "Little Jake's Big Bowhunt," and others in which Jake hunts in Alaska, in Africa, and catches a world-record bass.

There's also "Little Jake and the Three Bears." In that one, one of the bears does not come out of the hunt well, but his skin keeps Little Jake toasty through the next winter, and the little fella feasts on bear sausages while hunkered down under the rug.

But it's not all chest-beating and swagger. After Little Jake bags the bruin, he spends a contemplative moment thinking of what his warm rug has cost the bear, and thanks the animal for his sacrifice. He does a similar thing after he kills the King of the Forest, Bambi's father.

"It's all about casting hunting in a positive light," Jacobs said. "Kids today are only hearing one side. Hunting and firearms are part of our American tradition. All it will take is for the hunting tradition to skip one generation, and I'm afraid that will be it. We will lose it."
Very cool! Hunting is a long-standing tradition and it should not be lost. I bet the Berkeley, CA library has multiple copies -- NOT...

First Castro and now Putin

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On the 7th of this month, I wrote about this quote:
When Fidel Castro is lecturing the U.S. government on the principles of international capitalism, you know that something strange is afoot in the new world order.
Joshua Keating
Now Pootie-Poot is weighing in on the subject - from the E3 Gazette:
You want a better Expert?
In the most stark and telling role-reversal, Vladimir Putin understands what America is hurtling toward with the "Stimulus":
Putin Warns US About Socialism
"Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin has said the US should take a lesson from the pages of Russian history and not exercise �excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state�s omnipotence�.

�In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state�s role absolute,� Putin said� �In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.�
How do you dismiss it as "Fear Mongering" when the former Head of the KGB recognizes this as a giant government over-reach toward Socialism?

What could possibly carry more weight, at this moment, than the current Prime Minister of Russia saying:
"Don't do this - We've been where you are - Don't Do This."
I got nuthin'.
Like I keep saying, 2012 is not that far away...

Go and read - a takedown of epic proportions

Kim at Velociworld does some of the finest rants that I have ever read and today, he has outdone himself. Go and read:

No One Writes to the Colonel, Except I
I was writing a lengthy screed wherein I posited the Goat Man was the perfect metaphor for the stimulus package, until I realized I'd snarled that metaphor so thoroughly that even I had to admit it resembled nothing more than a colding plate of double-helix vermicelli, smothered in marinara pretentiana.

It puts me in ill temper to admit to myself I'm wrong about something, but don't worry. I'll take that out on you later.

The true, unadulterated fact is that I've struggled to understand the motives of the players in this dilation and curettage of the American purse, and even allowing for the most magnanimous of intent, I find the victors at best reprobate in tactic, at worst debauched in soul. I hate all of these motherfuckers.

When Newsweek magazine, once embarrassed by the obvious fact that they were too liberal, can crow We Are All Socialists Now like the sunrise cocks they are, with no hint of embarrassment, we of the classical liberal and conservative strains are truly screwed. And fuck the libertarians. Too many of them crossed the picket line and voted O! They as a rule only want to support your 1st and 2nd Amendment rights so they can huff more Freon. Every time I meet a libertarian I think I can intellectually engage they end up handing me a Bob "White" Barr pin. And their motto? The Third Largest Party in America! That's like saying you're the third largest testicle in my nutsack, fools. We live in a binary world. Us. Them. With us or agin us.

And he is just getting started. Go and read.

Bruce nails it:
Makes Mos Eisley Look Like F***ing Disneyland

Aw crap - R.I.P. Ed Grothus

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I never visited his store but he is known to every geek and hacker out there. Telstar Logistics has an excellent obituary. Have do make a pilgrimage there someday...
Actually quite good:

An interesting auction on February 14th

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This Valentine's day (tomorrow) Murphy Auctions is selling off the remnants of an estate with an interesting bit of history. The estate in question is that of a Mr. C. Wesley Rhodes, Jr. who in September of 2006 was busted for running a Ponzi scam in the Pacific Northwest. He took in about $16M, paid out about $6.3M to his early investors and pocketed the rest. The primary auction was held back in September of 2007 -- the one tomorrow is just to mop up the residue -- furniture, etc... There is even a Blog written by someone involved in the story (I am guessing an investor but the author doesn't make that clear. Check out: Life After Rhodes for the sordid details. The moke gets sentenced on this February 17th. He wasn't in Maddof's league but he was a crook.

The case of the missing money

An odd story from Scottsdale, Arizona. From The Arizona Republic:
Contractor accused of stealing money found in PV home
A Paradise Valley contractor has been arrested in connection with the taking of four boxes stuffed with $1,000 bundles that were stashed in the walls of a house he was renovating, according to police documents.

Paradise Valley Police, with the help of Phoenix Police, arrested Randy Bueghly at his home in the 5400 block of West West Wind Drive on Thursday morning. Bueghly was released after questioning.

Paradise Valley Police recovered $503,000 but it remained unclear how much money was in the boxes. Authorities believe Bueghly took the money after one of his employees found the four metal boxes which contained the money in October 2008. Two boxes were under the stairs and two boxes were behind mounted speakers in the master bedroom, according to a Paradise Valley police report.

Employee Rafael Cuen told the owner of the house that each stack was labeled as $1,000 increments, and he estimated the total amount of each of the metal boxes to be $250,000, according to a Paradise Valley police report.

Cuen turned the money over to Bueghly, according to the report. Cuen reportedly asked Bueghly several times if he had told the homeowners about the money, the report said.

Cuen said Bueghly refused to speak to him about the money, but had asked him how many pesos $600,000 would be worth, Paradise Valley Police said.

Bueghly fired Cuen in November 2008, according to the report.
Emphases mine -- what a wonderful guy to work for... Not contacting the owners, not putting the money into an Escrow account for a year and then splitting it with Cuen (with Cuen getting at least 70% as the finder). I have run into a few people like this and find it amazing that someone hasn't snuck up behind them with a baseball bat...

A classy guy - Mr. Muzzammil Hassan


From New York State's The Buffalo News:

Prominent Orchard Park man charged with beheading his wife
Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband - an influential member of the local Muslim community - reported her death to police Thursday.

Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder.

A bit more:

Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.

And a bit more:

Authorities say Aasiya Hassan recently had filed for divorce from her husband..

"She had an order of protection that had him out of the home as of Friday the 6th [of February]," Benz said.

And they say that Islam is the Religion of Peace. Used to be.

Not since Mohamed (pox be upon his name) took over the reigns...

Hat tip to Steven Goddard writing at Watts Up With That for bringing this wonderful (and somewhat overdue - for them, not him) news:
Tipping point reached: UK Met Office makes blistering attack on those who make �Apocalyptic climate predictions�
Guest post by Steven Goddard
During the past few weeks, there have been several warnings of apocalypse from noted scientists. Dr. Hansen warned in The Guardian that President Obama has �four years to save the planet.� James McCarthy, head of the American Association for The Advancement of Science (AAAS) made a similar statement. Nobel Prize winning scientist Al Gore is going to take it a step further at next week�s AAAS meeting. Steven Chu, President Obama�s Secretary of Energy, warned that California will no longer be able to support agriculture or cities due to drought caused by global warming.

Then something remarkable happened.

Today�s Guardian has a lead story unlike anything we have seen before.
�Apocalyptic climate predictions� mislead the public, say experts�
Experts at Britain�s top climate research centre have launched a blistering attack on scientific colleagues and journalists who exaggerate the effects of global warming. The Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world, says recent �apocalyptic predictions� about Arctic ice melt and soaring temperatures are as bad as claims that global warming does not exist.
Nobody has been pushing the global warming story harder than the Met Office and The Guardian. Whom could they be referring to in this passage �scientific colleagues and journalists who exaggerate the effects of global warming?�
Wonderful and about time. Glad to see that people are seeing this scam for what it is -- a scientific theory that was never supported by hard scientific evidence but nonetheless, got hijacked by politicians and environmentalists who saw that they could use this for their own agendas: making money and putting a serious crimp on Western economic productivity. Sub-prime science and cultural marxism. Two political ideologies that are best suited to rule us. Bleagghhh.... The 200+ comments are also worth reading through -- good mix of ideas and lunacy.
They closed a second plant today. Reuters has the news and the reason:
Texas orders peanut recall from company's 2nd plant
Texas state health officials said on Thursday they had ordered the recall of products made at a plant operated by a company at the center of a big salmonella outbreak.

They said they had ordered Peanut Corp. of America to recall all products made at its Plainview, Texas, plant, which was closed this week as part of an investigation into the outbreak, which made about 600 people sick and may have killed nine.

"The order was issued after dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers were discovered yesterday in a crawl space above a production area during an in-depth Department of State Health Services inspection," the agency said in a statement.

"The inspection also found that the plant's air handling system was not completely sealed and was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas of the plant resulting in the adulteration of exposed food products."
Who knows, rat feces may add a certain sense of piquancy to the Peanut Butter. Don't think I want to find out firsthand though... They should take Mr. Parnell, throw him in prison for ten years and feed him nothing but his own products. That would be poetic justice...

