January 2010 Archives

Light posting tonight

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A friend of ours just dropped in so blogging will be minimal.

Appliance Repair

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Was turned on to this by a friend. Get the model number of any household appliance, type it into the box at Appliance Repair and it will open up a window at Repair Clinic with all the parts needed to fix your appliance. There is also a Repair Help section that helps to diagnose common problems. A cool thing is that the replacement parts in Repair Clinic are photographed against a 1" square background so you can be sure that the widget you are buying matches the broken widget in your hand. It is a commercial site but the prices are reasonable. And yeah, it took me about five minutes online to find the cause of an intermittent problem with our refrigerator that had been bugging us for a few months.

Our model shows us that...

BZZZTTTT - since when did models come to permeate science and economics. From the Literary Review of Canada: Blind Oracles
Researchers have developed models to predict everything from earthquakes to pandemics. The trouble is, they don't work.

Humankind has always wanted to predict the future. It seems we are genetically inclined to want to find out what is coming up around the next corner. This is especially true of scientists, many of whom believe that prediction is the real aim, and the best test, of any scientific theory. Just ask the writers of those leaked emails from the University of East Anglia�s Climatic Research Unit.

But the histories of science and prediction have long been closely intertwined. The most successful forecasting operation of all time was the oracle at Delphi, in ancient Greece. It lasted for almost a thousand years, beginning in the 8th century BC. The predictions were made by a woman, known as the Pythia, who was chosen from the local population as a channel for the god Apollo. Her predictions were often vague or even two sided, which perhaps explains how she lasted so long -- rather like Alan Greenspan. A bit more:

Today, scientists have mostly taken over the mantle of prediction from astrologers or organized religion. Like the Greeks before them, they have built hugely complicated models of the cosmos, based not on circles but on equations. General circulation models predict tomorrow's weather or the climate in a hundred years' time. General equilibrium models predict the flow of the economy. Geological models of the Earth's crust attempt to predict earthquakes or the eruption of volcanoes. When governments want to know the impact of their policies on future generations, or want to protect against disasters, it is to these models that they turn.

The article is actually a book review:

Megadisasters: The Science of Predicting the Next Catastrophe explains for lay readers the predictive science behind such hopes. The author, Florin Diacu, is a mathematician at the University of Victoria who specializes in celestial mechanics and chaos theory.

And the crux of the problem:

Weather forecasting, for example, has certainly improved since the 1950s, when we did not have supercomputers or weather satellites. But progress has tapered off, and forecasts of precipitation still lose most of their accuracy after just a few days. Economic forecasting is in even worse shape. At the start of 2008, a poll of forecasters by Bloomberg showed an average expected gain for the S&P 500 index of 11 percent, with no one predicting a decline. By year end the market was down 38 percent. In biology, we still cannot predict the effects of a new drug, or a new virus like swine influenza, despite the success of the Human Genome Project at decoding our DNA. And as geophysicist Susan Hough wrote recently in the New York Times, "scientists have been chasing earthquake prediction -- the holy grail of earthquake science -- for decades. Yet we have little to no real progress to show for our efforts."

This does not stop anyone from making predictions, of course. Today, we are bombarded more than ever in the media with forecasts about the weather or the economy or politics, and are frightened by stories of climate change or deadly pandemics. Forecasting has become big business, especially in areas such as business and economics, but the poor track record of the oracles is rarely discussed. Our inclination and curiosity toward the future seem to make us equally incurious about going back to see whether past forecasts were right.

The upshot of all this is that the science of prediction has a considerable amount of baggage attached to it. Scientists are in an awkward position, and more than just grant money is at stake. For two millennia they have striven to predict and control the universe, and have held that up as the ultimate test of success or failure. The fact that the models cannot predict is a great concern -- and it leads to some rather dysfunctional responses.

Rather dysfunctional responses indeed! Should be an interesting book...

How To Make a Giant Octopus

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Fun seven minute YouTube on making a prop for a movie:
From the wonderful Propnomicon
Celebrating the creation and collection of curious devices, intriguing documents, and forbidden artifacts, with an emphasis on items inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos.

Interview with a Deadhead

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Someone is being interviewed at Jambands.com and they said this:
I fondly remember seeing the Dead when I was at Cornell. It was the day of the fabulous Fiji Island party on the driveway �island� of the Phi Gamma Delta House. We�d cover ourselves in purple Crisco and drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and dance on the front yard. Wait I think got the order reversed there: We�d drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and then cover ourselves in purple Crisco then the dancing. You probably had to be there to grasp how utterly fantastic this was.
Ann Coulter! Here is the intro to a wonderful interview:
�Deadheads Are What Liberals Claim to Be But Aren�t�:An Interview with Ann Coulter
When I called the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, whose chairwoman gives speeches on topics with titles like "The Failures of Feminism", and told the gatekeeper there that I wanted to do an interview with Ann Coulter solely about the Grateful Dead, there was a small pause. Then she recovered and politely told me to send her an e-mail, which she would forward to Ann. That, I expected, would be the end of it.

When I got home that night, and saw an e-mail in my box from Ann Coulter, I thought "how polite of her to send a rejection letter rather than simply ignoring my proposal." Instead, I found that she had somehow written "I�d love to! Good website!" While she was delayed by a round of speeches to make up due to strep throat, and other events life throws out, we kept shooting e-mails back and forth and I discovered a secret that I will reveal despite the damage to her reputation that it may cause: Ann is really cool and really funny. The few friends I talked with about this said "What? You of all people are getting along with Ann Coulter?!" It was easy and simple to do: we never talked policy. It was a joy talking with her, even if we don�t agree on everything (most politics, and "Alabama Getaway" sucks).

What followed was the most surreal interview I have ever done in my life. It involves smearing oneself with purple Crisco, Kanye (Ann�s a fan), slews of Reagan and Bush appointees leaving the Justice Department to go to Dead shows, lamentation for the neglected "Pride of Cucamonga," getting inside info on the Monica Lewinsky scandal by being a Deadhead, and saying goodbye to Jerry in Golden Gate Park. Some of her answers WILL piss people off, but there�s no doubting her tie-dyed credentials even if the dye is much more red than blue. Her latest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, was published earlier this month.
The interview is a couple years old -- just found it out. A fun fun read...

Running up quite the bar tab

The Botox Queen is living very high on the hog. From WorldNetDaily:
Taxpayers pay $101,000 for Pelosi's in-flight 'food, booze'
It reads like a dream order for a wild frat party: Maker's Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey's Irish Cr�me, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey � and Corona beer.

But that single receipt makes up just part of the more than $101,000 taxpayers paid for "in-flight services" � including food and liquor, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trips on Air Force jets over the last two years. That's almost $1,000 per week.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, which investigates and prosecutes government corruption, show Pelosi incurred expenses of some $2.1 million for her use of Air Force jets for travel over that time.

"Speaker Pelosi has a history of wasting taxpayer funds with her boorish demands for military travel," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said today. "And these documents suggest the Speaker's congressional delegations are more about partying than anything else."

Pelosi, D-Calif., recently joined President Obama on a Judicial Watch list of Top 10 corrupt politicians because of her "sense of entitlement," the group said.
More over at Judicial Watch here and here

Rethinking Nuclear

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An interesting look at an alternative to Nuclear Power. The Electric Utilities always go for bigger is better. Why is this a good idea? From Will Collier writing at Pajamas Media:
When It Comes to Nuclear Power, Companies Should Think Small
A few months ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted permission for initial site work to begin on new nuclear reactors in the United States for the first time since the 1970s. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the gigantic Southern Company, plans to build the two new reactors at its Vogtle nuclear plant, near Augusta.

At first glance, I was all in favor of new nuclear construction. Among other reasons, it�s high time we stopped determining energy policy on the basis of a bad Jane Fonda movie. But as a Georgia Power customer � who�s already on the hook for part of the bill for the new facilities � I�m scratching my head a bit over both that price tag, and over the rationale for going back to the old model of massive, complex, and hugely expensive power plants.

The planned Votgle upgrade is estimated to cost around $14 billion, and each reactor will produce around 1250 megawatts of electricity (MWe). The new reactors will be added to two existing units which were completed during the 1980s.

The cost of those two original units, estimated at the time to be around $660 million, skyrocketed to nearly $9 billion in the wake of the post-Three Mile Island regulatory blizzard. That jump in costs, which was typical for the industry, effectively ended new nuclear plant construction for a generation.
The alternative and some numbers:
Take for instance the Hyperion Power Module, or HMP. Developed at, and then spun off from, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hyperion is marketing the diametric opposite of the power companies� massive and complex facilities. Hyperion�s reactor is a relatively tiny device, about the size of a dinky Smart Car.

Unlike large-scale plants requiring 24/7 monitoring by a small army of engineers and technicians, an HPM contains no moving parts, and is intended to operate for years with no human interaction to speak of. Hyperion reactors are actually intended to be buried underground during their service lives, with no hands-on maintenance at all between refueling cycles, which occur every 7-10 years.

Of course, a single Hyperion unit is hardly the equivalent of a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, two of which are planned for the Votgle facility. One HPM generates only 25 MWe, while a massive AP1000 churns out an appropriately massive 1250 MWe or so.

But nobody ever said you have to buy just one. If we assume that a single new AP1000 costs about $7 billion for 1250 MWe (which is not entirely fair as �sticker prices� go, since the $14 billion estimate for the Votgle plant upgrade includes financing costs as well as actual production), that works out to about $5.6 million per MWe.

A single HPM currently lists for $50 million (and I should note here that this is already twice the price Hyperion promised in its initial 2008 press releases). At 25 MWe per unit, we�re looking at $2 million per MWe, a little more than a third of the unit price of power from an AP1000.

Hyperion says its reactors aren�t intended to replace large-scale generation plants, but the engineer in me wonders, why not? HPMs are built on an assembly line, and Hyperion already has over 100 orders for them. Picking up my calculator again, I figure that in order to equal the output of one AP1000 reactor, I�d need to buy 50 HPMs.

At $50 million per unit (how about a bulk discount?), that would cost $2.5 billion. Now, I don�t have that kind of cash laying around myself, but you don�t need to be an accountant to see that $2.5 billion is a lot less than $7 billion. And that doesn�t count the untold millions I�d have to spend on the aforementioned army of maintainers for the AP1000 � although either way, you�d need a sizable team of regular power plant workers to maintain the actual power turbines.
The other thing to look at is these could be distributed over a wide area. This would eliminate the need for a lot of the grid inter-ties. Hospitals and Medical Centers could have their own electrical source. Factories. Cities. Makes a lot of sense... Also to consider is that the Pressurized Boiling Water Reactor (PBWR) design is basically about 60 years old and it still has the waste problem. Newer designs using Thorium have a great safety record, are very efficient and can recycle much of their own waste back into fuel. The remaining waste only needs about 300 years of storage.
Some interesting comments from someone who knows the subject. From Founding Bloggers:
Lech Walesa: �America Is Moving Toward Socialism�
On Friday, January 29th, 2010, Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, traveled to Chicago to endorse Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate, Adam Andrzejewski.

We were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to sit down with the President and Mr. Andrzejewski. Our video from that visit is below.

Items that stand out: 1) Lech Walesa tells his American audience that the United States no longer leads the world politically or morally 2) At least one of your Founding Bloggers asks President Walesa if he thinks America is slipping toward Socialism. His Answer? Yes! 3) Andrzejewski is running on a platform of forensically auditing Illinois� books and exposing corruption by making the details of the audit available to the public.
He is expecting that a forensic audit can save taxpayers three to five billion dollars -- such is the level of corruption. A Democratic Governor in Kansas did the same thing and saved one billion.

Lord Monckton on Rajenda Pachauri

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An interesting insight into just who is paying for this -- us...

Dain Bramaged spam attempt

Gotta love this one -- the comment was totally out of context with the post. Here is the pitch, edited to defeat search engines:
Nwe Fere Hotsing Srevice
Join SU! Fere / FSAT Flie hotsing!
NO Adevrtiisng or so! Fere For Eevr! NO LMIIT!
So their business model is to host web pages up to a gigabyte and not charge any money and to not have advertising. Your web page will be hosted by them 4EVAH! If advertising is antithetical to them, why are they using comment spam to advertise. Two mouse clicks and the IP address is banned and the purported hosting company is banned as well.

The memory of an overdose - 10:23

Dang -- just missed it. Would have been fun to participate. From 10:23:
Homeopathy: There's nothing in it
At 10:23am on January 30th, more than 300 homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic 'overdose'.

What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, yet it persists today as an accepted complementary medicine.

Ask many people what they think homeopathy is, and you'll be told "it's herbal medicine" or "it's all-natural". Few realise that it's been proven not to work; even fewer know it involves substances so dilute that there's nothing left in them. Homeopathy takes advantage of this uncertainty to sit alongside real, proven medicines on the shelves of our major pharmacies.

The 10:23 Campaign
The 10:23 Campaign aims to raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy. We will tell you how it can be proven not to work, why homeopaths' claims are impossible, why you should care.

The campaign is organised by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, a non-profit organisation for the promotion of scientific skepticism. More information about Merseyside Skeptics is available on their website.

What's the Harm?
If there is nothing in it, it can't do any harm, right? Wrong! Journalist and science-writer Simon Singh tells us why.
The 10:23 refers of course to Avogadro's Number. From this page:
Following on from his 'law of similars', Hahnemann proposed he could improve the effect of his 'like-cures-like treatments' by repeatedly diluting them in water. The more dilute the remedy, Hahnemann decided, the stronger it will become. Thus was born his 'Law of Infinitesimals'.

Taking a single drop of caffeine and diluting in ninety-nine drops of water creates what is known to homeopaths as one 'centesimal'. One drop of this centesimal added to another ninety-nine drops of water produces a two-centesimal, written as 2C. This 2C caffeine potion is 99.99% water and just 0.01% caffeine. At 3C the dilution is 0.0001% caffeine, at 4C it's 0.000001% caffeine, and so on. Homeopathic remedies are commonly sold at 6C (0.000 000 000 1%) and even 30C (0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1%) dilutions, which homeopaths will often drip onto little balls of sugar to sell.

When these numbers are written out, it's easy to see how absurd they are. At 12C you pass what is known as the Avogadro Limit, the point at which there is likely nothing of your original substance left.

By the time you reach 30C, you have more chance of winning the lottery five weeks running than you have of finding a single caffeine molecule in your homeopathic sleeping draft. It's just ordinary water, dripped onto ordinary sugar.
I like to keep an open mind on things -- there are a lot of other cultures besides the Western one and there are a lot of things that we can borrow to great effect. Acupuncture has been an incredible help over the last three years of my hip disease and it's eventual replacement. My practitioner was perfectly cool with pairing Western medications with Eastern and the overall results were amazing compared with a lot of other people with the same disease (Avascular Necrosis brought about by intense steroid use as a child). When Homeopathy first showed up on my RADAR screen, I thought cool -- a codified system of herbal treatments. I then learned a bit more and had a SERIOUSLY WTF??? moment. There is absolutely no way that this can be anything more than a placebo. And the final nail in the coffin -- if this stuff actually worked, Big Pharma would be all over it. Instead, the vendors are all small companies marketing through the offices of wannabe Doctors and in the back pages of new age magazines...
Dr. Rajenda Pachauri's previous career was as an engineer for the Indian Railroad. He got a degree in Economics and is now Dr. Pachauri. His current career is as head of the United Nations IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) -- you know, the 6,000 45 scientists who say that there is a consensus and that CO2 must be limited by International Law. (funny -- I never remembered anything about consensus when I was at Boston University studying Marine Biology). He has been under fire recently as data in the IPCC reports has come from any number of non-scientific sources; articles in Climbing magazine, press releases from such partisan groups as Sierra Club, World Wildlife Foundation, Greenpeace, etc... Add to this the fact that a corporation he controls is getting very very wealthy from all of these activities -- in a sense, the cap and trade is just a large shakedown. Well, he is working on his next career -- he just published a book. Not just any book. A porn book. From Anthony:
IPCC now in Bizzaroland: Pachauri releases �smutty� romance novel
Just when you think things can�t get any more bizarre with the IPCC, having just learned that the IPPC 2007 report used magazine articles for references, head of the IPCC, Dr. Rajenda Pachauri, provides comedy gold. According to the UK Telegraph, he�s just released what they describe as a �smutty� romance novel, Return to Almora laced with steamy sex, lots of sex. Oh, and Shirley MacLaine.
And a small taste:
By page 16, Sanjay is ready for his first liaison with May in a hotel room in Nainital. �She then led him into the bedroom,� writes Dr Pachauri.
�She removed her gown, slipped off her nightie and slid under the quilt on his bed� Sanjay put his arms around her and kissed her, first with quick caresses and then the kisses becoming longer and more passionate.

�May slipped his clothes off one by one, removing her lips from his for no more than a second or two.

�Afterwards she held him close. �Sandy, I�ve learned something for the first time today. You are absolutely superb after meditation. Why don�t we make love every time immediately after you have meditated?�.�
Good lord -- and this guy thinks he can write? This is as bad fiction as the IPCC reports.

Writing on the wall

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Sobering little article from Bloomberg:
Roubini Calls U.S. Growth �Dismal and Poor,� Predicts Slowing
New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, who anticipated the financial crisis, called the fourth quarter surge in U.S. economic growth �very dismal and poor� because it relied on temporary factors.

Roubini said more than half of the 5.7 percent expansion reported yesterday by the government was related to a replenishing of inventories and that consumption depended on monetary and fiscal stimulus. As these forces ebb, growth will slow to just 1.5 percent in the second half of 2010, he said.

�The headline number will look large and big, but actually when you dissect it, it�s very dismal and poor,� Roubini told Bloomberg Television in an interview at the World Economic Forum�s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. �I think we are in trouble.�

Roubini said while the world�s largest economy won�t relapse into recession, unemployment will rise from the current 10 percent, posing social and political challenges.

�It�s going to feel like a recession even if technically we�re not going to be in a recession,� he said.
Both the uptick in the economy and the 10% unemployment figures are highly influenced by the Christmas season and this present quarter will show numbers that are a lot worse. The government is hiring 1.4 million people to assist in the 2010 Census so that will offset unemployment numbers for about six months, all the while jobs are being lost from non-government sectors. What looks like a heartening uptick could well be just a speedbump on the road down.

Back from the gun show

It was huge -- easily 500 people in a large room at the State Fairgrounds.

Cameras were verboten for good reason so no pictures but lots more vendors and a much wider range of items displayed.

The KelTec I am lusting after has actually not been released as yet -- I was told by a local shop to check back every two weeks or so.

There were a couple 1911's that were for sale for under $1,000 but they were either new foreign knockoffs (the quality of craftsmanship really matters -- it is not apparent but there is quite a high degree of precision needed) or they were seriously bubba'd by some shade-tree gunsmith or previous owner.

A good one was in the $1,500 range. A good day was had by all.

I also stopped in to see my Dad whose short-term memory is getting worse and worse. Sad to see.

Ran some other errands getting some things for the shop and for the store. Sitting down to the last of the turkey and smashed potatoes and will commence reading the internet.

Earth Shattering Ka-Boom

Heading out to the Gun Show in a few minutes.

This pistol has been catching my eye recently. One of my rifles uses the same ammunition so the duplication would be handy.


Sure, like everyone else, I lust after a 1911 but the demand for these has the price four times that of the PMR-30 and George Kellgren is no slouch when it comes to Gun design.

The PMR-30 is a reworking of his Grendel P30 from the '90's. J.M.B. is the highest in the pantheon of designers but Kellgren is right up there at his right hand...

Very gruesome -- most definitely not for the squeamish but... If you want to see the dangers inherent in copper theft, head over to Sean Linnane's place and check out this post.

The inmates are running the asylum

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From Breitbart/Associated Press:
Calif. Senate approves single-payer health care
The California Senate approved creating a government-run health care system for the nation's most populous state on Thursday, ignoring a veto threat from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Supporters said it is time for state legislatures to take up the debate as the Obama Administration's national health care proposal falters in Congress.

"If it's not to be done at the national level, let us take the lead," said state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego.

The move in California comes after Massachusetts voters changed the calculus in Congress by electing a Republican to the Senate who opposes the pending plan.

Democrats are the majority in both houses of the California Legislature. The 40-member state Senate passed the single-payer plan on a 22-14 vote, sending it to the Assembly. One Democrat voted against the measure.

Schwarzenegger promised to veto the proposal, as he has two similar plans that previously reached his desk. Spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola cited the state's massive budget cuts and looming $20 billion deficit in arguing the state cannot afford to shift to a single-payer health care system.
These people are stuck inside a large echo chamber and they are not listening to the voices of their constituents. This November will be interesting to watch...
Two items: From the Oregon Catalyst:
Tax dollars for prisoner satellite TV
Common Sense For Oregon today announced its fourth Golden Fleece Award winner. The award has been given for a second time to the Oregon Department of Corrections for spending nearly $1 million on free satellite television service for prisoners.

�This is unbelievable,� said Ross Day, executive director of Common Sense For Oregon, �First we discovered the state was giving away free soda pop, now we discovered the state is giving prisoners free satellite television.�

Although the satellite television service is paid out of the Inmate Welfare Fund, which is an account that is funded through profits from the sale of items to prisoners and families, revenue from the Inmate Welfare Fund could be spent on other programs which are currently being funded with taxpayer dollars.

�The taxpayers of Oregon are back-filling drug and alcohol treatment programs, education programs, and counseling programs so the Department of Corrections can provide free satellite television service to prisoners,� said Day.
Item number two -- from the Seattle Times:
State plans to appeal ruling on felon vote
Washington state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a surprising federal-court ruling that tossed out the state's 120-year-old prohibition against voting by incarcerated felons, Attorney General Rob McKenna said Wednesday.

The ruling, handed down Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, found that Washington's criminal-justice system was so "infected" with racial discrimination that a ban on felon voting violated civil-rights protections.
The 9th Circuit has been known for some loony rulings which have subsequently been overturned by the Supremes (71% of cases) but still, when you cross the line and commit a felony, you give up a lot of your rights. This has been the case for 120 years and it should remain so...

Looking forward to tomorrow

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We have some small gun shows that happen around here -- usually about 30 vendors and people know each other pretty well. For the first time in twelve years, a nearby town is hosting a large gun and knife show. From Bellingham station KGMI:
First Lynden Gun Show in More Than a Decade
After a 13 year absence, a gun show is coming to the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden this weekend.

Victoria Gilbert with Falcon Productions says there�ll be dozens of vendors.

Gilbert tells KGMI, the show is not just about guns.

There will be booths related to hunting, fishing, history, heritage, safety, gun rights and much more.

The show runs from 9:00am to 5:00pm Saturday and from 9:30am to 3:00pm on Sunday.
Should be a lot of fun!

Getting pecked to death by ducks

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Went out to dinner and had 12 more comment spam attempts. None successful; all fscking losers... Checking the IP addresses, in the first five, we have Northeastern University in Boston, the Vancouver CA government network, a system in the RIPE (R�seaux IP Europ�ens) netblock (EU), an ISP in NY State and a Verizon address in Virginia. Earlier today we had three cases where several computers on a network have been infected:
It's nice to feel wanted...

A bit of a flurry

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Had about 30 attempts at spam in the last 24 hours. It is usually in the 2-3 range -- none of them are getting through of course and the three legitimate comments that were posted went through without a problem. Odd...

The wheels are coming off

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It's fun to watch the slow-motion trainwreck of Anthropogenic Global Warming derailing and skidding to a halt. A few links as scientists and politicians scurry to cover their asses: The London Times:
Science chief John Beddington calls for honesty on climate change
The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government�s chief scientific adviser.

John Beddington was speaking to The Times in the wake of an admission by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that it grossly overstated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were receding.
The UK Telegraph:
China has 'open mind' about cause of climate change
China's most senior climate change official surprised a summit in India when he questioned whether global warming is caused by carbon gas emissions and said Beijing is keeping an "open mind".
The Australian Herald Sun:
The billion-dollar hoax
Once global warming was the "great moral challenge of our generation". Or so claimed the Prime Minister.

But suddenly it's the great con that's falling to bits around Kevin Rudd's ears.

In fact, so fast is global warming theory collapsing that in his flurry of recent speeches to outline his policies for the new decade, Rudd has barely mentioned his "moral challenge" at all.

Take his long Australia Day reception speech on Sunday. Rudd talked of our ageing population and of building stuff, of taxes, hospitals and schools - but dared not say one word about the booga booga he used to claim could destroy our economy, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef and 750,000 coastal homes.

What's happened?
The Vancouver Sun:
Canadian scientist says UN's global warming panel 'crossing the line'
A senior Canadian climate scientist says the United Nations' panel on global warming has become tainted by political advocacy, that its chairman should resign, and that its approach to science should be overhauled.

Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria, says the leadership of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has allowed it to advocate for action on global warming, rather than serve simply as a neutral science advisory body.

"There's been some dangerous crossing of that line," said Weaver on Tuesday, echoing the published sentiments of other top climate scientists in the U.S. and Europe this week.
The National Post:
Heat wave closes in on the IPCC
A catastrophic heat wave appears to be closing in on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. How hot is it getting in the scientific kitchen where they�ve been cooking the books and spicing up the stew pots? So hot, apparently, that Andrew Weaver, probably Canada�s leading climate scientist, is calling for replacement of IPCC leadership and institutional reform.

If Andrew Weaver is heading for the exits, it�s a pretty sure sign that the United Nations agency is under monumental stress. Mr. Weaver, after all, has been a major IPCC science insider for years. He is Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, mastermind of one of the most sophisticated climate modelling systems on the planet, and lead author on two recent landmark IPCC reports. For him to say, as he told Canwest News yesterday, that there has been some �dangereous crossing� of the line between climate advocacy and science at the IPCC is stunning in itself.
Canada's National Post:
Scientists using selective temperature data, skeptics say
Call it the mystery of the missing thermometers.

Two months after "climategate" cast doubt on some of the science behind global warming, new questions are being raised about the reliability of a key temperature database, used by the United Nations and climate change scientists as proof of recent planetary warming.
The cracks in the facade started showing about a year ago and now things are nicely picking up speed. Good...

Dr. Andrew Wakefield in the news again

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I posted yesterday about Dr. Wakefield and his tainted "research" regarding childhood vaccinations and the bogus link to autism. The Daily Bayonet has more:
Vaccine Alarmist Reaps the Whirlwind
An important news story comes from the UK as the doctor behind the hoax linking the MMR vaccine to autism faces losing his license.

Andrew Wakefield�s bogus research scared parents away from having their children vaccinated against dangerous but preventable childhood diseases. At least two children died as a result of not being immunized. What might have motivated Wakefield to make scaremongering claims against a safe, effective vaccine? Money, perhaps:
He [Wakefield] was also criticised for not telling the Lancet he had filed a patent for a measles vaccine to rival MMR, and for starting a child on an experimental drug called Transfer Factor, which he planned to produce and sell, without the necessary paediatric qualifications.
It looks very much as if Wakefield wanted to ruin the reputation of the MMR vaccine to create a favorable market for his own solution, without regard for the consequences to innocents.

Wakefield took advantage of parents seeking an explanation for their children�s autism and offered them something to blame, the MMR vaccine. But his research was false and no other study ever supported his theory. The disturbing element of the story is Wakefield�s �supporters�, people who became so invested in his false narrative that they can�t let it go even as the awful truth is revealed. Much like global warming believers, they are unable to reorient their mindset to understand they were duped by cynical hucksters seeking money and power.

The findings against Wakefield should serve as a warning to alarmists of all stripes � irresponsible activism has consequences. Phil Jones of the CRU might yet be tried for criminal actions, and it�s fair to say the global warming activism sector is a target rich environment for future fraud investigations.

Be worried, alarmists, eventually your lies will catch up with you, and the Internet never forgets.
The persistence of data and the searchability of the internet is what I love about it. You cannot hide -- the truth wants to be free. We saw it with ClimateGate and we see it with this failure of an EX-Doctor...

China experiences bitter cold

Another story of significantly colder than normal weather from Anthony at Watts Up With That:

Ice in Chinese ports "exceeding anything experienced in 30 years"
From Maritime Global.net


By David Hughes
Published: Tue, 26 January 2010

Freak weather conditions and/or abnormal weather patterns have been reported in several parts of the world during recent months warns the American P&I Club. One of the latest examples is a significant build-up of sea ice in some major northern Chinese ports, the volume exceeding, it says, anything experienced in more than 30 years.

In an alert to its members, the club says the problem is centred around Bohai on the northern Yellow Sea coast, affecting ports such as Bayuquan and Dalian. At Bayuquan, patches of ice 500-600mm thick have formed in some places, while lesser patches have been seen in the immediate vicinity of the port.

Three icebreakers are working to avoid delays to ships, while the local Maritime Safety Authority is strictly supervising inbound and outbound vessel traffic.

Our own corner of the planet is experiencing El Nino effects so the winter is warm and dry but the rest of the world is shivering...

Good lord! From the UK Telegraph:
Advert for 'reliable workers' banned as discrimination by Jobcentre Plus
Nicole Mamo, 48, wanted to post an advert for a �5.80-an-hour domestic cleaner on her local Jobcentre Plus website.

The text of the advert ended by stating that any applicants for the post "must be very reliable and hard-working".

But when Ms Mamo called the Jobcentre Plus in Thetford, Norfolk, the following day she was told that her advert would not be displayed instore.

A Jobcentre Plus worker claimed that the word "reliable" meant they could be sued for discriminating against unreliable workers.
What a bunch of self-centered prats. Too busy covering their asses to actually think about the things they are told to do. If this wasn't the remains of a once-great nation, it would be laughable. Orwell is spinning in his grave...
What a bunch of fucking delusional baloney -- the people who believe that there is a causative link between vaccines and Autism are doing grave harm to their children and their children's playmates. The movement started with reports from a Dr. Andrew Wakefield who did the pioneering research. Well, it seems that the good Doctor was Unethical and has been proven dead wrong. From Discover Magazine:
Antivaxxer movement leader found to have acted unethically
Continuing a month of skeptical victories, the UK�s General Medical Council has found that Andrew Wakefield � the founder of the modern antivaccination movement � acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" when doing the research that led him to conclude that vaccinations were linked with autism. This is being reported everywhere, including the BBC, Sky News, the Yorkshire Evening Post, and more.

The GMC (the independent body of medical regulators in the UK, rather like the AMA in the US) didn�t investigate whether his claims were correct or not � and let�s be very clear, his claims have been shown beyond any doubt to be totally wrong � only whether he acted ethically in his research. What they found is that his research (involving spinal taps of children) was against the children�s clinical interest, that Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test, and that he had no ethical approval to do them.

Wow. Again, let�s be clear: that�s a whole lot of ethical damnation from the UK�s leading medical board.

Not to pile on here, but I was rather surprised that they didn�t mention the claims � supported by a lot of evidence � that on top of all that unethical behavior, he may have faked his results, too. There�s also no mention of his grave conflict of interest� at the time he published his paper slamming vaccines and which started the antivax craze, he was developing an alternative to vaccinations, so he had a very large monetary incentive to make the public distrust vaccines.

The GMC has not announced whether he (and two of his cohorts) will be sanctioned or not. I�ll be very curious to see what they do.
Good. As the article mentions, we are starting to see a resurgence of the horrible childhood diseases which can be prevented with a simple and safe jab in the arm.
The antivax movement is resulting in the deaths of children from preventable diseases, many of which were all but gone in the United States. We�re seeing the return of measles, mumps, pertussis, even polio � polio, which was eradicated entirely in the US by 1994. Because vaccines are so effective, people don�t remember these diseases and how they would kill, and now the antivaxxers are paving the way for their return.
I would classify anyone who prevents their child from getting the vaccinations as clinically insane. Who, in their right mind, would object to having their child vaccinated.

More political payoffs - high-speed rail

Tone deaf. Obama is blowing $8Bn on building a high-speed rail system for the USA. Why? Nobody rides the train anymore -- it is for bulk cargo and that is it. From Breitbart/AFP:
Obama, Biden to unveil billion-dollar rail network
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will Thursday highlight eight billion dollars in economic stimulus funding toward a long-awaited US high-speed rail system. The announcement will apportion the funding among various state governments, with Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying in a statement Wednesday that his state expected to have part of their bid approved.

The administration had previously announced the figure for funding under Obama's 787-billion-dollar Recovery Act, but will offer more details at a town hall meeting in Tampa, Florida, an administration official said.
Just for shits and giggles, I looked at a trip from Bellingham, WA to Las Angeles: Here I can find my own way down from Bellingham to Seattle and spend 35 hours on the train for $98:
And here, I can fly out of Bellingham, spend four hours in the air and arrive in LA for only $103 to $203 depending on what day I wanted to leave.
The trains here run around 70MPH in rural areas. Assuming that the high-speed rail lines will run at about 150MPH (roughly the same as the other high-speed lines in the world). This means that for some fee higher than $133, I would be able to spend fifteen hours on the train. It might be fun once for the scenery but not for any regular mode of travel. This is pure pork for the unions and the political machines...

Why Obama doesn't get it

An excellent observation brought to light by Aardvarks & Asshats:

Couldn't Have Said It Better
Miss Marple, in a comment on a post at Ace Of Spades, says this with respect to why Obama doesn't get America:

He can't connect because he is not of this country. I don't mean his birthplace; don't care about the birth certificate. He has the soul of a third world grad student combined with that of a Marxist academic.

He doesn't know the people of this country. His early life was spent in the schools of Indonesia. His high school years were spent in an elite prep school. College and university were spent in eastern academia. And in Chicago he gravitated to people like Ayers and Wright.

He doesn't know about running a business, mowing the grass, or painting a fence. He never belonged to 4-H, Little League, Boy Scouts, or Pop Warner football. He has never gone to a country fair except to campaign. He's never fixed his own car, raked leaves, or unstopped a toilet.

Does he know about bowling leagues, Elks Club, or Knights of Columbus? Has he had neighbors who worked the line at Ford, sold insurance, or built houses?

Has he helped his wife hold a garage sale or take stuff to the dump? Has he fished, hunted, or taken his boat out on the lake?