Busy day today - another Auction

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This time it was in Bellingham so I didn't have far to go. Arrowac Fisheries has felt the economic pinch as well as increased pressures from the enviros to reduce fishermen's catch size so they made the decision to close their Bellingham processing plant and concentrate on their Seattle operation. They contracted James G. Murphy to run the auction and it was another fun day. Tim Murphy (James G's son) had the audience in the palm of his hand for the big ticket items -- there were a lot of the smaller processors from Alaska that came down for this. Tim's son Connor(?) set up and assisted. Picked up a couple of commercial-size bug zappers. I know that these are very bad for the environment as they kill all the beneficials as well as the pests but we have a unique situation around here. The two big agricultural businesses here are berries and dairy. After the berry harvest, in late fall, the farmers will manure their fields. The cow manure is close by and cheap and it does an excellent job of replenishing the soil for next year and since you are looking at a good ten months between manuring and the next harvest, there are no problems with sanitation. What does happen though is we get a huge increase in the black fly population from August until the first really cold nights. They are most active at dusk and dawn so I figure I'll put one at the store and one here, run them on a timer and do my bit to cut this annoyance down to a dull roar. Other things I picked up are a lot of office equipment (three typewriters including one IBM Selectric -- a much lusted after item), a couple years worth of pens, markers, pencils, etc..., a small knife grinder, some shelving and a small desk for the DaveCave(tm). Heading in tomorrow to get the rest of it. Sitting here eating some leftover pasta (tomato sauce with sliced bratwurst) and will spend the rest of the evening working on a few projects. Got a community website I'm developing and want to throw the switch in a few days...

Two quotes for these times

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Ran into these two quotes yesterday and thought they were relevant to todays times:
"If You Want To Remain Slaves Of The Bankers, And Pay For The Costs Of Your Own Slavery, Let Them continue To Create Money And Control The Nations Credit"
--Sir Josiah Stamp, 1880-1941

"I Believe That Banking Institutions Are More Dangerous Than Standing Armies...If The American People Ever Allow Private Banks To Control The Issue Of Currency...The Banks And Corporations That will Grow Up Around Them Will Deprive The People Of Their Property Until Their Children Wake Up Homeless On The Continent That Their Fathers Conquered"
--Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826
Meet Mr. Stewart Parnell:
Mr. Parnell runs the Peanut Corporation of America and seems to have a very hands-on management style. His bad. From MS/NBC:
Salmonella found at Ga. plant as early as 2006
Owner Stewart Parnell refused to testify at hearing; 9 have now died

See the jar, the congressman challenged Stewart Parnell, holding up a container of the peanut seller's products and asking if he'd dare eat them. Parnell pleaded the Fifth.

The owner of the peanut company at the heart of the massive salmonella recall refused to answer the lawmaker's questions � or any others � Wednesday about the bacteria-tainted products he defiantly told employees to ship to some 50 manufacturers of cookies, crackers and ice cream.

"Turn them loose," Parnell had told his plant manager in an internal e-mail disclosed at the House hearing. The e-mail referred to products that once were deemed contaminated but were cleared in a second test last year.
Some jail time would be very appropriate. Even a local cookie maker had to recall some of her products. They bought peanut paste from a company that was supposed to be sourcing Organic Peanuts and were buying from the lowest bidder and re-packaging. And we rag on China...

Nailed it

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From User Friendly:
Click for full-size.
I would not mind a bail-out please... $100 Million Dollars.

A large BOINK! in Space

I hate it when that happens. From Spaceflight Now:
Two satellites collide in orbit
In an unprecedented space collision, a commercial Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite ran into each other Tuesday above northern Siberia, creating a cloud of wreckage, officials said today.

The international space station does not appear to be threatened by the debris, they said, but it's not yet clear whether it poses a risk to any other military or civilian satellites.

"They collided at an altitude of 790 kilometers (491 miles) over northern Siberia Tuesday about noon Washington time," said Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The U.S. space surveillance network detected a large number of debris from both objects."

Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Carey, deputy director of global operations with U.S. Strategic Command, the agency responsible for space surveillance, said initial radar tracking detected some 600 pieces of debris. He identified the Russian spacecraft as Cosmos 2251, a communications relay station launched in June 1993, and said the satellite is believed to have been non-operational for the past 10 years or so.
And of course, birds built that long ago don't have the capacity to de-orbit when their mission is done. Current technology has small rockets that speed up the satellite's orbit until it touches the upper layers of the atmosphere. Friction and drag take over from there and the kibbles and bits fall into the Pacific Ocean. Wonder how many spares Iridium has up there...

We have a comment - blood on the Koran

Way back in July of 2007, I posted a few images I found on the internet that were guaranteed to inflame the average follower of the dark prophet and his god Allah Satan... Specifically, some images of a Koran with pigs blood on it. We were visited by 'trace' today who posted the following screed:
you are not just sick and uneducated u r imature so all i have to tell you is good luck on the day of judjemet because god may be mersiful but you don't diserve mercy
I will put the lack of punctuation and neologisms like "u r" to brain rot from excessive text messaging. Let's look at the content:
you are not just sick and uneducated u r imature
Hey -- talking about immature, I didn't go all splodey-dope when I saw this:
And if someone showed me an image of the Holy Bible stained with cows or pigs blood, I would lament the damage but it would not be a personal affront to Me or to my Faith. A book represents a compilation of ideas, not the ideas themselves. For your first invective to be that I am immature seems to bear out the proverb I heard while growing up in Pennsylvania:
Our faults irritate us most when we see them in others.
--Proverb, Pennsylvania Dutch
And finally, the other half of the comment:
so all i have to tell you is good luck on the day of judjemet because god may be mersiful but you don't diserve mercy
So you are telling me that you speak for God? You have His Ear? His Mouth? You certainly do not have His Wisdom (or even His Spelling Ability) I believe in God but I know that none of us can comprehend what the Day of Judgment will be -- we are too small a creature. For you to say that you know what it will be and that I do not deserve His Mercy tells me that you have no clear understanding of either Faith, Human Nature or Mercy. Go back down to that apartment in your mom's basement and get back to jerking off to the latest beheading videos. Enjoy your little jihad as the rest of this planet are getting really pissed off at you sons of apes and pigs. It is a real pity as you had your chance at civilization -- built up a great one, made many scientific and medical discoveries and created some great art -- but you lost your way about 900 years ago. You moved away from the Light and started following the words of Mohamed. Mohamed is the true Prophet of Satan and he has been leading you on the path of evil. He has used you to fashion his Army of Hell on the face of Earth and you are about ten years away from a terminal case of whoop-ass... Enjoy the ride and remember what happened to the 9/11 hijackers. Click on this link to read their story: Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell -- 'We Expected Eternal Paradise For This,' Say Suicide Bombers
Looks like a lot of business people don't like the stimulus package and it shows. Talk about direct feedback. From Reuters:
U.S. offers $2 trillion bank plan but stocks slump
U.S. Treasury chief Timothy Geithner on Tuesday unveiled a new bank rescue plan that would put $2 trillion to work mopping up bad assets and restoring credit, but stock markets plunged on fears it would not work.

Global markets had intensely awaited Geithner's ideas for a plan mixing private and public funding to stabilize a financial system tottering under the weight of bad mortgages, but were disappointed over the scant details provided.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 4.6 percent -- its biggest one-day percentage drop since December 1 -- with bank stocks hit particularly hard. U.S. government bonds rose as investors scrambled for safe-haven debt.
This infusion of cash is just going to prolong things. Fortunately, 2012 is not that far away and I am putting a lot more of the blame for this Porkzilla on the current Congress than on Obama. He is getting a lot of bad information from them and is in a bit over his head... For some background, check out the videos on these two posts: here and here

Sad news from a local farm

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We bought duck eggs from these people for our store as well as a lot of veggies. From the Bellingham Herald:
Ducks attacked on Lynden-area farm, dog killed
Dog owner says her pit bull could not have harmed ducks

When Herb Rinn was laid off in 2001 after 22 years of work at Georgia Pacific, he and his wife, Marilyn, turned their interest in agriculture into a livelihood and began selling organic duck eggs and vegetables from their home on Ten Mile Road.

But on Feb. 4, Marilyn's 60th birthday, Herb discovered 24 of the ducks had been killed in their pen. Seven others had broken wings and legs.

"I just got done cooking (Marilyn) a nice breakfast," Herb Rinn said. "I went out to check on the ducks and the first thing I noticed was all my ducks were dead."

Moments later, a neighbor's pit bull emerged from a wooden shed within the pen. The dog had dug its way through the chicken wire and underground rat wire protecting the pen, but now couldn't find its way out, Rinn said.

"As soon as it saw me, it did a little lunge and showed its teeth," Rinn said. "It came out of that pen barking and growling."

Rinn went back inside his house, grabbed his Browning 12-gauge shotgun and returned to the pen. He shot the dog in the head, killing it immediately.

"Believe me, I did not want to kill that dog," Rinn said. "But that dog felt no pain, unlike my ducks."
A bit more:
The incident has been devastating for the Rinns, who had been selling their duck eggs for four years to private customers and to the Community Food Co-Op. They had raised the ducks since they were ducklings, and Marilyn had given each one a name.
The dog owner says:
When Vanweerdhuizen was looking for Bitsy, she said she heard coyotes in the woods and believes they are likely responsible for what happened to the ducks.

Vanweerdhuizen said she understands it's her responsibility to keep her dog on her property, but she does not believe Rinn's actions were justified.

"She was not a vicious dog," she said.
Pits are fiercely loyal to their 'family' but absolute time-bombs when it comes to people, property and stock that are not 'theirs'. We have apartments above the store and have no problems with dogs but we do not allow pit bulls as there are infants, toddlers and small dogs living there as well. Coyotes would never do a thing like this -- digging underneath a fence and then trashing a flock. We live with them here and love to hear them singing at night. They operate in stealth mode, coming in and picking off a bird and then running away. They do not spend twenty minutes murdering an entire flock for fun. They come in, choose their meal and then vanish with it. Pits are a loose cannon on the deck. I hope that Vanweerdhuizen can come to terms with this and perhaps choose a better breed of dog as she chooses to live in the country.

I sure as hell am not - socialism

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Saw this on the internet and thought that someone had a bit of fun with photoshop:
Turns out I was horribly wrong:
We Are All Socialists Now
In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.