He doesn't know the military or its culture. He doesn't understand farming. He cannot understand how doctors run their practices. Missionaries in Haiti are beyond his comprehension.

He doesn't know us. He is not OF us. He is a stranger in our land, and in our White House

[Emphasis mine - Ed] We would be better off with Sarkozy running the country.

Pretty well sums it up. No wonder we're in deep shit.

In Alaska of all places

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From EU Referendum:
Denial more dangerous than abortion
A recent attempt to show the Gore antidote, Not Evil Just Wrong in Colony High School in Wasilla, home town of Sarah Palin, met with some unexpected opposition.

Although al-Gore's An Inconvenient Truth had been shown many times, the school authorities insisted that any student who wanted to see the antidote had to have a permission slip from their parents.

To put this in perspective, not only was no such condition in place before screening An Inconvenient Truth, in Alaska, the State can arrange an abortion for a student without notifying their parents.

Nice to see that the authorities have their priorities right.
Nice indeed. I have seen Not Evil Just Wrong and in fact, purchased a copy for the store's video library -- it is a popular rental and worth checking out for a counterbalance to all of the "climate change" hysteria being pushed around out there. I am really surprised that this happened in Alaska; Berkeley or Boston would be a no-brainer but Alaska???

A long day changed

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Called the guy at the refrigeration company and he was on the road all day today. He gave me his email and I sent a list of what I was looking for so I am waiting to hear back from him. Spent the day doing some bookkeeping for the building and running a deposit into town. Two of the apartments over the store are rented by guys who have worked for a sawmill for 30+ years and they were laid off over the Christmas season (housing starts are way down in our county). They have been paying bits and pieces in cash and finally covered their December and January rents. Went on a quest to buy a handtruck for the store and found something that should work OK -- if not, there is a great mail order place in Seattle. A local grocery store has a great deli counter so picked up a complete turkey dinner -- sliced breast meat, smashed 'taters and gravy and cranberry sauce. Sitting down to dinner and will then read the internet...

Long day today - Goldbar, WA

Driving down to Goldbar, WA to look at some refrigeration equipment for the store. This time of year is prime Bald Eagle season so I'll be bringing a camera.


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Kim Crawford has a great mental image at Velociworld:
Nineteen For Me
I'm rather flummoxed as to how Obama went from pimping Stimulus 2 to a spending freeze in approximately two days. The last time I saw a reversal that drastic the top three inches of Jayne Mansfield's skull lay on Highway 90 outside Biloxi, Mississippi. I don't believe him, of course. He's merely reacting to the auto de f� he sees manifesting itself on the far hill he fears is his Golgotha.
Haven't heard the STFU SOTU Speech yet -- I'll peruse the transcript over my morning breakfast of fried monkey brains and wood chips (great roughage). His public approval numbers are in the terlit -- it will be interesting to see what he said...

An interesting discovery

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How cool is this -- from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Trapdoor, secret room found in Milton house
A Milton couple who recently purchased a house discovered a feature that wasn't listed among the amenities: a trapdoor leading to a secret room.

Workers were pulling up the carpet at the house on Nix Road to install a hardwood floor when they stumbled across a plywood trapdoor, according to a Milton Police report. Stairs underneath the trapdoor led to a room behind a walled-off portion of the basement.

The workers contacted the homeowners, who then called police. Officers used their flashlights to search the darkened room. It was mostly cleaned out, but they discovered a large trash bag containing "miscellaneous equipment that could be used in the growing of marijuana plants," the police report stated.

The couple told police they purchased the four-bedroom, three bathroom home at foreclosure in December and were in the process of renovating it. They said the house had been inspected twice in September and October of 2009. The trapdoor went undetected both times. The house was built in 1995.
A very cool thing to find but I would be asking the building inspector for a refund -- something as glaring as missing space in a foundation should have been caught with even the most cursory of measurements and inspections...

Minimal posting tonight

Busy day today and then headed into town for an acupuncture session. Went out for an illegal plate of fish and chips at a local tavern (very good!) and now sitting down to the computer. I am still embroiled in a PayPal dispute -- a unit I had ordered took six weeks to arrive with zero communication from the seller (a private party). I received the unit, unpacked it and found it to be heavily damaged with pieces missing so I have to re-open the PayPal Resolution Center and deal with that... Arrrggghhhhh...

The Painter of Blight

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Thomas Kinkade is a well known American "painter" -- I consider him to be a decent illustrator, a lousy artist and an excellent businessman. The article is a few months old but it is worth reading just for the comments -- especially those from Steve Austin (later just Steve) From Felix Salmon writing at Reuters:
Thomas Kinkade: Bad, not evil
Hamilton Nolan is snarking gleefully over the fact that Thomas Kinkade, whom he calls �Painter of Darkness�, has lost a round of the endless litigation he�s been involved in for years now, ever since he took his company private in 2004. Now I�m no fan of Kinkade. But the plaintiffs in this case are trying to make a pretty astonishing case: that they�re owed damages on the grounds that Kinkade talked a lot about God, and thereby fraudulently persuaded them to place their trust in him.

This argument doesn�t really hold water, and in fact Kinkade has � justly � won the vast majority of the lawsuits which have been brought against him. I wrote about this case at some length back in March 2006, so I might as well just plagiarize myself here: Kinkade is more of a bad businessman than an evil one.
And again, go to the site and read the comments -- they are wonderful...
Horrible story of a company gone wrong and one man who was hired and quit after three days. From An Exercise in Futility:
Trusting Yourself, a.k.a., Accenture Blows
About 3 months ago, I ran into an old colleague at a trade show. We spent most of the conference together, talking about technology and business. It was a good time. This guy, who I�ll call Bob, is about 10 years older than I am and I always respected him on a technical level and I considered him somewhat of a �career model� � not so much a role model, because, well, he�s a liberal. Despite that, he and I were friends.

When I say he was successful at my company, I mean to a degree � at one point or the other, during his almost decade-long tenure here, he pissed everybody off. When he left, there were a handful of people that he wasn�t really on speaking terms with. Of course, I�m not really on speaking terms with them either because they�re dufuses. No harm, mo foul.

Long story short, we got to talking about the industry. Since he left my company he has been promoted a few times at his new company such that he is now at the director level and has hiring responsibility. He offered me a job.

The numbers were good and the picture he painted of his company was very positive. Since he worked where I work and he reported to the very same people to whom I currently report, it was easy for him to portray �where he came from� (also �where I am�) very negatively. It wasn�t a hard sell.

The company was Avanade. A joint partnership between Accenture and Microsoft.

A few red flags came up when I heard the words Accenture, because even when I was still an undergrad, I knew about Accenture�s absolutely poisonous reputation as a merciless body shop whose business model revolves around hiring as many naive undergrads as it can find and working them to the bone because they don�t know any better. When you have a reputation for sucking people off the streets like a hoover, your employees become keenly aware that their replacements are lining up outside the building and they know that if they don�t concede to slave-like working conditions they�ll just be replaced by someone who will.

I voiced these concerns to Bob, who assured me that Avanade, despite being now owned almost wholly by Accenture, was nothing like that. Avanade had a unique culture where it considers its people its most important asset. This guy was a friend of mine. Why would he lie? Avanade was more Microsoft than Accenture, said he. Okay. My bullshit alarms were ringing but I gave him and Avanade the benefit of the doubt.

Note to self: wrong move.
What follows is such a tale of woe it had me cringing. And then it got worse. Good news is that his old company did hire him back again.

My god, they are everywhere

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I drive into Bellingham a couple times/week -- it is a gorgeous 30 mile drive through some of the finest scenery you would want to see. The road is posted 55 MPH but people generally do about 60 on clear days. Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog picks up on this riff from TJIC:
I Thought I Was The Only Curmudgeon Who Obsessed Over This
Via TJIC, I meet this guy on every long distance trip.
Apparently, there are some people who: A) Cannot judge their own speed except in relation to the vehicle directly in front of them, and B) Cannot hold a steady pedal for love nor money. So there we�ll be, in the agrarian hinterlands of Indiana or Kentucky; me rolling along in the left lane and passing the occasional car on the right when I notice Mr. Wobbly Throttle a�creepin� up in my mirrors. When he gets close enough I�ll signal right and let him pass, which he does, after a fashion, but sort of bogs down once he�s just off the port bow. We�ll roll in formation like that, me starting to fume, until we come upon a car in the right lane that forces me to turn off the cruise and tuck in behind Wobbly.

As we pass the slower traffic, Mr. Wobbly Throttle, now bereft of vehicles to overtake, starts to slow down. He notices me in his mirror and sometimes darts right, sometimes slows down further and gets passed on the right (traffic gods, forgive me!) I�ll hit �Resume� on the cruise control in the left lane, but a mile down the road, sure as God made little green apples, here comes Wobbly again, as though drawn to a magnet in my back bumper. This dance can go on for over a hundred miles, and is pretty well guaranteed to have me chewing the steering wheel in frustration in only a fraction of that distance. For Vishnu�s sake, man, pick a speed and hold it!
We got these out here too -- also, since we are so close to the Canadian border, we get a lot of cars that go about 40 MPH. This is the normal speed limit for Canadian small roads (65KPH) and the nimrods driving haven't made the mental connection that 55 MPH pencils out to just under 90KPH and most people are doing 100KPH. Arrrggghhhh...

Blogroll update

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Added a few links to the NO WAI! WTF?�?� section...

The darlings of the new media

Heh - from The New York Observer:
After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday's Web Site
In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?

So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com?

The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.

That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn't know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.
A bit more:
The web site redesign and relaunch cost the Dolans $4 million, according to Mr. Jimenez. With those 35 people, they've grossed about $9,000.

In that time, without question, web traffic has begun to plummet, and, certainly, advertising will follow as well.
And a bit more -- sounds like the corporate culture is coming apart at the seams:
In the short time that the Dolans have owned Newsday, it's been a circus. When they were closing the deal to buy the paper in May 2008, they had their personal spokesman scream at an editor who assigned a reporter to visit the Dolans, seeking comment; there was a moment back in January of last year, when Newsday editor John Mancini walked out of the newsroom because of a dispute over how the paper was handling the Knicks; in the summer, the paper refused to run ads by Verizon, a rival; Tim Knight, the paper's publisher, and John Mancini, the editor, eventually both left.

The paper, which traditionally has been a powerful money maker, lost $7 million in the first three quarters of last year, according to Mr. Jimenez at last week's meeting.

In October, the web site relaunched and was redesigned. One of the principals behind the redesign is Mr. Mancini's replacement, editor Debby Krenek.

To say the least, the project has not been a newsroom favorite. "The view of the newsroom is the web site sucks," said one staffer.

"It's an abomination," said another.

And now the paper is in the middle of a labor dispute in which it wants to extract a 10 percent pay cut from all employees. The vote was turned down by a risibly high factor, of 473 to 10, this past Sunday.
Dave's Iron Rule of business: Have a product that people want to buy and price it at the going market rate -- anything else may yield a short-term gain but is poison to the life of the business... Website here -- it's a joke.
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
ACORN gotcha man among four arrested for attempting to tamper with Mary Landrieu's office phones
Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street about 11 a.m. Monday, dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts, and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.

When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affadavit, observed O'Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O'Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.

After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn't working. Flanagan did the same.

They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and Flanagan and Basel went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men's credentials, after which they stated they left them in their vehicle.

The U.S. Marshal's Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.
Dang -- that would have been interesting if the other three guys had some valid-looking 'credentials' and had a bit better social engineering skills... Why did they even bother to go to her office when they could have gotten someone to open the wiring closet and just tapped the lines from there.

A fun day out with the family

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A good time was had by all
Some odious tone-deaf legislators in Washington State are trying to pass yet another gun control piece of legislation. I ask them, when has this ever worked to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms? If they were really serious about this, they should pass a law stating that if a firearm was present during a crime, there would be an automatic irrevocable ten years of jail time added to whatever sentence was handed out. No excuses. No parole. Ten years in the slammer. Even if the gun was not used or displayed. Hat tip to Theo for the link.

Just Wow!

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I am firmly in the Austrian camp. This is one of the best things I have seen in a long long time:
Hat tip to Gerard and Coyote for the link.

Light posting tonight (again)

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Was in town running errands and then spent the evening getting waterboarded. I am on the local Water Co-op board and we meet every last Monday at a local restaurant. Dealing mostly with leaks, overdue accounts and water quality.

The California Water problem

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A good writeup on the current problems in California between the enviros who want to divert irrigation water into the rivers to protect some fish and farmers who want to grow the food that America eats (tens of thousands of jobs and $20 billion of food output). From Breitbart's Big Government:
Obama to California �Water, Its Not a Right its a Privilege�
On the list of insane public policy moves we have come to expect from the current administration, Cap and Tax, Obamacare and Union Card Check, a fourth has garnered relatively little attention, although the implications for all Americans may be among the most far-reaching. The recurring theme is centralized control.

On Monday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will host a rare Congressional �Field Hearing�. A Congressional delegation will venture out of the beltway and actually devote time to a problem in our country. Better yet, they will be listening to real citizens. Sort of.

At issue is what residents are calling a government-made drought in the Central and San Joaquin Valleys of California. Legal and environmental regulations in the Endangered Species Act has resulted in the diversion of 200 billion gallons of water from the agricultural heartland of California into the Ocean. According to California farmer Rose Corona,
�Potentially over $20 billion of California�s $43 billion of agricultural revenue could be decimated in America�s greatest breadbasket as farmers lose their farms and residents are forced to import food from China. While the solutions are not simple, local government officials are not even able to attempt them.�
Two thirds of California�s water is in Northern California, but two thirds of the people live in Southern California. Over the last generation, a series of aquaducts and canals was built to divert some of the plentiful water in the North so that instead of raising the sea level (as Al Gore warns us is imminent) the fresh water will irrigate incredibly productive land. The five counties effected provide tens of thousands of jobs and a stunning $20 billion of food output.

So why would politicians in California, a state that is already bankrupt, do anything other that mount a united battle to find a solution? That is hard to say. Instead there are deep and often ugly divisions and battle lines such as radical environmentalist on one side and farmers and migrant workers on the other.

Officials are perplexed to find an explanation for the declining population of the delta smelt, a small bait fish. It is also true that the salmon industry is concerned. So it is understandable that regulators would force action. What is not understandable is why the game of man vs beast is tilted at every turn toward the beast.
The comments to this post are interesting. One of them summed it up perfectly:
Let's see if I have this straight:
Water is not a right, it's a privelege.
Health Care is not a privelege, it is a right.
So when a head of Lettuce costs $5, you will know why.

Parking your car

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Quite the garage:
And it is here on Michael Vincent's web page. Say hello to Windows 3.1

Preserving American History

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Very cool news -- let's hope the National park Services gets the funding to properly maintain these places. From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
Government studies Manhattan Project park sites
The government is exploring national park status for sites involved in the World War II-era Manhattan Project nuclear bomb research effort.

The sites being examined are Los Alamos National Laboratory and town site in New Mexico, the Hanford site in Washington state, Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee and assorted sites in Dayton.

The top-secret project resulted in scientific and technological advancements that ushered in the atomic age and helped the United States win the war.

The Manhattan Project operated from December 1942 until September 1945 and employed 130,000 workers at its height.

Research done at several laboratories in Dayton produced polonium used to trigger the first atomic explosion in 1945 and the bomb dropped over Nagasaki.

Congress directed the park site study in consultation with the Department of Energy.
These places represent an amazing bit of history and also are some of the last standing temples of "Big Science" -- they should be preserved for future generations.


Right up there with The Time Cube Check out Jay Weidner's Shining Secrets:

Secrets of The Shining:
Or How Faking the Moon Landings Nearly Cost Stanley Kubrick his Marriage and his Life.

The text is rambling so I'll just leave it at this. Jay also has this post:

How Stanley Kubrick Faked the Apollo Moon Landings:
Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lies.

It has now been forty years since the fabled moon landings by NASA and the Apollo gang. When it comes to the subject of the moon landings, people tend to fall into two belief groups. The first group, by far the bigger of the two groups, accepts the fact that NASA successfully landed on the moon six times and that 12 human beings have actually walked on the surface of the moon. The second group, though far smaller, is more vocal about their beliefs. This group says that we never went to the moon and that the entire thing was faked.

This essay presents a third position on this issue. This third point of view falls somewhere between these two assertions. This third position postulates that humans did go to the moon but what we saw on TV and in photographs was completely faked.

Furthermore this third position reveals that the great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick is the genius who directed the hoaxed landings.

But why fake the moon landings at all? What would be the motivation? Authors Joseph Farrell and Henry Stevens both have shown us undeniable proof that Nazi scientists had developed advanced flying saucer technology as early as 1943. These authors also show that the US Government brought these same Nazi scientists into this country in order to build these highly advanced flying machines.

Furthermore, they believe that the idea that aliens from outer space are invading the Earth is a clever cover story concocted by NASA to hide this technology.

Many sources inside the military industrial complex have related to me that after John Kennedy was shown the flying saucer technology early in his Presidency, he realized that the advances in technology promised by the flying saucers could solve many of the pressing problems of the world. He saw that releasing this exotic technology would point the way towards cheap and environmentally friendly energy among other things.

Soon after seeing the flying saucer technology, JFK made his famous speech asking NASA to land a man on the moon before the decade was out. Many insiders believed that this was a ploy by JFK to get NASA, and the secret government, to release their saucer technologies. Since it was obvious to everyone that standard rocket technology could not get man to the moon and back, JFK may have thought that NASA would be forced to release the knowledge of the technology behind the flying saucers in order to fulfill his vision and get to the moon by the end of the 1960's. JFK's ploy was therefore intended to free this advanced technology from the insidious hands of the shadow government.

After the assassination of Kennedy in 1963, NASA began a new plan that would solve the problem that JFK initiated. This new plan would allow NASA, and the shadow government, to keep the saucer technology secret and to still make it look like standard rocketry had taken man to the moon and back.

Someone high up in the shadow government decided to fake the entire moon landings in order to conceal the United States' extremely new and advanced Nazi technology both from us, the citizens and our enemies.

In some ways NASA's position on this was understandable. We were in the middle of the cold war with the Soviet Union. Did we really want to show the Russians what we had?

A perfect example of what constitutes a crackpot idea. Totally without merit. It was aliens themselves on the moon. I have been told by highest sources...


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"No, I wasn't THAT Joker, you idiot!"

Swiped from TYWKIWDBI Would have loved to have seen that encounter...

A good look at the health crisis

A letter to President Obama from an ER Doctor:

Dear Mr. President:

During my shift in the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.

While glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that her payer status was listed as "Medicaid"! During my examination of her, the patient informed me that she smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and beer.

And, you and our Congress expect me to pay for this woman's health care? I contend that our nation's "health care crisis" is not the result of a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a "crisis of culture", a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo that "I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me".

Once you fix this "culture crisis" that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you'll be amazed at how quickly our nation's health care difficulties will disappear.


Hat tip to Mostly Cajun for the link.

Team Rubicon

Want something done right? Send in Team Rubicon. Like they say on their blog:
If you don't understand this, you don't know Team Rubicon
From their About page:
What's with the name? Simple. The Rubicon was a small stream that separated Gaul (France) and ancient Rome. On January 11th, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and it marked the point of no return. This Sunday, January 17th, our 4 man team will cross the Artibonite River, separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, carrying crucial medicine and supplies to the people of Haiti. Once across, we will be irrevocably committed to our task.

Team Rubicon is sponsored by the Marine Corps Intelligence Association
A great post about them from the Mudville Gazette:
Turbulence report
Then, on the fifth day, the slow kids showed up:
The US military's takeover of emergency operations in Haiti has triggered a diplomatic row with countries and aid agencies furious at having flights redirected.

Brazil and France lodged an official �protest with Washington after US military aircraft were given priority at Port-au-Prince's congested airport, forcing many non-US flights to divert to the Dominican Republic.

Brasilia warned it would not �relinquish command of UN forces in Haiti, and Paris complained the airport had become a US "annexe", exposing a brewing power struggle amid the global relief effort.
Negative, ghostrider, we do not have UHF freq for our "complaint department". Roger that. Thanks for trying, and have a safe flight. Mudville out. (Clicks mike key twice rapidly.)

Meanwhile, as France and Brazil file complaints, here's a group that just went in through the Dominican Republic:
...we spent a considerable amount of time this morning developing our en-route security plan, as the news reports indicated that the route was plagued by bandits. While planning, we also made contact with several locals who were willing to take us by minivan from SD to the border, and then transfer into pickup trucks for the ride from Jimani to PAP.

We left via two minivans around 11:00, and had an uneventful six-hour ride to the border... Along the road, we passed many UN and other aid vehicles, some formal, most not, returning empty from Haiti. The border crossing was very simple; we didn't even have to get our passports stamped, but did so anyway to observe all the formalities. We offloaded from our minivans and transferred into TWO mini-pickups. We packed and equipped ourselves in light of the fact that news reports implied we would be overrun by mobs of famished civilians once we got to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Our arsenal included machetes, hatchets, and (in my case) a folding shovel. We put our dust masks, stowed the doctors and the Jesuit safely inside the vehicles, and climbed on top of the luggage for the last 40 miles to Port-au-Prince. We were ready for anything...

Which in this case consisted of an utterly uneventful hour-and-a-half drive. Several things NOT mentioned in the news happened en route and deserve notice...
Follow their progress through milblogger Badger Jake's site here.
Awesome work -- these are people who are actually making an dent in the suffering there. You are not going to see them holding meetings and riding around in United Nations SUVs "observing"...

Two major birthdays

The world changed because of these two inventions. Celebrating the 50th Birthday of the first successful copying machine. The Xerox 914. From CNN/Fortune:

The office copier turns 50!
Long before digital tools such as listservs, e-mail blasts, and even Facebook enabled us to easily broadcast messages, photocopies were the most efficient way to distribute information to groups of all sizes.

If the boss needed to discuss a new company policy, workers got memos in their (physical) in-boxes or slipped under their office doors. Community newsletters, fliers for parties, and the oft-maligned Christmas letters in holiday cards were all made possible by the automated copying machine, which made its commercial debut 50 years ago.

"It was a democratizing technology," says Stephen P. Hoover, vice president of global software solutions for Xerox. Xerox's 914 copier -- so named because it could copy a 9-by-14-inch document at a rate of seven copies per minute -- "gave people access to information and capabilities they just didn't have. It really changed how work was done."

Celebrating the 75th Birthday of the first Canned Beer. From Yahoo/Live Science:

Canned Beer Turns 75
Be sure to crack open a cold one on Jan. 24, the day canned beer celebrates its 75th birthday.

New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company churned out the world's first beer can in 1935, stocking select shelves in Richmond, Va., as a market test. The experiment took off and American drinkers haven't looked back since, nowadays choosing cans over bottles for the majority of the 22 gallons of beer they each drink per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Talk about the bedrock of civilization. These two inventions have rocked the world...

A star is born

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Or not... Reality show character (The Hills) Heidi Montag spent upwards of two million dollars producing her first record album. It was released and sold a whopping 658 copies the first week... From PopCrunch:
Heidi Montag Album Sells 658 Copies
In what has to be an all-time record, Heidi Montag�s debut album, Superficial, has debuted to abysmal numbers.

The pop-inspired LP sold just 658 copies in its first week of release, according to Nielsen Soundscan. This certainly won�t be good news for Heidi�s accountant. The Hills star is so intent on becoming the next Britney Spears she practically bankrupted herself producing the set.

��.I put every dollar I have into this. I�ve spent over $1 million, almost $2 million, on this album. It�s cost as much or more than a Britney Spears album because I wanted it to be that quality � (But) I think within the first week we will definitely make our money back. The songs will make an impact in pop history,� she told EW last week.
Pssst Heidi -- next time try bringing your talent to the studio. Oh. Wait...

Doing more harm than good - the ADE-651

What, you may ask, is an ADE-651? From the BBC News:

Export ban for useless 'bomb detector'
The UK government has announced a ban on the export to Iraq and Afghanistan of some so-called "bomb detectors".

It follows an investigation by the BBC's Newsnight programme which found that one type of "detector" made by a British company cannot work.

The Iraqi government has spent $85m on the ADE-651 and there are concerns that they have failed to stop bomb attacks that have killed hundreds of people.

The ban on the ADE-651 and other similar devices starts next week.

Sidney Alford, a leading explosives expert who advises all branches of the military, told Newsnight the sale of the ADE-651 was "absolutely immoral".

And a bit more on the device:

The ADE-651 detector has never been shown to work in a scientific test.
There are no batteries and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. Critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

While trying to find more information, I ran across a number of blogs about various fraudulent explosive detectors that have been marketed.

Here is one: The ADE651/GT200/Alpha6/SniffexPlus, all a Danger to life with some wonderful news -- from the London Times:

Head of ATSC 'bomb detector' company arrested on suspicion of fraud
The boss of a British company that has sold million of dollars worth of "bomb detectors" to Iraq's security forces has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Jim McCormick, 53, the managing director of ATSC which is based in a former dairy in Sparkford, Somerset, has been questioned by detectives from Avon and Somerset Police after a complaint that he misrepresented the devices.

In November, Mr McCormick, a former Merseyside police officer, told The Times that his devices, which consist of little more than a telescopic antenna on a molded plastic handle, are able to detect explosives in the same way as a dowsing rod finds water.

Thousands of the devices are in use at military and police check points across Baghdad where they are used to search vehicles and pedestrians for explosives. In recent months hundreds of people have died after car bombers were able to penetrate the security cordon supposed to protect the centre of the Iraqi capital.

Good riddance -- I hope he is sued to within an inch of his life by family members of the bombing victims...

Doing more harm than good - Scientology

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A bunch of them are in Haiti claiming to be able to heal people. From Breitbart/AFP:
Scientologists 'heal' Haiti quake victims using touch
Amid the mass of aid agencies piling in to help Haiti quake victims is a batch of Church of Scientology "volunteer ministers", claiming to use the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems.

Clad in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the controversial US-based group, smiling volunteers fan out among the injured lying under makeshift shelters in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince's General Hospital.

A wealthy private donor provided his airplane to fly in 80 volunteers from Los Angeles, along with 50 Haitian-American-doctors, in a gesture worth 400,000 dollars, said a Parisian volunteer who gave her name as Sylvie.

"We're trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called 'assist' to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication," she said.
You have just been in a major earthquake, you are still in a state of shock and an authoritative figure walks up to you and tells you that they are going to heal you. Of course you feel something -- the Placebo Effect has been named because it works. Doesn't mean it isn't all in your head and no real healing has been done. These idiots are doing much more harm than good because if they trick someone into believing that they are feeling well enough to not need care and if they have internal injuries that, in actuality, do need critical attention, these poor people can die unnecessarily. May Xenu harvest the souls of these delusional people and roast them in the pits of hell for all eternity...

Heh - Obama's Promises

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An interesting list from Mallory Factor writing at FOX News:
The Two Promises Obama's Managed to Keep
As President Obama�s first year in office wraps up this week, it�s a good time to review where he stands on fulfilling some of the high-profile promises he made in the campaign and as president. During the campaign, Mr. Obama seemed purposefully vague on what he was actually going to DO as president except promising that he would bring �hope� and �change.� But he did make some notable promises, about 20% of which he seems to have fulfilled.

Here, in descending order is my list of President Obama�s top 10 campaign promises. Let�s start with the two major promises the president�s managed to keep.

1. �Date Night.� The first husband promised to take his wife, Michelle out for a �date night� in New York City � and he did. But it came at huge taxpayer expense with Secret Service blanketing Broadway and stopping NYC traffic. An enjoyable, if expensive, time was had by all.

2. �Dog.� He promised to get his children a dog. Bo the Portuguese water dog and the first daughters apparently get along fine. Given the crowded state of animal shelters during the recession, Bo is one lucky pup. Not so the American people.

And here are the 8 remaining promises our president hasn't managed to keep:

3. Unemployment. We were told that if Congress approved the $787 billion stimulus package unemployment would fall from its then-high of 7.6%, (that number already being the highest rate America had seen since 1992) and never climb higher than 8 percent. It�s now at 10% and rising; if you include in that number the number of Americans who�ve given up looking for work, the real unemployment rate is over 17%. This was entirely predictable, because the stimulus bill simply *added* to the government�s debt and didn�t help small businesses to expand and hire new workers.
And seven more at the site...

Light posting next couple of days

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Getting back into the swing of things here and there are a lot of projects to catch up on. I will not be spending as much time reading the internet.

That is it for the night

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I am on a couple high-traffic email lists and came home to over 3K emails. Got that whittled down to 800 or so -- heading out to the DaveCave(tm) to take care of these...

Burn Baby Burn

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The wheels of justice turn slowly but they do turn. From the Washington Post:
More Supreme Court actions
And down at the bottom of the page:
-- Sent back a ruling that overturned the death sentence of black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Abu-Jamal has challenged what he calls a racist justice system for years; the Supreme Court has upheld his conviction. The justices ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia to review its decision overturning the death sentence in light of a case the Supreme Court decided last week about how juries should consider mitigating evidence in the penalty phase.
Mumia has reinvented himself as the darling of the left. Good to know that he will fry for his murder of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Interesting to see a news item like this be so buried in the media. The wording is strange as well - the opening sentence reads:
Sent back a ruling that overturned the death sentence of black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
Sounds like he was under a death sentence and the Supreme Court overturned it. It did not. That is made clear in the third sentence:
The justices ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia to review its decision overturning the death sentence in light of a case...
Someone just scanning this would come away with a different picture. Good to hear that Justice is being done. He was tried. He was convicted. This was 30 years ago and no new evidence has come up. Time to pay the piper...


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These billboards showed up in New York's Times Square, Atlanta and San Francisco:
A little early for Valentine's Day but a sweet gesture. Except. From FOX News:
Scorned Mistress of Married Obama Adviser Posts Billboards Nationwide
On first glance, it could be the ultimate Valentine's Day card -- a gigantic billboard that towers over New York's Times Square, featuring a happy couple with the text: "You are my soulmate forever, Charles & YaVaughnie."

But as every scorned lover knows, looks can be deceiving. This billboard -- which also has gone up in Atlanta and San Francisco -- is the ultimate act of revenge -- a very public retaliation by a dumped mistress aimed at a very wealthy, and married, businessman who is an adviser to President Obama.

YaVaughnie Wilkins posted the signs after she learned that her lover, Charles E. Phillips � president and director of the tech conglomerate Oracle Corporation and a member of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board � had reconciled with his wife, the New York Post reported.

The billboards -- there are three in New York and one apiece in Atlanta and San Francisco, where Phillips lives -- may have cost Wilkins up to $250,000, at an estimated $50,000 each.

After the billboards surfaced, Phillips fessed up to his longtime affair through a spokesman on Thursday.

"I had an 8-and-a-half-year serious relationship with YaVaughnie Wilkins. The relationship with Ms. Wilkins has since ended, and we both wish each other well," he said.

The billboards also feature a URL of the Web site www.charlesphillipsandyavaughniewilkins.com, which features photos of Phillips' and Wilkins' lengthy relationship.

In an Oracle newsletter from 2006, Phillips was described as an ex-marine and "family man" who has a wife and 10-year-old son, Chas, the New York Times reported.
Ouch! The website is being hit with a lot of traffic for some strange reason. Hat tip to Ace of Spades for the link...

The Skyscraper Index

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Never heard of this before but it makes total sense. From WikiPedia:
The Skyscraper Index
The Skyscraper Index is a concept put forward in January 1999 by Andrew Lawrence, research director at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, which showed that the world's tallest buildings have risen on the eve of economic downturns. Business cycles and skyscraper construction correlate in such a way that investment in skyscrapers peaks when cyclical growth is exhausted and the economy is ready for recession. The buildings may actually be completed after the onset of the recession or later, when another business cycle pulls the economy up, or even cancelled. Unlike earlier instances of similar reasoning ("height is a barometer of boom"), Lawrence used skyscraper projects as a predictor of economic crisis, not boom.

Lawrence started his paper as a joke (emphasized by a title referencing a comedy show) and based his "index" on mere comparison of historical data, primarily from the United States experience. He dismissed overall construction and investment statistics, focusing only on record-breaking projects. The first notable example was the Panic of 1907. Two record-breaking skyscrapers, the Singer Building and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, were launched in New York before the panic and completed in 1908 and 1909, respectively. Met Life remained the world's tallest building until 1913. Another string of supertall towers - 40 Wall Street, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building - was launched shortly before to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The next record holders, World Trade Center towers and Sears Tower, opened up in 1973, during the 1973�1974 stock market crash and the 1973 oil crisis. The last example available to Lawrence, Petronas Twin Towers, opened up in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and held the world height record for five years. Lawrence linked the phenomenon to overinvestment, speculation and monetary expansion but did not elaborate these underlying issues. The concept was revived in 2005, when Fortune warily observed five media corporations investing in new skyscrapers on Manhattan (none of them, including the tallest New York Times Building, broke any records).

The intuitively simple concept, publicized by business press in 1999, has been cross-checked within the framework of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory, itself borrowing on Richard Cantillon's eighteenth-century theories. Thornton (2005) listed three Cantillon effects that make skyscraper index valid. First, a decline in interest rates at the onset of a boom drives land prices. Second, a decline in interest rates allows increase in average size of a firm, creating demand for larger office spaces. Third, low interest rates provide investment to construction technologies that enable developers to break earlier records. All three factors peak at the end of growth period.
And of course, we see the writing on the wall for Dubai. Fascinating idea...

A message from Transport Canada

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With all the flying of the past three weeks, this is closer to reality than I care to admit... Hat tip to Miss Cellania posting at YesButNoButYes

An Olympic Post

Earlier today I posted a link to an article on the deep corporate culture of corruption that lies at the black heart of the International Olympic Committee (the IOC) Jen reminded me of this bit of foolishness from the Seattle Times:
Newspaper trademark bid challenged by U.S. Olympic Committee
The U.S. Olympic Committee is protesting an effort by the parent company of The Olympian to trademark the newspaper's name.