The interview was nearly over. on the Fox News Channel last Wednesday evening, Sean Hannity was coming to the end of a segment with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vociferous foe of President Obama's nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. How, Pence had asked rhetorically, was $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts going to put people back to work in Indiana? How would $20 million for "fish passage barriers" (a provision to pay for the removal of barriers in rivers and streams so that fish could migrate freely) help create jobs? Hannity could not have agreed more. "It is � the European Socialist Act of 2009," the host said, signing off. "We're counting on you to stop it. Thank you, congressman."

There it was, just before the commercial: the S word, a favorite among conservatives since John McCain began using it during the presidential campaign. (Remember Joe the Plumber? Sadly, so do we.) But it seems strangely beside the point. The U.S. government has already�under a conservative Republican administration�effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not�and many, especially Congressman Pence and Hannity, do not�the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.

We remain a center-right nation in many ways�particularly culturally, and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism�but it was, again, under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly. People on the right and the left want government to invest in alternative energies in order to break our addiction to foreign oil. And it is unlikely that even the reddest of states will decline federal money for infrastructural improvements.
Fuck You Newsweek! We are a Federated Republic of States and not some socialist hell-hole. Ben said it best:
�When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.�
--Benjamin Franklin
From Maggie's Farm come these two links that kinda sorta cancel each other out:
Ice on the rocks
Sea levels rising fast due to Arctic ice melt. Yet Arctic ice increasing at record rates.
Go figure -- I'm in with the second link as that one is from a scientist and not a journalist.

Heh -- a good teacher

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From the ever wonderful Miss Cellania of course...

And just like that - comment spam

Went from a high of over 50 attempts a few days ago and just logged our first attempt today around four hours ago. Spam seems to run in groups which indicates intelligent direction and not just random zombies... Hmmm......

Things that DaveH just doesn't get - couture

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Never saw the reason for couture -- high fashion and all of that crap. A perfect two-fer example can be found at Best Week Ever Example one: The Saddest Male Models In The World Example two: The Saddest Male Models In The World, Part II Here is one of the milder examples:
Looking at the photos, I cannot imagine what kind of world these people live in. Does not compute as they say...

Rumble rumble rumble

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Things under Alaska's Mt. Redoubt are warming up quite a bit. More at the Alaska Volcano Observatory Expected to erupt any time from tomorrow to a "few weeks". A good page to keep bookmarked -- if you follow that sort of thing...

Perfect weather for the Lunar Eclipse

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Only a partial one tonight but the sky is cloudy. Drat... Downside to living in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest.

Minimal posting tonight

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Working on a couple of projects tonight so I will not be doing my usual cover to cover read of the internet...

First case of Marburg in the USA

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There is a class of disease called hemorrhagic fever that is just not nice to catch. Ebola is one of the more commonly known ones -- you generally loose blood and body fluids from every orifice until you die. Highly contagious too -- couldn't have picked a nastier bug if you had tried. Marburg is a much rarer disease but we got a case in Colorado. From Google/Associated Press:
1st US case of Marburg fever confirmed in Colo.
WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (AP) � The first U.S. case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has been confirmed in Colorado, and authorities say the patient � who contracted the rare illness while traveling in Uganda � has since recovered.

The disease, caused by a virus indigenous to Africa, spreads through contact with infected animals or the bodily fluids of infected humans. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Dave Daigle said no previous cases have been reported in the United States.

The patient had traveled to Uganda, visited a python cave in Maramagambo Forest in Queen Elizabeth Park and encountered fruit bats, which can carry the Marburg virus. The Ugandan government closed the cave after a tourist from the Netherlands died from Marburg in July.

The patient was treated at Lutheran Medical Center in January 2008 and sought follow-up care in July, after learning of the tourist's death. The patient recovered and his or her identity wasn't disclosed.

Pierre Rollin, acting chief of the Special Pathogens Branch of the CDC, said specialized tests of the initial sample taken in January 2008 confirmed the illness in the Colorado patient in December.
I don't think I'll be travelling to Uganda anytime soon...

�Buy American�

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A lot of the Economic Stimulus Package is the idea of taking money and using it to buy American products. Mark J. Perry at Carpe Diem looks at some examples of Automobiles:
"Buy American"??
We've heard a lot lately about the �Buy American� provisions being debated in the economic stimulus bill, and that made me think about how increasingly difficult, and increasingly meaningless, it is to even determine what "Buy American" really means in an increasingly globalized world economy. Consider automobiles - how do you tell the difference any more between "American cars" and "foreign cars."

1. Here's a list of 8 "American-made" vehicles produced by American UAW workers, in American factories, but for foreign-based car companies. If you purchased one of these vehicles, would that count as "buying American"?

American-made UAW vehicles:
Mazda 6
Mitsubishi Eclipse
Mitsubishi Galant
Toyota Corolla
Isuzu i-Series Truck
Mazda B-series Truck
Mitsubishi Raider Truck
Toyota Tacoma Truck
Another list, some links and some interesting commentary at the site...

Milton Friedman on Greed

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A wonderful 2:24 excerpt of Milton Friedman talking about capitalism and greed. Stuff that flies over the heads of the useful idiots like Anthony Cristofani -- they just do not get it...
A hat tip to Kim Priestap at Wizbang for the link.

More on the Peanut Corporation of America

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PCA is the company that manufactured the Peanut Paste that was tainted with Salmonella which prompted the huge recall. It seems the FDA knew that the plant was not up to standards as far back as 2001. From Effect Measure:
Annals of peanut butter: it keeps getting worse
The peanut butter with a side of salmonella story just keeps getting worse (other posts here, here, here, here, here, here). The toll so far is 8 dead, 575 confirmed salmonella cases (and undoubtedly many more never reported) and 1550 products recalled, one of the largest recalls in US history. The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Blakely, Georgia, sold peanut butter in bulk to institutions (like nursing homes and schools) and peanut paste and similar ingredients to many other companies. And even as it did so, its own and government agency records showed there was a problem. The last time the FDA inspected the plant was in 2001. As some observers remarked, it is like a roadmap for food safety reform.:
The FDA, which is responsible for regulating peanut processing plants, last inspected the plant in 2001, at a time when it only roasted and blanched peanuts. The agency only learned the company was making peanut butter in 2006, when it was notified by the state of Georgia.

Understaffed, the FDA contracted with Georgia to perform annual inspections. The FDA has delegated an increasing chunk of its inspection duties to the states, with varying results. The agency has refused requests for a copy of its contract with Georgia and declined to answer questions about it.
And just what did the FDA fine in 2001?
The 2001 inspection found dead insects near peanuts and holes in the plant big enough for rodents to enter. Those inspectors also discovered that workers at the plant used an insecticide fogger in food-processing areas and didn't wash the exposed equipment. They also found dirty duct tape wrapped on broken equipment. (Brett J. Blackledge and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP)
Just wow. And still, we continue with unnecessary building of the government without bothering to give teeth to the few agencies that really matter to a citizen's health and well-being.
Seven minute YouTube explanation of why Porkzilla The Bailout The Economic Stimulus Package is just dead wrong. It goes into some history -- the USA during the 1930's, during President Ford's tenure, Bush43's tax cuts, Japan's stimulus in the 1990's. All failed and all were the same kind of borrow and spend that the gubbiment is trying to push on us now.
Hat tip to Nicki Fellenzer at The Liberty Zone for the link. 2012 isn't that far away...
Odd -- for a month or two, I was getting a couple attempts at comment spam every day or so. Yesterday it was about 20 and today, it's over 40 and the night is still young. None of them were successful. Fscking script kiddies... Back before Al Gore invented the internet, there was always an uptick for a few weeks after Christmas. The kiddies got their brand new modems and started to use them.

Common Sense

Swiped from the ever wonderful Miss Celania:


It sure is rare around here -- much more so in the other Washington...

Defining the value of something

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An interesting post at The Online Photographer:
The Trough of No Value
Click for full-size.
I find this a particularly poignant picture. It's preserved in the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress; I found it on page five of Michael L. Carlebach's excellent American Photojournalism Comes of Age (one of my favorite books about photography, by the way).

It shows the photography staff of the newspaper The New York World in 1909. Or at least we can assume the man on the left and the man on the stairs are photographers, since they're shown with cameras. I direct your attention, as Michael Carlebach does, to the wall at the back of the room that also displays the clock. Know what those are? They're negatives�the newspaper's photographic archive. The hundreds of cases you see there in neatly-shelved rows contained thousands of negatives of newsworthy events, people, and places, collected at considerable expense by the paper and with great labor and sometimes risk by the men in the picture and their cohorts.

When the newspaper folded, all those negatives were thrown away.
What follows is an interesting meditation on value and Mike (the author) introduces the concept of the The Trough of No Value:
A very clear way to express this idea.

Today's dumb criminal - San Francisco

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From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Car-burglar suspect forgets something
A burglar who left behind the sledgehammer that he used to break into cars - a sledgehammer with his name on it - is behind bars, South San Francisco police said Friday.

Officer Mindy Lopez , investigating a report of two car burglaries, found a sledgehammer inside one of the cars. On it was written, "Jerry O'Grady," police said. Lopez found that O'Grady was on probation, searched his San Bruno home and found stolen items, police said.
But it was a really good sledgehammer and he didn't want to loose it...

A bit of a family history

From the Irish Times:

How a family lost its way in a changing Europe
BIOGRAPHY: THE HAPSBURGS were the original eurotrash - multinational, multilingual, and debauched. After ruling the Austrian Empire for centuries, their luck began to run out towards the end of the 19th Century, writes Max McGuinness.

Emperor Franz Joseph's brother Maximilian was executed in Mexico after a quixotic naval expedition in 1867; his only son and heir, Rudolf, addled by venereal disease and morphine, was found dead with his mistress and a pistol in 1889; and his wife, the Empress Elisabeth, was bludgeoned by an Italian anarchist in 1898.

The next in line, Archduke Ludwig Victor, was confined after one too many adventures in a Vienna bath house. His pious younger brother, Karl Ludwig, died in 1896 after drinking the contaminated waters of the River Jordan.

His eldest son, Franz Ferdinand, then became crown prince. He was held in such little esteem that the news of his assassination in Sarajevo by a teenage Serbian nationalist called Gavrilo Princip on June 28th, 1914 made a minimal impression in Vienna where the party went on that night. A month later, all of Europe's major powers were at war and before the decade was out, the Empire was dissolved and the remaining Hapsburgs cast into exile.

But Archduke Wilhelm von Hapsburg, the subject of Timothy Snyder's excellent new biography, The Red Prince, had other plans. Dispatched to the Eastern Front as a junior officer in 1915, he found himself fighting in Ukraine, a nation for which he had already developed a fascination in school.

Sounds like a fascinating read. Good reviews at Amazon.

Make a little effort to blend into the scenery. Don't stand out. From the New York Daily News:
Mob hit man Joey Calco ruins witness protection following Florida pizzeria beating
A Florida pizzeria owner caught on tape brutalizing two customers who complained about a calzone is a mob hit man-turned-canary from Brooklyn, officials said Friday.

Joey Calco, a killer for the Bonanno crime family's infamous Bath Ave. crew, was supposed to be laying low in the federal witness protection program after helping take down the clan's one-time acting boss.

Instead, he was getting into trouble in Palm Coast, Fla., where he racked up a sex harassment suit and battery arrest while running Goomba's pizza joint under the name Joseph Milano.

After an investigation by a Florida newspaper suggested Calco and the 40-year-old Milano were the same person, law enforcement officials confirmed the connection and cops arrested him on a new charge. He was arrested at the home of his parents, Guiseppina and Calogero Calco.

The lawyer who represented Milano in the assault case did not return calls.
What kind of idiot do you have to be to act like this. And, after being in the Witness program, your idea of starting over is opening a restaurant called Goomba's Pizza Joint. Fitting justice though, he squeaks out of those murders but gets sent up over a Calzone. We should start a dead pool -- I give him six months max...

Quote of the day - Joshua Keating

From Pejman Yousefzadeh:

When Fidel Castro is lecturing the U.S. government on the principles of international capitalism, you know that something strange is afoot in the new world order.
--Joshua Keating
. Even more scary: Castro is right. How badly did the Obama Administration and a Democratic Congress have to screw up for that to happen? This badly.

It is going to be an interesting four years...

Hugo Chavez's mad management skillzz

Welcome to the socialist paradise of Venezuela where the massive oil revenues are channeled into feel-good social programs instead of infrastructure.

Wait -- people are driving less so oil isn't selling as well? Oh snap! From Yahoo News/Associated Press:

Venezuela behind on payments to oil contractors
Venezuela's state oil company is behind on billions in payments to private oil contractors from Oklahoma to Belarus, some of which have now stopped work, even as President Hugo Chavez funnels more oil revenue to social programs.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, says unpaid invoices jumped 39 percent in the first nine months of last year � reaching $7.86 billion in September. And that was when world oil was selling for $100 a barrel.

With prices plummeting by more than half, PDVSA is trying to renegotiate some contracts. But analysts say hardball tactics to reduce charges from crucial service providers could backfire by lowering Venezuela's oil output. And foreign debt markets are reflecting jitters about Venezuela's finances.

Oil accounts for 94 percent of Venezuela's exports and funds nearly half the socialist government's budget, and Chavez uses it to bankroll an international aid bonanza, showering allies with cheap fuel, refining projects and cash donations.

But U.S. contractor Helmerich & Payne Inc. said last week that it has stopped drilling with two of its 11 oil rigs in Venezuela because of delayed payments. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, company says it will stop three more rigs by the end of February and the rest by the end of July if PDVSA doesn't begin to pay off a debt it puts at nearly $100 million.

Dallas-based Ensco International Inc. said it suspended operations on an oil rig off Venezuela's Caribbean coast because it was owed $35 million, prompting PDVSA to take over operations.

And Belgazstroy of Belarus has stopped work on gas networks in western Venezuela because of nonpayment, Venezuela's ambassador to Belarus, Americo Diaz Nunez, told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency, adding that two other Belarusian contracts are also in question.

Greg Priddy, a global oil analyst with the Eurasia Group in Washington, estimated that within a year, production could decline an extra 100,000 to 150,000 barrels a day if drilling slows � equal to $5 million of daily income even at today's slumping oil prices.

Chavez is an idiot. If he had backed off on the "social" programs and spent more on building up agriculture, transportation, resource extraction, serious education (Medicine/Engineering), high-tech, etc. he could have turned Venezuela into the crown jewel of South America.

Instead, he is squandering these funds on programs that do absolutely nothing to enhance the long term quality of life in his nation.

But of course, the useful idiots like Anthony Cristofani fall head over heels in love with incompetent kleptocrats like Chavez. Heaven help that they should have an unhindered view of what is happening. That would give them a case of cognitive dissonance. Just close your eyes and sing another verse of Kumbayah.

From CNN:
1 dead, hundreds stranded on Lake Erie ice floe
One person died Saturday in connection with the rescue of hundreds of people cast adrift on an ice floe in Lake Erie, a Coast Guard official involved in the effort said.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Lanier confirmed that one person had died. No other details were available. He said the rescue operation was still under way.

A snowmobiler was injured when he fell into the ice while attempting to cross it, CNN affiliate WTOL reported, citing the sheriff's office. He reportedly was being taken to a hospital.

The ice floe, 8 miles long, was created when a piece of ice broke off from land near Locust Point, Ohio, east of Toledo, Lanier said.

At least 100 and as many as 500 people were stranded, authorities said.
Yikes -- what prompted me to post this is that my Mom's family came from Erie, PA and when visiting them, I remember hearing stories about people driving across the lake to Canada in winter. For the last 20 years or so, the lake didn't freeze very much and now, it is starting to develop a solid layer of ice again. You can sit and listen to politicians bloviate about Global Warming all you want to but the evidence is right out there for you to see and touch. Yes, we have been in a slight warming trend but the numbers point to the fact that we are now in a cooling trend and nothing we can do will affect this.

A really sad thing to read about. Science at outposts has always been scrupulously accurate but the scientific culture there has always been a bit crazy. I am sitting here tonight wearing a sweatshirt from WHOI where I took a bunch of classes while attending Boston University for Physical Oceanography. I had the good fortune to spend a lot of time on ships and two months (Jan and Feb) down on the island of Bimini. A lot of great science and a lot of wonderful fun. The Seacrest Bar and bonefishing after the bars closed. Great people, great fun.

I read this today from Stuff.NZ:

Jelly-wrestling leader sacked
A weekend jelly-wrestling bout in the Antarctica has cost the organiser his job.

The evening of jelly wrestling at McMurdo Base was uncovered the following day by a high-powered delegation from the United States Office of the Inspector General, which audits the National Science Foundation - funder of the programme.

The organiser of last month's jelly wrestling, which was held in a vehicle maintenance facility and attended by New Zealanders from neighbouring Scott Base, was sacked the following week.

The incident also led to an urgent all-staff meeting where the US Antarctic Programme workers were read the riot act and given a stern lecture on their collective moral failure, with other activities involving nudity cited as further examples.

In an email sent to all the staff, the sacked jelly-wrestling organiser threatened to file a suit for wrongful termination as well as lamenting the way the US programme was now run by Raytheon Polar Services and the "fun nazis".

"I will just say that I was terminated for having harmless jello wrestling," he said in the email.

"No-one was injured (five medevacs from the company-sponsored softball game), no equipment was abused or damaged, no-one complained to HR, there was no inappropriate behaviour, clothing, or nudity (though the Polar Plunge just hours before the jello event had plenty of nudity but no-one got fired or reprimanded for doing that!)."

The incident has highlighted the culture clash between the Raytheon Polar managers, many of whom are ex-military, and the staff, who may have been working on the ice for many years and do it out of commitment to the programme.

Another staff member, who has done five stints at McMurdo, said all the fun was being sucked out of working in the Antarctic.

"Each time we go down, the place just seems more and more emotionally beat down," he said in a posting on a website.

"Every trip, there are more and more rules, restrictions and guidelines that seem designed to take all the life out of the place and make it more like a unionised auto factory.

"Yes, I know it is a workplace, but they are sucking all the fun out of the place."

This is downright Fsckd. The people were fired for a game of jelly wrestling and not for failing to do their jobs. It is a workplace but it is not a workplace 24/7 and these people have time off and need to have recreation, eat, take time off and sleep. Like the article said, no injuries, no complaints, no damage to company property. Only a few visiting ninnies that got their knickers in a bunch and had to call their mommies... Fscking corporate Pussies!@#$

Pastoral York, PA

When I read this story, it took me by surprise. York is a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, Gettysburg; maybe 50 miles north of Baltimore and 100 miles East of Philadelphia. I have driven through that neck of the woods and it was small towns, rural character, farming and pasture. Compare that 40-year old memory to this picture on the front of one of York's buildings:
The York, PA York Daily Record has the story:
Owner's sign tells 'crack dealers' to sell here
A city property owner posted a sign about drug dealers on his window.

Madeline Snyder pulled her car over in the first block of South Penn Street in York on Thursday morning and snapped a photo of her son's home.

Boards nailed over his large front window were painted with a message:
"Deer crack dealer you kin sell crack on this block and the York police will not stop you." A smiley face is painted at the end of the sentence.
"It scares me," Snyder said.
Let me guess: #1) - Madeline is a single mom or the baby-daddy skipped out early. #2) - Little Jeffrey never finished high school. #3) - They both of them voted for John McCain and urged others to do so. Ahhh -- two out of three. I'll try to do better next time...
From the Lower Hudson Valley, NY The Journal News:
Probe promised in �no-work� case
February 5 A key lawmaker said he�ll look into a claim by an $93,803-a-year state employee that he has been given virtually no work to do for most of the past decade.

Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said he�ll ask the executive director and the chairman of the State Insurance Fund to respond to charges by Randall Hinton that he isn�t working in exchange for his paycheck.

Hinton, who didn�t return several phone calls Thursday, told the Albany Times Union that �I just sit here�� while on state time.

Bob Lawson, a spokesman for the fund, said Hinton does work and does a satisfactory job. He also said that Hinton has been offered other jobs that he has turned down.

Hinton told the paper he is being retaliated against for suing then-Gov. George Pataki in 2002, claiming bias because of his Native American heritage.
Classic corrupt politics. My W.A.G. is that there was some substance to the suit so this job is how they bought him off. Of course, this only serves to encourage others from doing the same thing. Hinton is one example, how many like him are quietly buffing their Facebook page and snoozing on the taxpayers dime...

President Obama reads a book.

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Heh... From April Winchell:
Barack Obama is tired of your motherfucking shit
If you�ve ever read President Obama�s Dreams From My Father, good for you. I couldn�t get past the foreword.

I wish I had. Because today I discovered that there�s a fairly juicy little subplot in the book, involving one of Obama�s high school friends.

Ray, a fellow classmate of Obama�s, was also bi-racial, and also trying to define himself. But what set him apart was his colorful manner of self-expression. Ray cursed like a motherfucker.

This would all be snickerworthy enough, but it turns out that Obama actually read the audiobook version of Dreams From My Father.

And that means he read Ray�s quotes.

And that means you�re about to hear the President of United States using language that would finish Cheney off once and for all.
What follows are five hilarious MP3 files. For me, I'm waiting for the dance mix...

A breath of fresh air - Global Warming

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Finally people are starting to wise up to the truth behind Anthropogenic Global Warming. From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:
Murdock: Even left now laughing at global warming
So-called "global warming" has shrunk from problem to punch line. And now, Leftists are laughing, too. It's hard not to chuckle at the idea of Earth boiling in a carbon cauldron when the news won't cooperate:
  • Nearly four inches of snow blanketed the United Arab Emirates' Jebel Jais region for just the second time in recorded history on Jan. 24. Citizens were speechless. The local dialect has no word for snowfall.
  • Dutchmen on ice skates sped past windmills as canals in Holland froze in mid-January for the first time since 1997. Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, who inhabits a renovated 17th Century windmill, stumbled on the ice and fractured his wrist.
  • January saw northern Minnesota's temperatures plunge to 38 below zero, forcing ski-resort closures. A Frazee, Minnesota dog-sled race was cancelled, due to excessive snow. Snow whitened Surf City, North Carolina's beaches. Days ago, ice glazed Florida's citrus groves.
As Earth faces global cooling, both troglodyte right-wingers and lachrymose left-wingers find Albert Gore's simmering-planet hypothesis increasingly hilarious.
Finally, a breath of fresh air...
An interesting look at the numbers behind the banking meltdown. It is amazing to me that #1) - this bubble lasted as long as it did and #2) - nobody paid any attention to the people who tried to warn them. From The Daily Kos:
Are We Going to Buy the Bezzle?
by Rep Brad Miller

The Obama Administration�s rumored plan to buy "troubled assets" to rescue banks presents the government with a "thorny valuation problem," the New York Times reports.

The article gives an example of a bond held by an unidentified "financial institution" which is "backed by 9,000 second mortgages from borrowers who put down little or no money to buy homes. Nearly a quarter of the loans are delinquent, and losses on defaulted mortgages are averaging 40 percent."

The financial institution values the bond at 97 cents on the dollar. Standard & Poor�s values the bond at 87 cents at the current default rate, but estimates the bond�s value could go down to 53 cents if the default rate doubles. But someone actually bought one of the bonds recently. The purchase price was 38 cents.

According to the article, financial industry critics "say that the banks� accounting for those assets cannot be trusted because they have an incentive to use optimistic assumptions."
A long and well researched post. Brad Miller is a Democratic Representative for North Carolina.

A new blog - The Infrastructurist

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Only a few days old but looking great so far. Check out The Infrastructurist

A lawsuit over some lizard shit

Actually, quite a valid suit. From the UK Telegraph:

Student in legal threat over excrement blunder
A student who spent seven years collecting lizard excrement for a PhD thesis is suing his university after it was thrown away.

Daniel Bennett is taking legal action against Leeds University following the blunder which led to 50lb of excrement being incinerated.

He had collected the samples from remote areas of the Philippines as part of an investigation into the rare Butaan lizard.

The animal - a close relative of the Komodo dragon - was assumed extinct for more than 100 years and little is known about it.

Mr Bennett spent five years investigating their diet, population size and behaviour by sifting through excrement found on the jungle floor.

He then won a scholarship at Leeds where he was paid to analyse more samples at the university's faculty of biological sciences.

But two years into his PhD he returned from fieldwork to find his collection had been "accidentally" thrown away by technicians clearing space in a laboratory.

A bit more:

"Returning to Leeds from fieldwork, I was surprised to find my desk space occupied by another student and to see that photographs of my daughter, my girlfriend and my favourite lizards had been removed from the wall.

"My personal effects had been carefully stowed in boxes, but there was no sign of my 35kg bag of lizard ****."

He claimed the department took a further 18 months to issue a formal apology - and offer £500 in compensation - which he turned down last year. The student, who had since completed his thesis, said he was now suing the university.

The poo was the result of five years in the field collecting. By analyzing it, he would have been able to determine a lot about what it ate. With it gone, that data is no longer available until more is collected. I think that he is very justified in that suit -- the people cleaning the lab should have been able to recognize scientific materials and that people would not simply keep fifty pounds of shit around for no reason.

Some nice recipes and a great food site

Ran into Frugal Cuisine on my nightly read of the intarwebs.

To channel Ahhhnold: Ahhhl be baaak!

Nice guys - a twofer

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Two stories from the middle east that really warm the cockles of my heart. The Religion of Peace indeed... First, from the Australian branch of news.com/AFP:
Iraqi woman had 80 women raped then recruited as suicide bombers
A woman suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.

Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.

In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets.
Second, from The Sun:
Al-Qaeda in gay rape horror
Evil al-Qaeda chiefs are raping young male converts to shame them into becoming suicide bombers, it emerged yesterday.

The intense social stigma and fear of more gay sex attacks leaves Muslims prepared to die.

The warped new tactic was revealed by a reformed Algerian militant. Abu Ba�ir El Assimi said: �The sexual act on young recruits aged between 16 to 19 was a means to urge them to commit suicide operations.�

A 22-year-old had suffered sexual injuries before being shot dead on a suicide mission in Tadema�t, Algeria, three weeks ago. Samples taken from his body are being analysed in a bid to identify his torturer.
You want to talk Religion here? This is a culture of fear and shame and it's chief prophet is not working for the good guy. Mohamed is the prophet of Satan, not of God. These mokes are in for one hell (literally) of a surprise when they wake up on the other side. Multiculturalism is done folks -- time to stick a fork in it and move on to something else. The coming Ice Age and how we need to drill more oil wells so we can generate more CO2 to save the planet...

Cents and Dollars

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From FAIL blog:
Good lord. Unable to tell the difference between $0.002 and 0.002. Like that old saying: "Hell must be full -- the damned are working tech support."
Don't jump out onto the freeway. From Seattle's KING5:
Fleeing suspect hit by car on I-5
A suspect trying to get away from police was hit by a car after running onto Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle.

Seattle Police say officers viewed what they called a suspicious person. That suspect ran off. The foot pursuit ended a short time later.

The next thing police heard was that the suspect was on the freeway and was hit by a car in the northbound lanes near the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
That section of I5 is downright stupidly designed for northbound traffic as it takes four lanes, funnels it into one and then back out to two with a lot of ramps coming and going. Drivers are too busy watching out for other cars to see something unexpected like a running person trying to cross lanes.

Titan Epitaph

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Yesterday, I ran into a two-part article on the Titan Missiles and their silos. The article referenced another site and I spent some time today wandering through. Well worth checking out. Web site for Chrome Hooves Lots of photographs, drawings, scans of old blueprints as well as recent photos by explorers. The site is very active with the last update happening January, 2009. For a more general missileer site, check out Siloworld. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and there was an old Nike missile base about 15 miles from town. Went out there a lot when I learned how to drive. Never took photos though... When I was in school in Boston, there was an old gun emplacement near the Nahant beach and I went in there a bunch of times too. Fun times!
We have always had lousy service with DHL -- a package that was supposed to be delivered by 2nd Day Air took two weeks to get here and only then by being driven up here in a DHL employee's personal vehicle. Another instance was for a small parcel that was to be overnighted to the store -- that only took ten days. We were lucky... Well, Chris Byrne at AnarchAngel used to contract for them and has the inside scoop:
Managing to Fail
I was a contractor at DHL for over a year (and excuse me if I'm a bit vague. I have to be careful what I say and how I say it, so as not to violate my confidentiality agreements). During that time, I and my team re-architected their entire security infrastructure; along with much of their data warehousing operations, and the open systems components of their dispatch and tracking systems. We made several hundred million dollars in capital expenditures, and spent well over a hundred thousands man hours (at anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour) in doing so.

At the end of the project, what we had was 4 or 5 times more efficient and effective than what they had before, and would have saved the company hundreds of millions of dollars; and they scrapped it, because it would have cost several hundred jobs in Germany and the EU.