The McClatchy Co. submitted its application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in October 2006, shortly after it bought Knight-Ridder, the newspaper's former owner.

Lawyers representing the committee argue that the similarity in appearance and sound of its trademarks to The Olympian "tends to cause confusion or mistake, to deceive, and to falsely suggest a connection."

Such a similarity threatens the committee's "relationships with its licensees, its partners and its sponsors, and thereby, its main source of revenue to support U.S. athletes," according to the 12-page notice of opposition filed with the federal agency's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
And, oh yeah, The Olympian has been in operation since 1889

Heh - Air America folds

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When the chips are down, Liberal Talk Radio doesn't pay but Rush goes on forever. From CNN/Money:
Air America going dark
Liberal talk radio network Air America is planning to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company said Thursday.

"The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business," according to a statement on the network's Web site. It cited a "perfect storm" in the media industry and plummeting advertising revenues.

Starting at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, Air America will broadcast "encore programming" though Jan. 25 and then cease to air. Current employees will be paid through Thursday, and severance packages will be offered Friday to full-time employees with more than six months of tenure.

Formerly known as Air America Radio, the network launched in 2004 with personalities including Rachel Maddow and Al Franken, now a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota.

In October 2006, Air America Radio filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but was able to stay on the air while it reorganized. Green Family Media bought the network in March 2007, and it eventually grew to 100 radio outlets nationwide.

The network called itself "the only full-time progressive voice in the mainstream broadcast media world" at the time of its launch, according to its statement Thursday. Air America presented dissenting views on issues like the Iraq War at a time when such statements "were often denounced as 'un-American,' " the statement continued.
Emphasis mine -- denounced as un-American? Those dissenting views were tame and the only dissent from people like Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh was fact checking, not smears. The thing that you need to keep in mind is that while progressives can take things out of context and get away with it in the Mainstream Media, if Hannity, Beck or Limbaugh uttered a smear, the media would have a field day and in many people's eyes, they would be discredited. The Conservative Talk Radio hosts have people on staff to fact check everything they say -- when they criticize something that was broadcast on Air America, they will play a sound bite, recite the statements and then rebut with the facts of the issue -- a straight point/counterpoint fisking. Air America only kept going as long as it did because people donated money to keep it running. It was never able to support itself through advertising sales -- something that the rest of the mainstream media is discovering now. When you veer off to one side of the spectrum, you are going to attract fewer and fewer people willing to cough up the money. The majority of Americans are fairly conservative except for the liberal pockets of San Francisco, LA, Madison, Boston, NYC, etc. A lot of the deep progressive pockets are headquartered in these cities and if they do not take a good hard look at the rest of America, they are destined to fail and fail again. An Echo Chamber can be very seductive but it is not the truth...

Flame on Mr. Mohamad

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The level of personal delusion that some people maintain is staggering. From the Jakarta Globe:
If US Could Create 'Avatar', It Could Fake 9/11 Attacks: Mahathir
Malaysia�s former premier Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday there was �strong evidence� the US faked the September 11 terror attacks as an excuse to go to war against Muslims.

�There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,� Mahathir told the Conference for the Support of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), as quoted by local media.

The former premier also blamed Jews for hindering progress in US foreign policy. Voicing his disappointment that Barack Obama had not yet ended the war in Afghanistan or closed the US terror detention center at Guantanamo, he explained that �there are forces in the United States which prevent the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby.�

Jews �had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom," Mahathir said.

"Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world."

Mahathir, who led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, has long been known for anti-semitic and anti-US statements.
I guess that every nation, eventually, suffers under their own Jimmy Carter clone... What a useful idiot.

Just wonderful - SEIU in the news again

One of President Obama's owners, the Service Employees International, are in the news again. From Inside Higher Education:
Union's Man
A University of Maryland professor has pulled his institution into a heated labor debate in California, prompting a rebuke from administrators and inviting questions about his own conflicts of interest.

As a paid consultant for Service Employees International, the nation's fastest growing labor union, Fred Feinstein recently wrote a legal opinion suggesting that California health care workers could receive �less favorable� benefits if they left SEIU for another union. Feinstein penned his opinion on university letterhead, which was then photocopied and used by SEIU as campaign literature, urging workers to stay on as members.

Listing his credentials, Feinstein mentioned his status as a senior fellow and visiting professor in Maryland�s School of Public Policy, along with detailing his prior service as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board. What Feinstein did not mention, however, was that he�s on the SEIU payroll and received about $240,000 from the union and one of its affiliates, Change to Win, in 2007 and 2008, according to federal filings.
#1) - Using an Academic pulpit to promote a political agenda is unethical. #2) - Not disclosing the SEIU funds is conflict of interest. Let us hope that this is the soon-to-be EX Professor Feinstein...

We have a comment

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Back on February 16, 2007, I ran into some photos of a couple people inside the Kaaba (designed and built by Bechtel Engineering with help from Bin Laden construction). One of the items inside are some rocks that were supposed to have come from the moon. I posted them in this entry: Pssst -- wanna see something secret??? Needless to say, that post has gotten its fair share of comments. This one came in a few minutes ago from Ali in Pennsylvania:
You mother has a face like a camel and was bred from dogs.
That should be "your" not "you" and grammatically, the "and was bred from" should read "and she was bred from" The icing on the cake is Ali's email address: AliAdultEnt69@ Islamofascists say that their religion is all about purity and one of the key things that they hate about the Western culture is how women are free to do as they want, dress as they want, behave as they want. So here you have some moon-worshiper drooling idiot who signs himself as Ali Adult Entertainment sixty-nine. The utter hypocrisy of these mouth-breathers is beyond belief.

Nice work if you can get it

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A fascinating article by Laura Robinson at the Literary Review of Canada on the corruption and mismanagement that follows any International Olympic event.
A Shameful Track Record
Chris Shaw is a bit of a nebbish, a Woody Allen�esque guy who researches Parkinson�s disease for a living. He has two ex-wives and a fuel-efficient car, but in the winter-of-discontent narrative that has enveloped the Vancouver Olympics, he has a different passion. In 2008, Shaw wrote Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, a thoughtful book exposing the current Olympic underbelly, from cost overruns to the destruction of pristine Eagle Ridge to make way for a widened Sea-to-Sky Highway, to the death of Tsimshian elder Harriet Nahanee from pneumonia, days after she was released from two weeks in detention for camping on Eagle Ridge and facing down bulldozers.

In his introduction, Shaw acknowledged that he had been opposed to and protesting against the 2010 Winter Olympics ever since 2002. But did he ever imagine that the Integrated Security Unit, a nearly $1 billion combination of 7,000 Vancouver City Police and RCMP, 4,000 military and 5,000 private security personnel responsible for keeping the games �safe,� would be tailing him to his local caf� on June 3, 2009, interrupting his walk from the caf� to work and, in their polite plainclothes way, telling him they did not like what he had written? Or that they would knock on the door of his ex-wife and try to pry damaging information out of her? Did he imagine the same thing would happen in the same week to other anti-Olympics activists, as police went to neighbours looking for information about the shady person next door who had the audacity to speak out against the games? Or that a week later he would land at Heathrow Airport, on his way to the University of Coventry for a sports conference, and airport security would hold him in solitary with no explanation for 40 minutes? Shaw had not imagined any of this. He was under the impression that Canadian law enforcers understood the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that our right to freedom of expression was sacrosanct.
It is a long and interesting read -- I'll just excerpt a few items that caught my eye:
Given the all-powerful and monopolistic role it plays in international sport, the International Olympic Committee has come under little scrutiny in North America. This is partly because it and the international sport federations that make up much of its ranks choose to base themselves in Lausanne, Switzerland, where everything�especially bank accounts�is a secret. But the International Olympic Committee�s Olympic Marketing Fact File numbers from 2001 to 2004 show the IOC brought in a total of US$4,189,000,000 in revenue. Broadcast rights accounted for US$2,232,000,000 and domestic sponsorships brought in US$796,000,000, and licensing another $87,000,000. The Olympic Partner (TOP) sponsorship brought in US$663,000,000. Included in TOP are McDonald�s, Coca-Cola, Visa, Samsung, GE, Atos Origin, Panasonic, Acer and Omega�the latter six of which are in the military and/or surveillance business.
Emphasis mine -- yes, that is US$4 Billion with a B And the Committee Members are just real peaches:
By focusing a magnifying glass on some of the IOC�s members, a portrait of the movement and its values begins to emerge more clearly. Look, for instance, at General Lassana Palenfo, a member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission. He is from the Ivory Coast but now lives in Paris. Why? Because, according to two stories in the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet this past October, he was sprung from an Ivory Coast prison in 2000 by an envoy sent by then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Palenfo was told, according to the paper�s confidential source, he would be released from prison as long as he voted for Beijing to host the 2008 Olympics.

And why was the general in jail in the first place? He was second in command after being part of a 1999 Ivory Coast coup masterminded by junta leader Robert Guei, who later suspected him of plotting an assassination attempt and had him thrown in jail. This was ironic given that Palenfo was very good at throwing others in jail as head of the PC Crise�or Crisis Patrol�which �was a kind of death squad,� journalists Sverre Quist and Bo Elkjaer from Ekstra Bladet were told by an informant still in the military who met secretly with them last fall.
Some other stories too -- the history of the IOC is a bit chilling:
In fact, it is salutary to remember how the Olympic torch got its start. Despite what Canadian journalists might write and broadcast about the torch relay being a symbol of peace and international understanding, its roots are steeped in one of the best propaganda exercises ever perpetrated on this planet. In the prelude to the Berlin Olympics of 1936, Carl Diem came up with the idea that Germany should send 3,422 Aryan runners to start at Mount Olympus and end 3,422 kilometres later at the Berlin stadium. Diem, the games� organizer, later became a vicious Nazi military commander who ordered his young soldiers to �die like Spartans� in the war to uphold the Aryan nation.

In the 1988 The Olympic Flame, an official IOC publication written by Conrado Durantez, founder of the Spanish Olympic Academy, the chapter on the Berlin Games begins: �The 1936 Olympics went down in the annals of sport as among the most perfect ever organized, as those which were steeped in the greatest Olympic sense and essence and where the public turnout was the most enthusiastic, boisterous and numerous.� There are large photos of Nazi parades with the torch and a banner reading �Germany Awake��the title of a popular Nazi song. More photos show Hitler with the IOC president at that time and massive columns of soldiers and swastikas. The text under a group of runners doing the Heil Hitler salute reads, �The team of runners who will execute the first phase of the journey to Athens swear an oath, raising their right arm� but not one word of the text even hints at the political reasons Hitler wanted the Olympics in Germany.
It gets better:
The political lines of the Cold War were soon drawn as Germany was divided into west and east, with Manfred Ewald becoming head of East German sport. He was the mastermind behind decades of doping that put East German athletes on the Olympic podium, as he experimented on female athletes, injecting them with doses of steroids so high many became caught in a nightmarish existence, not female and not male.

And how did Ewald manage to come to the prestigious position of head of the country�s sports organizations? His r�sum� included joining the Hitler Youth in 1938, becoming a member of the Nazi party as an adult and organizing the very street gangs he once ran in as a young brown shirt. Ewald�s past was known to the IOC, but it did not keep Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the very august and male organization from 1980 to 2001, from awarding him, in 1985, the Olympic Order, seen as the Nobel Prize of sport.
There is a lot more in the article -- well worth reading. The authors creds are pretty good too:
Laura Robinson is a former member of the national cycling team, former Canadian rowing champion, and Ontario Nordic ski champion. The Vancouver Olympics will be her fifth to cover as a journalist.
She should know what she is talking about. The book referenced: Five Ring Circus is available at Amazon. I'll have to see if the local library can get a copy.

More storms lined up for California

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California is getting the moisture that would normally come up here. From AccuWeather:
New Pacific Storm to Endanger Los Angeles, Phoenix Communities
A new Pacific storm will unleash the worst of its fury across Southern California and Arizona today into tonight. It is inevitable that more flooding, mudslides, wind damage and burying mountain snow will result, potentially leading to deadly and destructive consequences. Heavy rain from previous storms this week has heighten the threat of flooding and mudslides, even outside of the recently burned areas. Severe thunderstorms could also add to the storm's danger.
Good to know that there will not be a drought this coming summer but still, the severity of the weather is unfortunate...
Latest from him from Real Clear Politics:
Chavez: US Weapon Test Caused Haiti Earthquake
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has once again accused the United States of playing God. But this time it's Haiti's disastrous earthquake that he thinks the U.S. was behind. Spanish newspaper ABC quotes Chavez as saying that the U.S. navy launched a weapon capable of inducing a powerful earthquake off the shore of Haiti. He adds that this time it was only a drill and the final target is ... destroying and taking over Iran.
Not even remotely possible -- doesn't he have science advisers or something? He would be a buffoon if he wasn't in control of such a large country and doing such a horrible job of running it -- driving it into the ground...

Cool news - health care bill

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Good news from the hill -- from Yahoo/Associated Press:
Pelosi: House lacks votes to OK Senate health bill
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she lacks the votes to quickly move the Senate's sweeping health overhaul bill through the House, a potentially devastating blow to President Barack Obama's signature issue.

Pelosi, D-Calif., made the comment to reporters after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting at which participants vented frustration with the Senate's massive version of the legislation.

Her concession meant there was little hope for a White House-backed plan to quickly push the Senate-approved health bill through the House, followed by a separate measure making changes sought by House members, such as easing the Senate's tax on higher-cost health plans. Such an approach would be "problematic," she said.

"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi said, adding, "I don't see the votes for it at this time."
I have zero issues with health care reform but it should not be a 2,000+ page pork orgy. It should not create over 100 separate agencies, it should reduce the size of the government involvement, implement tort reform (although this is a state issue and not a federal one) and it should allow people to shop for better insurance deals. There is a lot that needs to be done, when the House and the Senate have been working on is entirely the wrong direction.

We live near a major ski resort (Mt. Baker).

This is the American heart of snowboarding and the family that runs it is very picky about keeping it low key and not following every fashion trend that comes along.

They have no commercial sponsorship and are therefore able to keep costs and user fees down to a manageable level.

To our North in Canada, we have Whistler/Blackcomb They are the personification of a commercial ski resort with condos and 'villages', commercial sponsorship, etc...

They are having financial problems -- from ESPN:

Public notice of foreclosure posted
The Whistler ski resort, home to next month's Olympic downhill, could be auctioned off in the middle of the Games after creditors moved to auction off the assets of Intrawest LLC.

A public notice of foreclosure has been posted in newspapers by the company's lenders, which include Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kempner Capital Management, saying that an auction to sell the assets will be held Feb. 19, right in the midst of the Olympics.

The Intrawest properties also include the Whistler Sliding Centre, which is the site of the bobsled and luge.

Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith said no company assets have been seized, and it's business as usual for the Games. Galbraith called the notice of auction in the New York Times and Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper a standard practice by lenders during refinancing discussions.

"No foreclosure has happened," he said. "We're looking forward to the success of the Games."

Intrawest said its parent, Fortress Investment Group, continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties, but the group of lenders said they hope for a speedy sale of Intrawest in one transaction.

"Each qualified bidder must be a financial institution or other entity that has the financial wherewithal to purchase the membership interests in immediately available funds on the closing date," the public auction notice said.

Fortress could potentially forestall a sale by coming up with money. Intrawest reportedly missed payments last month that were due on a $1.4 billion loan.

$1.4B is a big gamble when your only asset depends on the weather.

The overall climate has been in a big cooling trend since 1984 but with the El Nino happening, temps are a unseasonably higher in the Pacific Northwest and California is getting the precipitation that we would normally get.

Mt. Baker is not having a good season but they are not blowing off payments on a multi-Billion dollar loan either...

Back home again

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We were planning to spend the night in Seattle as the plane got in around 10:00PM but it occurred to me that this is only 8:00PM Hawai'i time so I made the two hour drive up tonight instead of tomorrow. We were enthusiastically greeted by the household menagerie and all is well with the world. A glass or two of wine while I check the internet, a good sleep in my own bed and then back to whatever passes for normalcy. While on Maui, I stopped by the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh. He was one of my childhood heroes and I had been to a couple other places where he figured prominently. I could not imagine a more beautiful place to spend the rest of eternity...

Three cheers for Senator Scott Brown

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The new State Senator from Massachusetts, who is filling the Senate Seat vacated by Teddy (Mr. Chappaquiddick) Kennedy. The interesting bit is that Senator Brown is a Republican and he beat the Democratic Machine that had been pushing Martha Coakley. Breitbart Big Government
Brown Wins Massachusetts Senate Race
With 70% in, Brown leads Coakley 53-46%. From what we�ve seen, there is no scenario where Coakley can win. Also so scenario to prolong the race with a long legal fight. Ladies and Gentlemen, Senator Scott Brown.
This will be very interesting to watch what happens...

Hana, Maui

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Gorgeous old Hawai'ian town. Jen booked us into a place that advertises:
To preserve your tranquility, all luxury Maui accommodations at Hotel Hana-Maui are television and radio free. There is, however, a Club room available with a television, internet service and convenient access to a printer.
Unnhhhh - earth to Jen; come in Jen... I brought the laptop to the bar last night hoping to leach off the hotel internet connection but it was secured. I am sitting in the Club Room (which is not shabby at all) and typing this. We are heading back to the mainland tomorrow afternoon -- I could use another two weeks back on Kauai... Paia was a lot of fun -- it's where a bunch of hippies migrated and set up businesses. Here are some photos:


We passed three-bears falls on the way to the hotel: 3bears_falls.jpg Surf was up a bit:

The undisclosed blogging location was absolutely horrible, horrible I tell you...
Posting is going to be a bit light on the ground the next day or so. Flying out of Maui at 1:30PM and catching a red-eye to Seattle, spending the night there (in broadband hell (this means you DoubleTree Hotel)) and driving up to Seattle Thursday the 21st. It will actually be good to get back but I will miss Hawai'i

Off to Hana with a small detour

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Closing the trip with two days in Hana We will be passing through Paia and making a small detour as it is the town where a key electronic music person comes from. A great place for shave ice too. Maui was fun but all told, I prefer Kauai and Big Island...

Some pics from today's sunrise

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Spent a chilly morning at the summit of Mount Haleakalā. Here are four photographs:
Starting to show some light -- the tail of Scorpius is at the left standing straight up.
The sun finally peeks through -- some gorgeous colors.
Here are some of the observatories at the summit. The odd triangular-shaped dark shadow is the shadow of the mountain itself on the low cloud bank.
The summit of Mount Haleakalā is about 120 miles from the summit of Mauna Kea and the observatories there. This is just a quickie first-order enhancement but you can plainly see the structures on the summit of Mauna Kea. The sequence of photographs I took before and during sunrise came out great. I will be stitching them together into a video when I get home. I have some software that can interpolate between frames so it should turn out nice and smooth (at the expense of a couple days processing on a fairly fast CPU).

Two items from South America

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First -- some good news from Chile. From the Financial Times:
Pi�era wins presidency as Chile returns to the right
Sebasti�n Pi�era, a billionaire businessman, has defeated Chile�s ruling leftist coalition to return the right to power for the first time since the return of democracy after General Augusto Pinochet�s dictatorship in 1990.

The silver-haired airline magnate, who has pledged to implement a change of style but is not expected to make big policy shifts, scored a clear victory over Eduardo Frei, a former president who had been seeking a fifth consecutive term for the ruling Concertaci�n coalition but failed to overcome the left�s image as stagnant and riven by infighting.
Time for a little housecleaning... Second, from the Wall Street Journal -- Chavez doing what Chavez does best:
UPDATE: Venezuela Nationalizes French-Colombian Retailer Exito
President Hugo Chavez ordered Sunday the seizure of a French-owned retail chain on accusations that it raised prices after Venezuela devalued the currency by half.

"Until when are we going to allow this to happen?" Chavez asked during his Sunday television program in reference to the alleged price hike by Almacenes Exito SA (EXITO.BO), headquartered in Colombia and controlled by French retailer Casino.
Generally, when you find yourself in a hole, the idea is to stop digging...

And when they do it, they do it wrong

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Apropos the last post about the EU waffling on aid to Haiti. Here is a wonderful news item about some Belgian doctors. From CNN World:
Security concerns cause doctors to leave hospital, quake victims
Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.

The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

CNN initially reported, based on conversations with some of the doctors, that the United Nations ordered the Belgian First Aid and Support Team to evacuate. However, Belgian Chief Coordinator Geert Gijs, a doctor who was at the hospital with 60 Belgian medical personnel, said it was his decision to pull the team out for the night.
Afraid of poverty? The boogie man? The soon-to-be dead? A bit more:
CNN video from the scene Friday night shows the Belgian team packing up its supplies and leaving with an escort of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers in marked trucks.
Emphasis mine -- leave if you do not feel secure but don't take the medicines and supplies too... A bit more:
Gupta -- assisted by other CNN staffers, security personnel and at least one Haitian nurse who refused to leave -- assessed the needs of the 25 patients, but there was little they could do without supplies.

More people, some in critical condition, were trickling in late Friday.

"I've never been in a situation like this. This is quite ridiculous," Gupta said.

With a dearth of medical facilities in Haiti's capital, ambulances had nowhere else to take patients, some of whom had suffered severe trauma -- amputations and head injuries -- under the rubble. Others had suffered a great deal of blood loss, but there were no blood supplies left at the clinic.

Gupta feared that some would not survive the night.

He and the others stayed with the injured all night, after the medical team had left and after the generators gave out and the tents turned pitch black.

Gupta monitored patients' vital signs, administered painkillers and continued intravenous drips. He stabilized three new patients in critical condition.

At 3:45 a.m., he posted a message on Twitter: "pulling all nighter at haiti field hosp. lots of work, but all patients stable. turned my crew into a crack med team tonight."
If there is any justice in the world, Dr. Gupta will get next years Nobel Peace Prize -- this is the sort of heroism and selflessness that it is intended for. And yes, let's move the United Nations out of New York City -- Dubai is well suited for them. And, for a bit of a history refresher, check out the WikiPedia entry for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces had a large presence there, mostly Belgian, and they could have prevented the killing of up to 1,000,000 people. They bailed out because they didn't feel secure there.

Two ways to do it

A perfect example of the differences between the United States and the EU. From Christopher Booker writing at the UK Telegraph:
Haiti response shows the difference between the EU and a superpower
Compare and contrast the initial responses of two "major world powers" to the Haitian earthquake disaster. Within hours of Port-au-Prince crumbling into ruins, the US had sent in an aircraft carrier with 19 helicopters, hospital and assault ships, the 82nd Airborne Division with 3,500 troops and hundreds of medical personnel. They put the country's small airport back on an operational footing, and President Obama pledged an initial $100 million dollars in emergency aid.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the European Union geared itself up with a Brussels press conference led by Commission Vice-President Baroness Ashton, now the EU's High Representative -- our new foreign minister. A scattering of bored-looking journalists in the Commission's lavishly appointed press room heard the former head of Hertfordshire Health Authority stumbling through a prepared statement, in which she said that she had conveyed her "condolences" to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and pledged three million euros in aid.
And this dichotomy is nothing new -- the 2004 tsunami:
Memories might have gone back to December 2004, which saw similarly contrasting responses to the Indian Ocean tsunami catastrophe which cost nearly 300,000 lives. Again, within hours the US took the lead in forming an alliance with Australia, India and Japan, and had sent in two battle groups fully equipped to deal with such an emergency, including 20 ships led by two carriers with 90 helicopters. President Bush immediately pledged $35 million, later rising to $350 million. Because they were self-sufficient, the US forces pulled off a stupendously successful life-saving operation, almost entirely ignored by the British media, notably the BBC (whose journalists on the spot were nevertheless quite happy to hitch lifts from US helicopters).

The EU, by contrast, pledged three million euros for the tsunami victims, called for a three-minute silence (three times longer than is customary to remember the millions who died in two world wars) and proposed a "donors' conference" in Jakarta nearly two weeks later to discuss what might be done.

The only real difference between these two episodes is that, in the five years which have elapsed since 2004, the EU has even more noisily laid claim to its status as what Tony Blair liked to call "a world superpower", capable of standing on the world stage as an equal of the US. Anyone who witnessed the dismal showing at Thursday's press conference of the High Representative, which would scarcely have passed muster at a board meeting of the Hertfordshire Health Authority, might well cringe at the thought.
The comments are a wonderful read -- a good mix of delusional dreaming and facts on the ground...
Talk about being an asshat. From ABC News:
Wyclef Jean Defends His Haiti Charity
Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean spoke out Saturday in defense of his foundation after charity screening groups raised concerns about its accounting practices.

Jean said he was baffled by the timing and nature of criticism of The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc., which has already raised more than $2 million to help earthquake victims.

"It is impossible for me to even comprehend the recent attacks on my character and the integrity of my foundation," he said in a statement. "The fact that these attacks come as we are mobilized to meet the greatest human tragedy in the history of Haiti only serves to perplex me even further."
Meanwhile, over at The Smoking Gun, they have the story plus photos of his IRS 990's (Non-profit annual tax return):
Wyclef Jean Charity's Funny Money
Haiti earthquake aid pours into group that has enriched singer

The Haiti earthquake has already triggered hundreds of thousands of donations to musician Wyclef Jean's charitable foundation, which expects to raise upwards of $1 million a day in the disaster's wake. However, Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean's appearance at a benefit concert. Though the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which does business as Yele Haiti Foundation, was incorporated 12 years ago--and has been active since that time--the group only first filed tax returns in August 2009. That month, the foundation provided the IRS with returns covering calendar years 2005, 2006, and 2007--the only periods for which it has publicly provided a glimpse at its financial affairs. In 2006, Jean's charity reported contributions of $1 million, the bulk of which came from People magazine in exchange for the first photos of a pregnant Angelina Jolie (the actress reportedly directed that the publication's payment go to Jean's charity, not her personally). As seen on the following pages from the foundation's 2006 tax return, the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, "is priced below market value." The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the "musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert." That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, "was substantially less than market value." The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity's fundraiser. But the largest 2006 payout--a whopping $250,000--went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to "own a controlling interest." The money covered "pre-purchased...TV airtime and production services" that were part of the foundation's "outreach efforts" in Haiti. No further description of these services was offered, though the return claimed that "the fees paid are below market" and that the use of Telemax was the "most efficient way of providing these services." The group's tax returns also report "consultant" payments totaling $300,000 between 2005-2007, while the 2006 return reported nearly $225,000 in "promotion and PR" costs. These expenses are not itemized further in the IRS returns. (6 pages)
I would hope that some money is going to the relief agencies that are currently doing the heavy lifting down there. Doesn't sound too encouraging. Once corrupt, always corrupt...

Sunrise from Mount Haleakalā

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The sunrise was gorgeous today -- a layer of very low clouds for the light to play off. Took a lot of photos and will be trying to stitch them together into a time-lapse video. Moving to Hana tomorrow morning for a few days and then back home to temps in the mid 30's and rain, rain, rain.

We have a sock puppet

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I love it when someone posts a comment without knowing that this system is logging some of their basic data... On January 2nd, 2010, I posted this: FloriDUH The post pointed to a news aggregator linking to strange stories from Florida and I excerpted one such story about a guy and some turtles. January 15th, I got this comment from Bocalover:
These allegations are False and all charges will be dismissed. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers fabricated this story to get back at this guy for filling a complaint to the State's Inspector General for abuse of power against the officers. This man owned a vacant lot and he lived 2500 miles away. Someone filled some gopher tortoise holes on in this man's property and he is being accused of "this crime" because he didn't have a full time security guard on his property to watch the gopher tortoise burrows! This is how our taxpayers money being wasted!
That same day strangeworld posted this:
This is crazy! How much power do these FWC officers have? We should publish the names of these officers and make the whole world know about them. They should kick them out of the force. They shouldn't be trusted to represent us. They are bunch of lunatics.
On January 16th, seawarrier posted:
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel didn't tell the entire story:

The guy is an animal lover and has a golden retriever. His dog has a better life than most people! The whole story is about a couple of FWC officers who went after this guy for personal vendettas. No one in Boca Grande believes these stupid charges against this man and we all know that the truth will come out during the trial. These FWC officers will serve jail time for lying and their despicable act of using their badge for personal reasons will be exposed to the whole word.
Today (January 17th) I have two posts from missionimpossible What Bocalover, etc... fail to realize is that I can see the IP address from the posting system -- it is stored in my log files and this single person is posting from which is the West Florida section of the Comcast network. Every single one of these posts is coming from the same computer system. In my world, that is called being a sock puppet and is generally frowned on. Needless to say, comments have been turned off for that blog entry...

A curious turn of events

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The National Center for Atmospheric Research is based in Boulder, Colorado. They are building a huge supercomputing center but they are locating it in neighboring Wyoming. As always, the devil (literally in this case) is in the details. Anthony has the story at Watts Up With That The story jumps all over the place so I am not going to try to excerpt it but it is worth reading (and the 150+ comments). Needless to say, the reason for the location is swept under the rug in all of the public relations releases -- all the while they are talking about sustainability and LEED certification of the facility.

Early morning tomorrow

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Waking up at 3:00AM to drive to the crater rim of Mount Haleakala. The sunrise is supposed to be spectacular -- photos will be taken. Needless to say, posting will be minimal tonight as I only have time to read about 40% of the internet before heading off to bed...

Sweet Schadenfreude

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From the London Times:
BBC forecast for Met Office: changeable
Buffeted by complaints about its inaccurate weather forecasts, the Met Office now faces being dumped by the BBC after almost 90 years.

The Met Office contract with the BBC expires in April and the broadcaster has begun talks with Metra, the national forecaster for New Zealand, as a possible alternative.

The BBC put the contract out to tender to ensure �best value for money�, but its timing coincides with a storm over the Met Office�s accuracy.

Last July the state-owned forecaster�s predictions for a �barbecue summer� turned into a washout. And its forecast for a mild winter attracted derision when temperatures recently plunged as low as -22C.

Last week the Met Office failed to predict heavy snowfall in the southeast that brought traffic to a standstill. This weekend a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times reveals that 74% of people believe its forecasts are generally inaccurate.

By contrast, many commercial rivals got their predictions for winter right. They benefit from weather forecasts produced by a panel of six different data providers, including the Met Office.
Time for the warmists to wake up and smell the cappuccino. How blind can people be to not see the contradictions in the Science. How blind can they be to blithely ignore the weather that is happening right in front of their faces...
Some interesting times ahead -- from The Orange County Register's Science Dude:
�Potentially epic� rain coming to O.C.
The National Weather Service has issued a new and disturbing forecast for next week�s series of storms, saying Orange County could receive �potentially epic� rains, with as much as 20� of precipitation in the Santa Ana Mountains and 4� to 8� along the coast.

Santa Ana averages less than 3� of rain for the entire month of January.

�We�re giving a lot of advance warning so property owners and emergency planners can take action ahead of this,� says Rob Balfour, a weather service forecaster.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said today the upcoming storms �finally show El Nino traipsing in� to Southern California. El Nino can greatly enhance rainfall. Forecasters said the upcoming storms could rival the damaging El Nino rains that hit Orange County in January 1995.

Balfour said the polar jet stream �is extremely strong; it already extends from off Asia to Hawaii and up higher.� The storms will tap some of that sub-tropical moisture, strengthening the storms.

The first storm will arrive late Sunday night or early Monday and will drop 1.5� or more of rain. The surges coming Tuesday and Thursday/Friday will be stronger. By the end of the week, hillsides will be soaked, raising the prospect of mudslides. Ski resorts in the San Bernardino Mountains are expected to get 4 feet of snow.
Getting the snow will be fantastic as the snowpack is very low right now and there are water shortages in summer as a result. The lowland rains are not so fantastic as there is a lot of land that has been denuded by the wildfires and landslides are a distinct possibility.

Whale soup

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As one of our guides said, the waters around Maui were "Whale Soup" Spent quite a bit of time watching several groups -- took almost 200 photos (one of the joys of digital photography is that you can use an 8GB memory card and shoot away, saving the good shots when you are at home editing.) Here are four from today:
Got tail?
Federal law stipulates that we could not approach closer than 100 yards but if they wanted to swim over and take a look at us...
Wave for the camera -- this female was slapping the water with her fins. The belief is that this is a summons for males to come and be selected for breeding.
A baby was playing off in the distance and I managed to catch this breech. Looks like a lot of fun! Shot a little video too but it was really choppy and hard to get a decent image with the camcorder. I will be editing that when i get home and if anything turns out good, I'll post it on my YouTube account.

Whale watching

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Heading out for a three hour tour with these people: Pacific Whale Foundation Lots of Humpbacks around so should be a good trip.

Warren and Anabelle

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Just got back from seeing this show: Warren and Annabelle�s I love magic -- I don't have the manual dexterity to do it myself but I love watching it when it is well done. Large stage magic is OK but there, you are watching a mechanism do the trick -- the magician is just there to pace the show and set up the illusion. Closeup magic is another animal entirely and Warren Gibson is a master. He kept his tuxedo sleeves rolled up the entire time and proceeded to do some amazing tricks -- not only cards but also borrowed rings from the audience, coins, paper currency; he even pulled two bowling balls out of a hat. If you are ever planning a trip to Maui, this show is a must. They feed you pretty well and Anabelle's piano playing is a lot of fun despite the fact that she passed away in the late 1800's. Again, if you are planning a visit to Maui, this is a must see. Book early as most shows sell out -- ours was full.

From an email

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1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to liquor.

2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can�t afford shoes.

3. You have more wives than teeth.

4. You wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon �unclean.�

5. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.

6. You can�t think of anyone you haven�t declared Jihad against.

7. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing.

8. You were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.

9. You have nothing against women and think every man should own at least four.

10. You�ve always had a crush on your neighbor�s goat..
Finally, some factual reporting from the New Scientist (which used to be an awesome magazine -- subscribed for a number of years but dropped it when they drank the Anthropogenic Global Warming kool-aid):
Hat tip to Bishop Hill for finding this.