Instead, they took a special inter-EU deal with the Czech Republic, and started over from the beginning; spending several hundred million more dollars to redo the work we had already done (and several billion dollars in total), only with mostly EU workers, in Prague.

DHL took a profitable, growing, fortune 500 business in Airborne Express; and they ran it into the ground from the beginning.

I don't believe I'm violating my confidentiality agreements to tell you that DHL was the worst managed company I have ever seen; and that's really saying something, as I've worked primarily in financial, medical, defense, and government.
The whole rant is staggering. Chris closes with this observation:
The entire ethos of the company was that of a civil service, semi-socialist, state sponsored monopoly. All major decisions were made by German (and other EU) bureaucrats, guided by that ethos. They managed not as businessmen running a business, but as politicians pandering to their constituents.

This is what happens when the state controls private businesses. Every time. The state acts in the interest of the state, not of the business; and that business will fail, in this case taking an Ohio town down with it.
A perfect example of why I hate cultural Marxism and socialism. The core ideas sound noble and empowering on the surface but the implementation makes for an huge, entrenched, top-down nanny state that micromanages all aspects of our life...

Even with huge government subsidies (our tax dollars), large-scale fuel-grade Ethanol is not profitable to manufacture. One company is realizing this and shifting gears.

From the Kansas City Star:

Instead of making ethanol, let's make a profit
Prospects for the ethanol business have gotten so bad that one Kansas-based producer has decided to stop making the fuel additive and will focus instead on making a profit.

The problem for MGP Ingredients Inc. is that it's not entirely sure it will be able do that. Its problems have put the Atchison, Kan.-based company in default on its bank loans.

Lenders are working with MGP but also have "strongly encouraged" the company to find additional lenders.

"The company's ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on the company obtaining additional financing in the near term and on the willingness of its existing lenders to exercise further forebearance and extend the (current credit) facility termination date beyond Feb. 27, 2009," MGP's announcement said.

MGP said it is talking with other prospective lenders.

The company had suspended its production of the fuel-grade alcohol in November. This morning, it�s decided to pull the plug on ethanol permanently.

"The decision represents another huge step in our business transformation process, which is intended to ultimately return MGP Ingredients to profitability," the announcement said.

MGP blamed "extreme and sporadic swings in ethanol demand" and the volatility in corn prices, oil prices and gasoline prices.

MGP said it will devote its Pekin, Ill., plant to making food-grade alcohol. The moves will force 79 workers into a temporary layoff.

Much better - a different set of laws but do-able and food grade alcohol sells for a lot more. It's used in medicinal tinctures and for making cheap liquors and vodkas.

Nothing stinks like a piece of bad legislation and the "Stimulus Package" is about as rotten as they get. The latest Rasmussen Poll puts public approval rating at 37% in favor:
Support for Stimulus Package Falls to 37%
Support for the economic recovery plan working its way through Congress has fallen again this week. For the first time, a plurality of voters nationwide oppose the $800-billion-plus plan.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% favor the legislation, 43% are opposed, and 20% are not sure.

Two weeks ago, 45% supported the plan. Last week, 42% supported it.

Opposition has grown from 34% two weeks ago to 39% last week and 43% today.
And they don't even have the honesty to call it by its name: Pork

Crap - talk about a stupid decision

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From MS/NBC:
Bush-era energy drilling leases in Utah canceled
Interior Department to review whether to open those federal lands

In its first action to overturn Bush administration policies on energy, the Obama administration on Wednesday said it will cancel oil drilling leases on more than 100,000 acres near two national parks and other protected areas in Utah.
That is 77 potential oil wells that we will not have. Prices will rise and we will be more dependent on foreign oil. I thought Obama was supposed to be good with this whole 'vision' thing... Hat tip to Kim Priestap at Wizbang for the link.
Let's see -- the population of the USA is around 300 Million. And 500 Million of them are loosing their jobs each and every month. Hat tip to News Busters for thes two YouTube videos:
Will Media Report Pelosi's Claim 500 Million Lose Jobs Each Month?
If former President George W. Bush said 500 million Americans are losing their jobs each month, do you think media would report it?

Probably every hour on the hour until all 300 million Americans had heard about it, right?

Well, during a press conference on an undetermined date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) -- you know, the second in line for presidential succession right behind the vice president!!! -- said, "Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package 500 million Americans lose their jobs."

Amazingly, she's made this same comment at least twice in the past month -- in front of cameras, mind you!!! -- without creating a media firestorm.

The Titan Missile bases

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An interesting look at the old Titan Missile Defense system by Jonathan Haeber writing at Bearings. Two parts -- the first deals with the hardware and the second is an interview of one of the first 'urban explorers' to check out the base long after it was abandoned. An interesting look at our history with lots of photos and drawings. Bearings is one of those sites that doesn't update very often but when it does, it is always worth a read.

Way to go Macy's - keep stayin' classy

How's this for a schedule. Monday - Lay off 7,000 workers. Tuesday - deliver the final installment of a $1.39 Million stock bonus to top execs. The bonus is actually a little more complex -- it was part of a deal initialized in 2004 and to be paid off in chunks but still, talk about really bad timing... From the Cincinnati.com:
Macy�s execs get performance bonuses
A day after Macy�s executives announced lay-offs of 7,000 workers and cut a dividend in half, top company officials received a final installment on $1.39 million in performance bonuses from 2004.

The stock credit plan created in March 2004 brought five top executives �phantom stock units� or stock credits after a three-year holding period ended on Saturday, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Tuesday.

Half of the incentive was paid in February 2008 with the remaining amount paid Monday.
'Ya know, if I was one of these top five execs, I would have suggested that the money be paid quietly in the middle of summer, long after the 7K layoff was history. Doing it so close to each other just doesn't send the right message and may well come back and bite them. The bad management shows in their stock prices over the last five years. Pretty good up until early 2007 and then a greased ride down into the terlit after then. And these people think that they deserve a reward?
Nineteen in the House and Six in the Senate have said that they will no longer vote on Pork. From The Club for Growth:
Swearing Off Pork in 2009
Earlier this year, the Club contacted every congressional office to find out who's swearing off earmarks for 2009. We expect more to come, but for right now, here are the brave lawmakers who aren't engaging in the awful pork process this year. Here is last year's list.
An interesting item to add to any communication with your Congresscritter's office -- Oh by the way, what is your stand on this...

Light posting today - again

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Been busy these days. Got a Chamber of Commerce meeting tonight and working on one of the apartments above the store (putting in a new door threshold and a couple of light fixtures). Still working on a website -- learning WordPress and very impressed with it. Nice stuff!

A proven cure for inflation

Lop twelve zeros off your currency. From CNN comes this article about -- you guessed it -- Zimbabwe:
Zimbabwe removes 12 zeros from currency
Zimbabwe slashed 12 zeros from its currency as hyperinflation continued to erode its value, the country's central bank announced Monday.

"Even in the face of current economic and political challenges confronting the economy, the Zimbabwe dollar ought to and must remain the nation's currency, so as to safeguard our national identity and sovereignty. ... Our national currency is a fundamental economic pillar of our sovereignty," said Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

"Accordingly, therefore, this monetary policy statement unveils yet another necessary program of revaluing our local currency, through the removal of 12 zeros with immediate effect."

The move means that 1 trillion in Zimbabwe dollars now will be equivalent to one Zimbabwe dollar.
And just how bad is it?
World-record inflation estimated to be in the billions of percent -- but officially at 231 million percent as of July last year -- has quickly eroded the currency's value again and again.
Another one of Jimmy Carter's little victories. And buried at the bottom of the article is this little tidbit:
Regarding the cash shortages, Gono blamed Germany for dropping a contract that helped the country print money.

"The country has suffered bouts of cash shortages, which have disadvantaged both the corporate and household sectors," he said.

"As a country, we have come to terms with this stubborn reality that we were put under economic sanctions by Germany, which unilaterally cut a 50-year-old contract to supply us with currency printing paper, machinery, spare parts and inks without notice in July last year."
This post of mine from March 2008 referenced this article in the London Times Online:
Documents obtained by The Sunday Times show the Munich company Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) is receiving more than �500,000 (�382,000) a week for delivering bank notes at the astonishing rate of Z$170 trillion a week.

�The regime is surviving by printing money,� said Martin Rupiya, professor of war and security studies at the University of Zimbabwe. �At this stage there is no other way.�

According to a source at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, G&D delivers 432,000 sheets of banknotes every week to Fidelity printers in Harare, where they are stamped with the denomination. Each sheet contains 40 notes and the current production is entirely in Z$10m notes.
I wonder if G&D were being paid in Zim Dollars or if they were being paid at all or if the situation in Zimbabwe was a little close to the situation in Germany not that long ago... The usual Rope. Tree. Some assembly required.

There are a number of similarities between the Great Depression of the 1930's and the economic bubble we are presently in. Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian at the Wall Street Journal write about one specific aspect- how the Government acts:

How Government Prolonged the Depression
Policies that decreased competition in product and labor markets were especially destructive

The New Deal is widely perceived to have ended the Great Depression, and this has led many to support a "new" New Deal to address the current crisis. But the facts do not support the perception that FDR's policies shortened the Depression, or that similar policies will pull our nation out of its current economic downturn.

The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office. Total hours worked per adult, including government employees, were 18% below their 1929 level between 1930-32, but were 23% lower on average during the New Deal (1933-39). Private hours worked were even lower after FDR took office, averaging 27% below their 1929 level, compared to 18% lower between in 1930-32.

The money quote:

So what stopped a blockbuster recovery from ever starting? The New Deal.

And a bit more:

By the late 1930s, New Deal policies did begin to reverse, which coincided with the beginning of the recovery.

And the two authors are not slouches when it comes to the dismal science:

Mr. Cole is professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ohanian is professor of economics and director of the Ettinger Family Program in Macroeconomic Research at UCLA.

Ward Churchill back in the news again

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The fake Indian, lier, plagiarist and confidant of thugs is back in the news again. Booted from his cushy teaching position at the University of Colorado back in 2007, he has been trying to get reinstated. The Former Governor of Colorado had a few choice words about him. From the Rocky Mountain News:
Bill Owens minces no words on ex-prof Ward Churchill
Former guv, deposed for trial, calls Churchill 'a plagiarist and a fraud'

Former Gov. Bill Owens on Friday compared one-time University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill to a famous moviemaker - and it wasn't a compliment.

"In retirement, he's starting to look a lot like Michael Moore," Owens said, referring to the frumpy director of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11.

Churchill, fired by CU in 2007, is suing to get his job back.

Owens and others, including University of Colorado regents, are being deposed as part of the trial, scheduled to start March 9 in Denver District Court.

Owens declined to discuss in detail what kinds of questions he was asked and what answers he gave, but Owens wasn't shy about expressing his opinion of Churchill.

"Ward Churchill is a plagiarist and a fraud, and, regrettably, we continue to pay for his deception."

Churchill could not be reached for comment.
For a bit of the brouhaha over Churchill's "career", check out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Trouble in Paradise

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The hubris of thinking that you can re-engineer a chunk of the planet to make a paradise... Infrastructure always bites you when you least expect it. From the London Times Online comes this story:
Sun, sea and sewage in the playground of the rich in Dubai
A noxious tide of toilet paper, raw sewage and chemical waste has transformed Dubai�s most prestigious stretch of shoreline into a foul-smelling health hazard.

A stretch of the exclusive Jumeirah Beach � a magnet for Western tourists and home to a string of hotels � has been closed.

�It�s a cesspool. Our tests show too many E. coli to count. It�s like swimming in a toilet,� said Keith Mutch, the manager of the Offshore Sailing Club, which has posted warnings and been forced to cancel regattas.
One of the problems:
There he discovered that dozens of sewage lorries carrying human waste from Dubai�s 1.3 million inhabitants emptied their tanks into storm drains such as the one leading to the sailing club. The drains, all connected, were built to carry excess water that falls during Dubai�s short rainy season.

According to some truckers � mostly poor workers from southern Asia � illegal dumping of waste is a purely financial decision.

In interviews, several said that they were paid by the truckload to collect waste from the city�s septic tanks and transport it to the only sewage treatment plant in the area.

This involved a long drive into the desert with lengthy queues at the end � so they opted to dump their loads in the storm drains.�We are paid so poorly, we have no other choice,� said one driver, who insisted on remaining anonymous.
Just goes to show that great wealth doesn't impart great management skills, wisdom or infrastructure...

A cost/benefit analysis for the NY Times

Nicholas Carlson at Silicon Alley Insider ran some numbers and ran into an interesting idea:

Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle
Not that it's anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

Here's how we did the math

Not that they would actually have the foresight to do this of course. A lot of publications are going to internet only or dropping their publication schedule from monthly to bi-monthly or quarterly.

Treasure hunting Marine Archaeological company Odyssey Marine Exploration found another ship but the owners aren't letting it go. From the Orange County, CA Register
Wreck of renowned British warship found in Channel
Deep-sea explorers who found $500 million in sunken treasure two years ago say they have discovered another prized shipwreck: A legendary British man-of-war that sank in the English Channel 264 years ago.

The wreckage of the HMS Victory, found below about 330 feet of water, may carry an even bigger jackpot. Research indicates the ship was carrying 4 tons of gold coins when it sank in storm, said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, ahead of a Monday news conference in London.

So far, two brass cannons have been recovered from the wreck, Stemm said. The Florida-based company said it is negotiating with the British government over collaborating on the project.

"This is a big one, just because of the history," Stemm said. "Very rarely do you solve an age-old mystery like this."

Thirty-one brass cannons and other evidence on the wreck allowed definitive identification of the HMS Victory, 175-foot sailing ship that was separated from its fleet and sank in the English Channel on Oct. 4, 1744, with at least 900 men aboard, the company said. The ship was the largest and, with 110 brass cannons, the most heavily armed vessel of its day. It was the inspiration for the HMS Victory famously commanded by Adm. Horatio Nelson decades later.
And the question of ownership?
A Ministry of Defense spokesman said Sunday the government was aware of Odyssey's claim to have found the Victory.

"Assuming the wreck is indeed that of a British warship, her remains are sovereign immune," he said on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy. "This means that no intrusive action may be taken without the express consent of the United Kingdom."
Here is Odyssey's webpage for the ship:
HMS Victory Project Overview
One of the world's greatest maritime mysteries was solved when Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered the shipwreck of HMS Victory, lost in 1744 under the command of Admiral Sir John Balchin. The direct predecessor and inspiration behind Nelson's flagship, Balchin's Victory was the mightiest and most technically advanced vessel of her age. She was lost during a storm with all hands and was the last Royal Navy warship to be lost at sea with a complete complement of bronze cannon. Two of the greatest admirals in English history, Sir John Norris and Sir John Balchin called her their flagship. Research indicates that Balchin's Victory sank with a substantial amount of gold and silver specice aboard.
Quite the find!
From ECommerce Times:
USPS 5-Day Delivery Week Could Hurt E-Commerce
The U.S. Postal Service is thinking of curtailing deliveries. Postmaster General John Potter asked Congress on Wednesday to allow the postal service to go to a five-day delivery week in an effort to cut costs and bring ballooning operating deficits under control.

USPS has been hit hard by the rise of e-mail, which has dramatically decreased the number of letters and parcels handled by the post office.

Mail volume in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008, declined 4.7 percent to 202 billion pieces of mail. The postal service reported a US$2.8 billion loss from operations and $7.2 billion in debt at the end of the fiscal year.
And the problem?
One e-commerce player in particular could be more vulnerable to a reduction in delivery days -- online DVD rental company Netflix

"They use the USPS, and that's their prime source of moving items," Argento said. "[Netflix] will be the most interesting dynamic to play out here."
An interesting observation -- sort of like how interstate trucking affected the railroads. Another bail-out in order?
They were just bailed out to the tune of $45 Billion of our dollars and they go and blow ten million on a Superbowl Party. From ABC News:
Bailed Out Bank of America Sponsors Super Bowl Fun Fest
Despite a near collapse that required $45 billion in federal taxpayer bailout funds, Bank of America sponsored a five day carnival-like affair just outside the Super Bowl stadium this past week as President Obama decried wasteful spending on Wall St.

The event � known as the NFL Experience � was 850,000 square feet of sports games and interactive entertainment attractions for football fans and was blanketed in Bank of America logos and marketing calls to sign up for football-themed banking products.

The bank staunchly defended its sponsorship, saying it was a "business proposition" and part of its "growth strategy."

Critics blasted the spending as a serious abuse of taxpayer money.
A bit more:
The bank refused to tell ABC News how much it is spending as an NFL corporate sponsor, but insiders have put the figure at close to $10 million.
And we are fscking rewarding these cretins for this kind of behavior? Seriously WTF is going on here...

867-5309 is up for sale on eBay

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And the bidding is over $150K! The history of 867-5309 The auction: eBay

The paradise that is Venezuela

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From BoingBoing comes this news of a new holiday in Venezuela:
Holiday in Venezuela: Chavez locks down Caracas, anti-semitic slurs appearing.
On Saturday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez decreed that February the 2nd, the anniversary of his ascent to presidency, would be a national holiday.

The government said that it would enforce the holiday and close and fine any open store. They are doing that and officers from the equivalent of the IRS, the SENIAT, are closing many stores that opened today. The country is paralyzed, no children at school, no classes at the universities, just because the selfish desires of a tyrant who said two days ago that he intends to be in power until 2049 and that there would be war if the opposition wins. (Related YouTube link).

Given the fact that some of my fellow happy mutants are somewhat sympathetic to Chavez, I submit this twitter link in Spanish that describes the reaction of some people to the closure of the stores. Not even in New year's Day, or Christmas or Independence Day a team of people are closing stores and imposing fines. They do this only because they were ordered to by some with no check or balances, who can starve people for a day (not even grocery stores are opening) only because his ego needs to be served.

The situation here is getting worse every day. Chavez issues crazy order after crazy order and nothing is done. People are tired of this, but they are also afraid to protest.

On Saturday, a synagogue was attacked in Caracas, something that never had happened before in Venezuela. On my way to the university I see walls painted with "killer jews" slogans and "Throw them out". I am sick of this, and I am even sicker that many of my fellow liberals think that this crap is the answer to our problems.

I know, my point of view is biased, even if I recognize that some of the policies of this government have been good, but I would oppose any government that tells me to shut up because I think different, no matter how good it would be. I would oppose any gov. that takes the money from our common resources to support itself and that claims that because I oppose it I am a despicable person.
The BoingBoing comments are a fascinating mix of red pill and blue pill...

Got two

Living this close to the Canadian border has its exciting moments.

From the Canadian Surrey Leader:

Agents thwart drug smugglers
Agents from the Border Patrol's Blaine Sector thwarted two separate overnight smuggling attempts January 28 from Canada into the United States, seizing over 240,000 tablets of 'ecstasy' with a total value of $2.6 million.

In the first instance, Blaine Border Patrol Agents observed a vehicle leaving an area that is notorious for narcotics smuggling. Agents followed the vehicle, lost sight of it, but it was later located abandoned by the Ferndale Police Department.

Border Patrol Canine units alerted officers to the presence of narcotics in the trunk of the vehicle. Twenty large vacuum-sealed bags containing tablets of ecstasy, and a set of night vision goggles, were discovered. A total of 100,000 tablets of ecstasy valued at $1,200,000 were seized.