USS Carl Vinson arrives in Hati

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This was the ship that provided serious relief after the Indonesian Tsunami. From the Navy website:
USS Carl Vinson Arrives in Haiti to Support Humanitarian Operations
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) arrived off the coast of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti Jan. 15 to commence humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

Carl Vinson received orders from U.S. Southern Command to deliver assistance to the Caribbean nation following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake which caused catastrophic damage within the capital city Jan. 12. The aircraft carrier's speed, flexibility and sustainability make it an ideal platform to carry out relief operations.

"Our initial focus is to concentrate on saving lives while providing first responder support to the people of Haiti. Our assistance here reflects our nation's compassion and commitment to those impacted by this tragedy," said Rear. Adm. Ted Branch, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and the U.S. Navy's sea-based humanitarian support mission of Haiti.

The carrier arrived on station with a robust airlift capability, picking up extra helicopters while in transit that will will prove essential during the mission.

Carl Vinson commanding officer Capt. Bruce H. Lindsey said, "When tasked to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in Haiti, we immediately headed to Mayport, Fla., at more than 30 knots and loaded 19 helicopters, personnel and support equipment from five different East Coast Navy squadrons in less than eight hours. There is no other platform that can do all of that so quickly."

U.S. Southern Command is well-versed in providing humanitarian assistance to the region. Since 2005, the command has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008. During that mission, U.S. military forces airlifted 3.3 million pounds of aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of major storms.
Like I didn't see this coming -- from The Hill:
White House budget director blames old computers for ineffective government
A big reason why the government is inefficient and ineffective is because Washington has outdated technology, with federal workers having better computers at home than in the office.

This startling admission came Thursday from Peter Orszag, who manages the federal bureaucracy for President Barack Obama.
The public is getting a bad return on its tax dollars because government workers are operating with outdated technologies, Orszag said in a statement that kicked off a summit between Obama and dozens of corporate CEOs.

�Twenty years ago, people who came to work in the federal government had better technology at work than at home,� said Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. �Now that�s no longer the case.

�The American people deserve better service from their government, and better return for their tax dollars.�
Geezzz -- I spent last Fall doing a technology refresh around the house. Jen's old 'puter was seven years old, my system was eight. Both were working fine (each with four MB RAM which goes a long way to improve performance in older systems), they were just slow with the newer applications. They were both 1.2GHz Pentium systems. The key thing is that there was nothing about these systems that prevented us from doing our work, they were just slow. When I get back, I will be putting Puppy Linux onto them and finding good homes for them as they work great for basic email and office systems. The idea that using an older computer system is causing our government to be inefficient is a bald-faced lie of the worst order. If this Peter Orszag person actually believes this bullshit, he needs to have his ass fired A.S.A.P. And yeah, I got a couple awesome DELL desktops for about $800 each -- six GB RAM, 400 GB hard disk and 2.8GHz quad-core CPUs. Integrated graphics so for the basic office machines, that is fine. For the one system I am using for photo and video editing, I spent another $120 for a decent graphics card which freed up more RAM bringing that machine up to eight GB.

Some photos from Maui

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Here are a couple photos I shot today:


Mount Haleakalā -- The first shot is where I was standing with a 24mm lens (equivalent). The second shot is hand-held at 300mm equiv. and the third shot is an image enhanced crop showing details of the observatories at the summit (10,000')
The ocean was up...
Here is an example of the West Maui road. It was especially interesting as there are a lot of houses here -- I wonder how the concrete trucks made it through here. Ditto UPS/FedEx and School Buses...
Gorgeous drive today -- went around West Maui. The journey starts off just fine (clockwise) and trickles down to a wonderful single-lane road. I will be posting some photos later tonight or tomorrow. Also, in my capacity as Blogger, I hearby declare Fatwa on the Grey Francolin.
Excerpted from the WikiPedia entry:
The loud calls of the birds are commonly heard early in the mornings. Pairs of birds engage in duet calls.
Bloody hell -- we have these odious excuses for wildlife roosting in the trees outside our window. "Loud Calls" my sugar-coated ass -- it sounds like a whole parking lot full of car alarms going off at 6:00AM in the @#$% morning. Introduced from India in 1958 WTF were people thinking. Seriously...

Scott Ritter in the news again

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Who he? Ritter was the lefties heart-throb as he was a United Nations weapons inspector who declared that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction and was very public in his statements that President Bush was an incarnation of the devil and that everything the government was doing was wrong. He was very popular on the moonbat lecture circuit. He had a dark side but it was only innuendo and dropped charges. A few days ago, he was nailed. From the New York State Pocono Record:
Sex sting in Poconos nets former chief U.N. weapons inspector
A former chief United Nations weapons inspector is accused of contacting what he thought was a 15-year-old girl in an Internet chat room, engaging in a sexual conversation and showing himself masturbating on a Web camera.

Scott Ritter of Delmar, N.Y., who served as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-98 and who was an outspoken critic of the second Bush administration in the run-up to the war in Iraq, is accused of contacting what turned out to be a Barrett Township police officer posing undercover as a teen girl.
And the priors:
According to reports, Ritter was charged in a June 2001 Internet sex sting in New York, but that case was dismissed.

He had been charged with attempted child endangerment after arranging in an online chatroom to meet what he thought was a 16-year-old girl at a Burger King restaurant. The girl turned out to be an undercover policewoman.

Ritter said the criminal charge was a smear campaign in response to his criticizing U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The New York Post reported Ritter had been caught in a similar case involving a 14-year-old girl in April 2001, but that he was not charged.
A couple years in the hotel graybar would be good for this a@@hole. A bad piece of work all around...
An interesting note from SusanAnne Hiller over at Breitbart's Big Government: Obama and the Missing Nobel Prize Money
The other day I pointed out the fact that President Obama has yet to donate the money he was awarded as the Nobel recipient. Obama stated he would donate the $1.4 million prize to charity. It�s been several weeks since he received the money and no one knows what�s happened to it. SusanAnne proceeds to cite the sections of US Code and it does apply in a case like this. She concludes with the following:
I guess we�ll just have to wait for Obama�s tax returns in April to see where the money went.
Indeed -- some interesting comments to read through...

Great idea - move the United Nations

From Forbes Magazine:
Move The U.N. To Dubai
The opening last week of the world's tallest building, the half-mile-high Burj Dubai, has largely been greeted with guffaws and groans. The Daily Telegraph labeled it "the new pinnacle of vanity"--"a purposeless monument to the subprime era." The Wall Street Journal compared it to the Tower of Babel. (When the Empire State Building was completed in 1931, in the throes of the greatest financial crisis of the 20th century, it was met with similar jeers. The then-tallest building in the world was called the Empty State Building, and it remained vacant for several years.)

Yet the Burj's completion--indeed the whole wild enterprise known as Dubai--could signal a potential opportunity to the global community: turning the place into the headquarters for that other misguided ship, the United Nations.

Let's spell out the logic. The United Nations is a pain in the butt. It pays no taxes and annoys hard-working New Yorkers with its sloth, pretensions and cavalier disregard for traffic laws. The place is a sinkhole dominated by anti-American, anti-Semitic and authoritarian fantasies. It is far from the elegant crown jewel that celebrated the U.S.'s global ascendancy after the Second World War.

Today the U.N. building is a mostly empty shell--water dripping through its roof, asbestos lining its ceiling and an erratic heating and cooling system have forced most UN workers to new facilities. The building is in the midst of a $1.87 billion overhaul--of which the U.S., which could use the cash for myriad other things, would be on the hook for $437 million.

And the U.N. may be leaving anyway. A relocation committee has recommended that the organization move temporarily to Singapore by 2015. It will be hard to vacate Asia again for New York, which is far away from the bulk of the world's largest population centers.

Singapore might make a fine world capital, since it does work like a fine watch. But it's already crowded, expensive and highly regulated. You have to wonder if hard-working, rational Singaporeans would want to drive up costs and lose their ability to run things as they see fit to accommodate the U.N. bureaucracy.

In contrast, the al-Maktoum family has transformed a once vast, empty landscape into a Star Wars-like capital city of the future. There is no skyline more arresting than the one built over the past 15 years by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Absolute Ruler of the tiny Emirate. In just 500 square miles, about half the size of Orange County, Calif., the sheikh has created a monument to modern architectural engineering.
Makes a lot of sense. Getting that bunch of professional whiners and crybabies out of the United States would be a great thing...

V-Man nails it - The Marsupial Class

Downright perfect -- politics as explained through a biology lesson From Kim at Velociworld:
The Marsupial Class
Every species is born into a world of uncertainty and fear, whether that creature is hatched from an egg, birthed whole and gasping via canal, released from the bondage of the chrysalis, or sprouted amphibiously, like the lowly polliwog. Each creature finds itself thrust into a terribly unforgiving world, where survival depends upon nurturing, luck, and innate ability.

Some animals, like the shark, venture forth whole, prey to few, immediately endowed with survival instinct and hunger. Others need nurturing: the featherless bird in the nest, the tiny rabbit, the helpless human infant. All, however, find themselves in the real world, susceptible to the elements, predators, viruses and bacteria. There's no turning back for a newborn: life is what it is. One survives or does not. That's a reality that cannot be unmade.

There does exist one small tranche of zoology, however, an infraclass of Phylum Chordata, that does not adhere to the instantaneous revelation of birth: to wit, our friends Marsupialia; the wombat and honey possum, the kangaroo and koala, the bandicoot and bilbie. They alone know a kindler, gentler entrance to existence.

The marsupial is born quite prematurely, exits its mother's womb, then crawls into the safety of the mother's pouch, there to latch upon nipple, and grow at a comfortable and secure rate, venturing forth from the pouch occasionally, until inexorably kicked from that pouch by the bedraggled and consumed mother.

I often think of my liberal counterparts as the marsupial class in the taxonomy of sentience. Once they are "born," or achieve an age of reason, they look upon the realities of life and are afraid. They therefore retreat back into the metaphorical maternal pouch for protection against reality. There they can nurse upon a safe teat, and peek over the horizon as curiosity allows. If the world is too violent, they may retreat. If the face of reality is fearsome, there is mother's bosom to make the nightmares dissipate.

The pouch of security for the marsuperal takes many forms, but it is most recognized in the forms of academe, government sinecure, and the arts. These are the safe rooms to which the liberal will retreat when the peek over the horizon is too ghastly to bear. In the nurturing faux womb the liberal may reinforce their ill-formed opinions of the outside world, of reality, and feel safe and cozy.
There is more -- go and read the rest. This metaphor does a lot to explain the failure-to-learn and failure-to-remember that so permeates the liberal mindset.

Awww - a couple of animals

Sweet story from Neatorama via Huffington Post (videos) and theCHIVE (more photos):

Lion and Tiger and Bear, Oh My!
Charles Hedgecoth Sr. and Diane Smith of Locust Grove, Georgia run a charity called Noah's Ark. Nine years ago, they took in a baby lion, tiger and bear, and the three are inseparable now. Smith says, "They love each other." Video at the HuffPo, more photos at The Chive.

Three photos from theCHIVE:




Got to get to Georgia sometime for some skritches...

The Obama's vegetable garden

Seems it was a hoax from the very beginning. From AOL's Daily Finance:
Michelle Obama's toxic veggie nightmare: White House organic garden polluted with sludge
When First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn in March 2009, she hoped to both set an example of healthy eating and to grow tasty edibles for her daughters and husband. But Michelle's organic dream has been dashed by a nasty toxic legacy lurking in the soils of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It turns out that a previous Presidential gardening team had used sewage sludge for fertilizer.

This is a fairly common practice with one huge problem. Sewage sludge tends to be laced with anything that people pour down the drain and often contains heavy metals. Not surprisingly, the National Park Service tested the dirt beneath Michelle's garden and found the plot has highly elevated levels of lead averaging 93 parts per million. That's below the 400 ppm that the Environmental Protection Agency says is a threat to human health. But I'd wager that Sasha, Malia and Barack won't be getting arugula or tomatoes from this garden any time soon.

The likely source of the toxic sludge that has ruined Michelle's garden? The Clinton White House apparently used a sludge-based product to fertilize the lawn during the 1990s! Aside from casting a shadow on the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt resided there, the sludge ensures that Michelle's garden will never attain organic status. Organic certification processes strictly prohibit the use of sludge as a fertilizer substitute.

The White House has sought to downplay the issue, and a number of experts have pointed out that 93 ppm of sludge in soil is somewhat normal for older urban locales. However, the EPA recommends not growing food in soil that has 100 ppm. Several major food producers, including H.J. Heinz and Del Monte, won't accept produce grown in sludge. That's despite decades of U.S. government efforts to encourage farmers to use solid sewage wastes in lieu of traditional fertilizer products.
Oopsie -- hat tip to Andrew Breitbart's newest website Big Journalism for the link.

In Maui

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I like Kauai better just from the vibe driving in from the airport. Bigger, more chaotic and more urbanized. Our condo is decent -- walking distance to the beach and a bunch of restaurants. Internet service is not stellar but much better than the Seattle DoubleTree Inn fee-based service ($15/day for about as good as dialup) Weather continues to hold up -- not cloudless but we can see the top of Mount Haleakalā and the observatories at the summit. Comments have been turned back on again...

Off to Maui

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Jetting off to yet another tropical paradise in a couple hours. 39 minute flight... Never been to Maui -- Jen has and liked it. The humpback whales are giving birth down here so a whale-watch trip is on the books. Time to button up the rental house, finish packing and hit the road...
From Itar/Tass:
Putin urges prompt elimination of energy failures
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has urged power engineering specialists to fix energy failures without delays, Itar-Tass quotes him saying during a meeting with the regional development minister, Viktor Basargin, on Monday.

Putin said the country had entered the heating season on time, and �the national energy suppliers have been working practically without failures.�

However, he said, there are certain problems, and they need to be solved without any delay. Those affected do not care about statistics, he remarked.

The country, said Putin, had entered the season in a tougher environment than it was expected.

�In addition to the global warming challenges, we need to address 'global cooling' effects and to do so promptly,� he said.
Emphasis mine...

What if K&R had a co-author

C is the most used programming language these days and the definitive book for it was written by Brian W Kernighan & Dennis M Ritchie.

What if they had help -- from Howard Phelps Lovecraft?

The C Programming Language
Brian W Kernighan & Dennis M Ritchie & HP Lovecraft

4.10 Recursion
C functions may be used recursively; that is, a function may call itself either directly or indirectly. Uninquiring souls may take this as just another peculiarity of those C folk, of whose ways their neighbours speak little to outsiders but much among themselves.

Keener news-followers, however, wondered at the events of the winter of 1927-28, the abnormally large number of calls placed upon the stack, the swiftness with which that list was sorted, the disturbing lack of heap allocation throughout the proceedings, and the secrecy surrounding the affair.

People in the nearby towns had talked about C for nearly a century, and nothing new could be wilder or more hideous than what they had whispered and hinted years before. Many things had taught them secrecy, and there was now no need to exert pressure on them.

But at last I am going to defy the ban on speech about this thing. It was I who fled frantically out of C Recursion in the early morning hours of July 16, 1927, and whose frightened appeals for action brought on the whole reported episode.

I never heard of C Recursion till the day before I saw it for the first and - so far - last time. They told me the steam train was the thing to take to Arkham; and it was only at the station ticket-office, when I demurred at the high fare, that I learned about C Recursion. The shrewd-faced agent, whose speech shewed him to be no local man, made a suggestion that none of my other informants had offered.

"You could take that old bus, I suppose," he said with a certain hesitation. "It runs through C Recursion, so the people don't like it. I never seen more'n two or three people on it - nobody but them C folks."

Brilliant -- I hope that Bob Hobbs writes more.

The copter ride was a blast. The pilot was one of these laid-back been there, seen that kind of people who instilled confidence. His movements on the cyclic and collective were very smooth -- he had been flying for more than a few hours and really knew this craft:
The little bug in the center is my cousin. Lots of gorgeous chained waterfalls -- it would be quite the hike to get to the base but a wonderful place to camp out for a couple days:
The tour ended with a gorgeous flight through the Na Pali coastline.
Later that afternoon, we visited the Limahuli Garden. This is part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. These people are doing wonderful conservation work -- the place was gorgeous and all of the terracing that you see in this photo is original -- there are terraces all over the place if you know what to look for:
Heading out tomorrow for Maui -- never been there so thought I would give it a week. Jen was there last year and loved it. Comments are disabled for now...

thwap - thwap - thwap - thwap

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Helicopter ride this morning. Cloudless sky this morning so it should be awesome.

Happy 108th - Popular Mechanics

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From Wired:
Jan. 11, 1902: Popular Mechanics Sets Out to Make Mechanics Popular
1902: Henry Haven Windsor, son of a preacher man, publishes the first issue of Popular Mechanics. The publication quickly helps pull our technocultural future into the public orbit, showcasing an inspiring arsenal of scientists and cultural heavyweights along the way.

Born in Iowa in 1859, Windsor attended Grinnell College and eventually landed in Chicago, publishing three trade magazines � Street Railway Review, Brick and Rural Free Delivery News. But it was Popular Mechanics that would fulfill his early mission � �Written So You Can Understand It� � with lasting success.