In the second incident near Sumas, Border Patrol Agents responded to a remote video surveillance report of a suspicious vehicle lurking close to the Canadian border in an area where drug smuggling often occurs. Agents stopped the vehicle from leaving the area and found two suitcases in the rear cargo area. A total of 120,000 tablets of ecstasy valued at $1,440,000 were discovered.

That is going to put a crimp in someone's operating funds. Sucks to be you...

The Former Governor of Illinois

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Bruce Plante
Tulsa World
Jan 30, 2009
A bunch of bloggers have been reporting that everybody and their brothers have rushed to Kentucky to help with the massive power outages and freezing temperatures. That is, everybody except FEMA. Turns out they should have done a little fact checking as FEMA is in fact there. They worked with Governor Steve Beshear to get him to sign the proper authorization to get FEMA in and working. Many people forget that it wasn't Bush42's fault that FEMA didn't make its way into New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was that Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin failed to issue the formal request -- all the while FEMA and President Bush was pleading with them to do so. From this page on the FEMA website:
FEMA Assists Kentucky With Winter Storm Emergency
Priorities Are Saving Lives, Protecting Public Health and Safety

ATLANTA, Ga. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is helping the Commonwealth of Kentucky with its response to this week's major winter storm. Wednesday evening, Gov. Steve Beshear asked for and quickly received an Emergency Declaration from President Obama, which cleared the way for federal aid for 61 designated counties.

FEMA began moving food, water and industrial-size emergency generators into the commonwealth Thursday morning. To date, 12 truckloads of water, six truckloads of meals ready-to-eat and 50 industrial-size generators to provide power for critical facilities have moved into the national logistics staging area at Fort Campbell. In addition, FEMA is fulfilling the commonwealth's requests for fuel and communications equipment.

"We are working closely with Kentucky emergency management officials and will continue to do so as long as necessary to help the people of the commonwealth through this winter storm emergency," FEMA Regional Administrator Phil May said. "Our priorities are to save lives and protect public health and safety."
But of course, that is from the FEMA website and everybody knows that FEMA lies. Well OK, how about this: Kentucky Division of Emergency Management
After a request from Governor Steve Beshear, on the evening of January 28, 2009 President Obama approved a Federal Emergency Declaration for Kentucky. This emergency declaration allowed FEMA to immediately initiate crucial resources to the state critical to infrastructure and protection and safety of life.
See -- Beshear did it right, Blanco took three days to do this simple request. Well, that was a state website and everybody knows they lie. Well OK, how about this: The Kentucky Post
N.Ky. Fire Depts. Get FEMA Funding
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $913,699 in Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) funding to local fire departments and emergency medical services organizations in the state of Kentucky.

Falmouth and Crescent Springs will receive more than $100,000 for their fire departments.
This is what FEMA does -- they handle the big picture. Infrastructure, housing after the fact, generators and heaters to keep refuges warm and lit. They do not do house-to-house searches, that is the job of the military National Guard. They have the training to do this, FEMA is logistics and engineering. These two organizations have very little overlap. Here's an article from CNN:
Kentucky governor: Obama people �hit the ground running� on storm
Kentucky�s governor is praising the Obama administration�s prompt reaction to the fierce wintry weather that slammed his state.

�They really hit the ground running,� said Steve Beshear, interviewed by CNN. �They�re working very hard to get all the equipment and supplies here that we need.�

Crews have been working to restore power and water service to hundreds of thousands of people. Beshear said that while he realizes �nothing moves fast enough,� he said the federal assistance �has been a great help to us so far.�
And the money quote:
He said he spoke to the director of intergovernment relations and said she walked Kentucky�s paperwork through. He said President Obama called him and told him he was announcing an emergency declaration for the state.
"she walked Kentucky�s paperwork through" New Orleans had all sorts of offers of help from the Federal end but until they walked the paperwork through, FEMA and all of the other agencies could not lift a finger. The down side of States Rights. Now that Bobby Jindal is at the helm of Louisiana, another 'Katrina' will be dealt with properly. Governor Steve Beshear asked for help on Wednesday evening and the help (FEMA) arrived that following Thursday morning...

Missed it by --><-- that much

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Dumb robber division. From Stuff.co.nz/Reuters:
Lost thief holes up in French bank lavatory
A hapless thief drilled his way into a French bank at the weekend, but missed the safe and found himself in a lavatory where he was promptly arrested.

The 21-year-old broke into a building adjoining a branch of Banque Populaire in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille in the early hours of Saturday morning, La Provence newspaper said.

The paper said the man, who came from Belgium and was not named, thought that he was going to end up in a room housing safe deposit boxes but instead drilled into the lavatories.

Alarms were triggered when he broke through the wall and police caught the man when they arrived on the scene.
A Belgian thinking himself smarter than a Frenchman? Quelle surprise!

We care about the planet - we recycle

Is this such a good idea -- maybe not. From the UK Telegraph:
Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'
Recycling could be adding to global warming rather than reducing it, a key government adviser on waste management has said.

Peter Jones suggested that an "urgent" review of Labour's policy on recycling was needed to make sure the collection, transportation and processing of recyclable material was not causing a net increase in greenhouse gases.

Mr Jones, a former director of the waste firm Biffa and now an adviser to environment ministers and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, also dismissed kerbside recycling collections in many areas as "stupid" because they mixed together different materials, rendering them useless for recycling.

He suggested that much of the country's waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity.

"It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away," he said.

"We've got to urgently get a grip on how this material is flowing through the system; whether we're actually adding to or reducing the overall impact in terms of global warming potential in this process."

Mr Jones's outspoken comments come amid increasing controversy over household recycling.
Heh... To get the full story of recycling in the USA, check out this episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit (in three parts)

A new windmill - cost analysis NO DON'T

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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. From dispatches from TJICistan comes this perfect example of why 99% of large scale alt.energy is a total scam:
being �green� means turning your brain off and destroying value
Wind turbine is alternative energy source in Medford
[ Medford ] is in the process of commissioning a wind turbine at the John J. McGlynn Sr. Elementary and Middle School.

The site is just along the highway and the Mystic River near the Route 16 exit and visible to thousands of people using the road.

The turbine�s hub is 131 feet high and its three blades are 34 feet long. It was made by Northern Power of Barre, Vt., and is expected to generate 170,000 kilowatt hours, or about $25,000 worth of electricity per year. That�s about 10 percent of the school�s electricity bill, said Patty Barry, director of the city�s energy and environment office.

Barry and Mayor Michael J. McGlynn showed the turbine to a reporter yesterday, a day after the official ribbon-cutting ceremony�

the $644,000 Medford project�
Let�s assume that you can borrow money at 5%.

Let�s assume that the turbine has a lifetime of 33 years, and thus depreciates 3% per year.

Let�s assume that maintenance costs are 1% of the purchase price, or $6k / year.

The cost to operate the turbine is now $57,960 per year.

�and it delivers - maybe! - $25k per year in electricity.

The citizens of Medford would be better off gathering every January first, taxing themselves $30,000, putting it in a pile, and lighting it on fire.

Every year.

For 30 years.

If they did that, they�d come out almost $3,000 per year ahead of this idiotic plan.

Nice work, leftists.
And the numbers are the same all over the world. Same for Photo-Voltaic as well. From Don Lancaster:
As we have seen, not one net watthour of pv photovoltaic electricity has ever been generated. And the breakeven date is clearly falling further and further behind with heavy new investment in CIGS and related technologies.

Net energy breakeven can reasonably be expected something like eight years after total fully burdened, subsidy free panel costs reach twenty five cents per peak watt. Until then, the pv panels are clearly gasoline destroying net energy sinks. And are in no manner renewable nor sustainable.
And: More in our Energy Fundamentals and More Energy Fundamentals tutorials. The links for Don's stuff opens up as PDF files. It's a scam folks -- keep moving along, nothing to see...

Popular Science noticies the sun

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The idea that the sun may be the key driver for our climate is finall starting to percolate out into the general public. Not the NY Times yet (that will be the day that the stake is driven through the heart of Anthropogenic Global Warming for good) but Popular Science has a nice article:
What's Happening to the Sun?
Could its unusual behavior herald a new ice age?

For about 50 years from roughly 1650 to 1700, the Sun took a break from its typical sunspot activity. That phase of solar rest coincided with what we now refer to as "The Little Ice Age" -- a period of cooling on the Earth that resulted in bitterly cold winters, particularly in Europe and North America. Scientists attribute the Little Ice Age to two main causes: increased volcanic activity and reduced solar activity.

Could it happen again? And are we headed there now?

The term "solar activity" refers collectively to sunspots, solar flares, and solar eruptions. Together, these phenomena make up the "space weather" that alters interactions between Earth and its atmosphere, causing potential disruptions to satellites, communications systems, and power grids. Varying levels of solar activity also cause significant changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, which can affect the weather and climate on Earth.

Solar cycles, which last an average of 11 years, are driven by the number, size, and placement of sunspots -- cooler, darker spots on the Sun's surface where intense magnetic activity occurs -- on the Sun's surface. Each cycle is marked by a solar minimum and a solar maximum, meaning the approximate time in the cycle when the least and greatest amounts of solar activity occurred. During the solar minimum, sunspot activity diminishes, and during the maximum greater numbers of sunspots appear. As one cycle winds down and another begins, sunspots from both cycles can be seen simultaneously.

By late 2007, Solar Cycle 23, which began in 1996, was decaying to low activity levels, and NOAA forecasters predicted that Solar Cycle 24 would begin in March 2008, plus or minus six months. Indeed, the new cycle's first sunspot appeared in January 2008 -- its high-latitude location a clear sign that it was part of the new solar cycle. But in the months that followed, there was a marked decrease in sunspot activity, spawning questions about whether we could be headed into another little ice age.
A good and balanced article.

January 2021

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