Windsor�s plan to deliver scientific and mechanical developments with straightforward language and helpful illustrations capitalized on a century hurtling with exponential speed toward stunning technical achievement. From its inception to its current iteration, the magazine has broken news of everything from the dirigible, wireless telegraph and cars to television, nukes and iPhones.
My Mom's Dad had copies of Popular Mech. dating back to the 1930s and it was a joy to visit there as a kid in the 1950's and to read them and to know KNOW that I would have jet-packs and flying cars.

Long day - long drive

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Kauai has just one road that extends about three-quarters around the island. We are staying at Princeville which is at 90% of the North end. We drove to about 5% of the Southwest end and then turned right and headed up the Waimea Canyon. Since we are renting a 4X4 Jeep, we had to put a little mud on our mud so some dirt road driving was on the books. We found a trail that lead to an amazing blogging location:

The road has my interest piqued as it was a major construction project that leads to a couple trailheads and a nice picnic area. Since the picnic area is at the top head of the canyon, I am guessing that it might be left over from WW2 -- maybe a communications relay station as the top of the canyon has a commanding view of the Western side of the island. The top of the canyon currently hosts several military facilities with large antennae and sensors...

Job description for IT Developer

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This has got to be a joke... Check it out at The Register

Harry Reid gets botoxed

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Curious before and after photos at Drudge:


Vitamin D

Over the last couple months, I have been taking fairly large doses of Vitamin D supplements (8,000 Units/day tapering off to 4,000 Units now and planning to go down to 2K/day during Summer) as well as a good balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9 saturated fats. The change in my sense of well-being has been profound. My skin has cleared up as well (I have had atopic dermatitis since childhood and my skin is now as clear as it ever has been.)

Patrick Cox has some really interesting information about other benefits of maintaining proper levels of Vitamin D over at Pajamas Media:

Sunshine, Vitamin D, and Death by Scientific Consensus
The traditional 'Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Decade' lists have been appearing in science-related publications. One breakthrough, however, is conspicuously missing from every list I've seen so far. I'm talking about the new understanding of the role and proper dosage of the sunshine vitamin D.

The 'scientific consensus' that has held sway for four decades regarding both exposure to the sun and vitamin D has collapsed. What has emerged in place of the old 'settled science' is the knowledge that most people in America are seriously vitamin D deficient or insufficient. The same is true for Canada and Europe, and the implications are staggering.

Simply put, unless you are one of the few people with optimal serum D levels, such as lifeguards and roofers in South Florida, you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D. It also means we can significantly reduce both health care costs and the staggering national deficit by taking a few simple steps.

As a financial writer, I bemoan the fact that no one can patent sunshine. Biotechs with therapies supported by far less evidence have exploded in value. Sirtris, for example, was bought by GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million to acquire IP for certain resveratrol-like substances. If you compare the evidence supporting the benefits of resveratrol vs. sunshine, sunshine leaves resveratrol in the dust.

I do, however, advise all my readers to get and keep their vitamin D levels up. This is simply because the economic benefits of doing so are so profound. Major illnesses have long been the biggest cause of financial crisis, a fact that proponents of nationalized health care have exploited well.

In truth, however, sensible sun exposure and vitamin D3 supplementation would do far more for our national health than the current health care bill. Even better, the benefits to society could be achieved without spending hundreds of billions of dollars. If an 'Army of Davids' took it upon itself to spread the word, they could achieve what government is apparently incapable of achieving.

A bit more (this is a longish four page article and well worth reading in its entirety):

In the 1890s, the crippling bone-softening children's disease rickets was still widespread in northern states, which has more pollution and a thicker ozone layer than the northwest. Ozone blocks the invisible component of sunshine, ultraviolet B, which produces vitamin D in the skin.

In the early 1900s, it was demonstrated that summer midday sunshine prevented rickets. As a result, there was an effort to educate the public and nearly everybody learned that a little sunshine was good for you. If you're of baby boom age, your mother undoubtedly told you to 'go outside and get some sun.' That's why.

Ironically, the beginning of the end of this attitude came in 1923 when a means of producing dietary D was found. UW-Madison biochemistry professor Harry Steenbock discovered that the vitamin D content of milk and other organic substances could be increased with ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. This led to the widespread enrichment of milk and the near elimination of rickets. Slowly, the perception of sunshine as healthy began to fade.

For the most part, scientists lost interest in the biological role of sunshine for higher animals. Dr. Michael Holick was the notable exception. For the last thirty years, Holick has been gathering data, doing research, and studying the role of sunshine and vitamin D.

As a graduate student, Holick first identified the major circulating form of vitamin D in human blood as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. He then isolated and identified the active form of vitamin D as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. He determined the mechanism for how vitamin D is synthesized in the skin, and demonstrated the effects of aging, obesity, latitude, seasonal change, sunscreen use, skin pigmentation, and clothing on this vital cutaneous process. Too often, however, he was treated like a climate change skeptic at an Al Gore fundraiser.

Thanks to his work, we now know that D is not actually a vitamin. It is prohormone, meaning that it is a precursor form of a steroid hormone created by conversion in various organs. This active hormone acts to regulate multiple important biological functions. Every single cell in the body has a D receptor, even stem cells.

Read the whole thing and consider adding a couple K units of D to your daily diet. Costs about a dime/day and just from my well-being and skin alone, it is well worth it.

You might also look into the Paleo diet -- some interesting ideas and the results are tangible.

Florida in for a hard freeze

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From AccuWeather:
Freeze in Florida Tonight Will Be Worst Since 1989
Several blasts of arctic air have gripped the eastern two-thirds of the country since the beginning of the new year. In the South, the extreme cold has been threatening crops, and temperatures tonight could be the most damaging for some.

While temperatures will rebound throughout the upcoming week, a late-week rain storm could cause even more damage to Southern crops.

Tonight Will Be Most Damaging in Florida
So far, citrus-growers in Florida have gotten by with only light damage following several nights of sub-freezing temperatures over the past week. Tonight will likely prove more destructive as temperatures drop to the lowest levels in over 20 years.

According to AccuWeather.com Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, the hard freeze tonight will be the worst since December of 1989.

Mohler said that unlike the last few nights, temperatures tonight across all the orange groves will drop below freezing and most will dip blow 28�, a critical temperature for the fruit. In many groves, temperatures will stay below 28� for 6 to 10 hours or more.

Mohler expects a 6 to 10 percent loss of the total 2009 orange crop after tonight's freeze. The groves where temperatures drop between 23 and 25 degrees will suffer the most significant damage.

A fun day - 4X4 off-road

The family fleet on Kauai has two Jeeps and today, we put them to good use.

There is a road that goes to the forest that was used for Jurassic Park.

The guide on the Movie Tour the other day told us this but said that it was even beyond the reach of our jeeps and really required a specialized vehicle which, surprise, they happened to have and rented out for tours.

I spent a few minutes on Google Maps yesterday evening and we had a wonderful couple of hours today bushwacking and dodging the occasional Velociraptor (some of them escaped during filming and they have established a sizable native population).

We were able to get into the base of Mt. Waialeale, the second tallest mountain on Kauai. The other side of the mountain is also the wettest spot on the planet with over 400 inches of rain/year.

Home of the Alaka'i swamp. Here are four photos:

Starting out on the trail

The usual suspects...

Did you hear something roar?

End of the road -- Mt. Waialeale

A fun time was had by all...

A massive disturbance of the force

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The influx of comment spam is shifting from one tactic to another. The old crap failed 100% over the last year with my scripts. The new stuff is down 100% for the last 40 attempts.

Starting to process the vacation photos

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Here is the undisclosed blogging location:
More to follow...

Revisionists to the left of me

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Oliver Stone is coming out with a new movie -- should be interesting. From The Live Feed:
Oliver Stone's 'Secret History' to put Hitler 'in context'
Director Oliver Stone's upcoming Showtime documentary miniseries "Secret History of America" promises to put mass murderers such as Stalin and Hitler "in context."

"Stalin, Hitler, Mao, McCarthy -- these are people who have been vilified pretty thoroughly by history," Stone told reporters at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour in Pasadena.

"Stalin has another story," Stone said. "Not to paint him as a hero, but he fought the German war machine more than any single person. Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history. He's the product of a series of actions. People in America don't know the connection between WWI and WWII. I've been able to walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes. We're going to educate our minds and liberalize them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions. Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved. Hitler is a product of a series of events, just a man who could have been assassinated."

Stone said that conservative pundits will dislike the show.

"Obviously, Rush Limbaugh is not going to like this history and, as usual, we're going to get those kind of ignorant attacks," he said.
You can say what you want about Limbaugh but the man is not stupid by any means. Any attacks Stone gets will be in the form of carefully researched facts and historical contexts and will be a line item by line item fisking of epic proportions. Time to make a bowl of popcorn and sit back and enjoy the show. And that high-pitched humming you hear is Senator Joseph McCarthy spinning in his grave for being linked in the same sentence as Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Talk about being known by the company you keep...

Fear not...


Hey -- I resemble that!

From Sober in a Nightclub

From Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:
Six bullet points on why people go to graduate school in the humanities
These reasons are ugly, but a lot of it rings true. Note the behavioral economics implicit in the explanations:
  • They are excited by some subject and believe they have a deep, sustainable interest in it. (But ask follow-up questions and you find that it is only deep in relation to their undergraduate peers � not in relation to the kind of serious dedication you need in graduate programs.)
  • They received high grades and a lot of praise from their professors, and they are not finding similar encouragement outside of an academic environment. They want to return to a context in which they feel validated.
  • They are emerging from 16 years of institutional living: a clear, step-by-step process of advancement toward a goal, with measured outcomes, constant reinforcement and support, and clearly defined hierarchies. The world outside school seems so unstructured, ambiguous, difficult to navigate, and frightening.
  • With the prospect of an unappealing, entry-level job on the horizon, life in college becomes increasingly idealized. They think graduate school will continue that romantic experience and enable them to stay in college forever as teacher-scholars.
  • They can't find a position anywhere that uses the skills on which they most prided themselves in college. They are forced to learn about new things that don't interest them nearly as much. No one is impressed by their knowledge of Jane Austen. There are no mentors to guide and protect them, and they turn to former teachers for help.
  • They think that graduate school is a good place to hide from the recession. They'll spend a few years studying literature, preferably on a fellowship, and then, if academe doesn't seem appealing or open to them, they will simply look for a job when the market has improved. And, you know, all those baby boomers have to retire someday, and when that happens, there will be jobs available in academe.
That list (there is more at the link) is from Thomas H. Benton and the pointer is from Jessica Crispin on Twitter.
That leaves a mark -- in part because it is so true. I grew up in an academic environment, spent five years at Boston College (dropped out) and was friends with people at University of Washington when I first moved to Seattle. I look back on a lot of the people I have known through these connections and they are slow-motion trainwrecks when it comes to dealing with the real world. They think that because they excel in academia that they are also less prone to making poor life decisions but in reality I do not know. Go and read Benton's article -- he fleshes out a lot of this bullet list. And yes, he is an Associate Professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Just wow!

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We spent the evening at the Luau Kalamaku If you are ever on Kuai'i, be sure to block out an evening for this. We have seen a number of luau and this blew every other performance out of the water. Be sure to come an hour early to sample the rum that is distilled at the facility and to ride the train -- the venue is on the grounds of the largest sugar plantation on Kauai'i which has been turned into a restaurant (also very good), the Luau and an agricultural research center where they see what non-native crops grow well as well as growing seedlings for reintroducing endangered native plants.

Happy 68th Birthday - Stephen Hawking

From Miss Celania at Neatorama:

Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking!
While people all over the world are marking the 75th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley, we would like to give a big shout out to a treasure who is still with us -- University of Cambridge professor emeritus Stephen Hawking, who turns 68 years old today.

Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo�s death, Hawking is a theoretical physicist who is regarded as one of the most intelligent men alive. He has published numerous papers and books on the nature and origin of the universe, the best known being A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Hawking also had a miniseries on PBS in 1997, Stephen Hawking's Universe, as well as a long list of TV and movie appearances. He is renowned for making difficult concepts comprehensible to the average reader or viewer.

Very cool!

And lest we forget, Dr. hawking also has quite the career as a rap artist -- check out MC Hawking for some dope beats!

Weather v/s Climate

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The Global Warming scammers are trying to spin this years winter. From the UK Daily Express:
AS one of the worst winters in 100 years grips the country, climate experts are still trying to claim the world is growing warmer.

With millions of Britons battling through snow and ice to get to work today, scientists claim that the cold conditions should not be used as evidence against man-made climate change.

Blizzards, ice and sub-zero temperatures that have gripped the UK for almost a month in a record deep freeze are not �robust� indicators of global weather patterns, they say.

Their claims come despite the fact that the rest of the northern hemisphere, from America to Europe and Asia, is suffering some of the worst winters in living memory.

Huge snowfalls are being witnessed from China and South Korea, across eastern, central and western Europe and to America where even Florida is struggling to record temperatures above freezing.

Last night critics of the global warming lobby said the public were no longer prepared to be conned into believing that man-made emissions were adding to the problem.

Long-term forecaster and trends analyst Piers Corbyn, of WeatherAction, said: �Global warming is a failed science built on falsified data. It is a sham to say that man has caused it.�

But Stephen Dorling, of the scandal-hit University of East Anglia�s school of environmental sciences, remained adamant that the weather should not be used as evidence against climate change.

But he added: �It�s no surprise that people look out of their window and find it hard to rationalise what�s going on with the longer term trend.�
And it is a shame that the businesses in England listened to their Met office (which was parroting the "warm winter without snow" shite that CRU was pumping out) and now they are short of natural gas and chemicals for de-icing the highways. Will they be held accountable for the increase in deaths caused by the colder weather when people are unable to heat their houses? Here is an interesting six-minute clip of Met Office head John Hirst defending his record to BBC interviewer Andrew Neil -- fascinating bit of body-language watching...

The Cable Connector Quiz

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Ten questions -- see if you recognize what cable goes to what kind of device. I got 10/10 -- from Mental Floss

Windows "God" mode

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Seems that for Vista and Win7, you can enable a God mode that gives you administrative powers through a simple folder on your desktop. More information is available here from Ed Bott at ZDNet:
The ultimate 'God Mode' list: 39 secret Windows 7 shortcuts
For some reason that only the gods of the blogosphere can explain, an old Windows trick took on new life this week. If you create a new folder using an arbitrary name, followed by a period and the GUID {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}, you end up with a categorized list of Control Panel tasks. As I explained last weekend, there�s nothing new or hidden in this list, but calling it �God mode� seems to have given this tip wings. Even Steven Sinofsky got into the act, sending a list of 15 additional GUID-based shortcuts to my colleague Ina Fried at CNET.
The lists are here:
Windows 7 and later

Windows Vista and later
A bunch of ways to muck up your system even faster :-)

Awww crap

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Just found out that some friends of ours were involved in a domestic violence and shooting with two people dead. Our vacation in paradise just lost a big chunk of its luster... UPDATE: The Bellingham Herald has a writeup. Sad news.

Releasing Gitmo prisoners - recidivism

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We have been releasing prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. We have been rehabilitating them but not so much. From Reuters:
U.S. believes 1 in 5 ex-detainees joining militants
The disclosure comes amid revelations that former Guantanamo detainees had joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- a Yemen-based group believed to be behind a failed plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day.

Under pressure to increase safeguards, President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he had suspended the transfer of additional Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, citing the deteriorating security situation in the country.

But Obama said the suspension would not prevent him from closing the prison, which was opened in early 2002 by the Bush administration to house terrorism suspects.
A full 20% go back into the terrorist networks and Obama still thinks that closing Guantanamo is a good idea...

The winter of our discontent...

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From the UK Guardian:
Energy security questioned as National Grid cuts off gas to factories
Exclusive: Severe weather and creaking power infrastructure lead to first tangible sign that fears over energy shortages are translating into supply disruption

Vauxhall's car plant at Ellesmere Port and British Sugar's refineries at Bury St Edmunds and Newark are among nearly 100 factories that have had their energy supplies cut as Britain threatens to lurch from whiteout to blackout.

The National Grid has told British Gas and other power suppliers to cut or reduce their power to major corporate customers in a bid to preserve gas for domestic households as extreme weather caused a surge in demand.

Opposition MPs said inadequate energy planning by the government in previous years had left the country heading towards an "energy crisis" that could only dent the UK's fragile economic recovery.
A month or two of bad weather and they are forced into crisis mode. The comments are interesting -- one thing mentioned is that the car and sugar companies agreed to pay lower prices for the gas with the understanding that their service could be interupted. They took this gamble and are now suffering the consequences. Another comment was that most nations keep at least a 90 day reserve of gas while Britain only keeps a 15 day reserve. One thing for sure, the weather is a lot colder than usual -- here is a satellite image of snow cover:
Lauri B. Regan writing at American Thinker:
The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Democrats
This past week, I was having lunch at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan when my colleague noticed Al and Tipper Gore dining across the room with another couple. It was a frigid day, with record-breaking temperatures keeping most people indoors, and we were the last two tables in the restaurant.

As the Gore party started walking out of the room, my colleague called out, "Hey, Al, how's all that global warming working out for you?" Gore turned around and stared at us with a completely dumbfounded look on his face. He was speechless. With a smile, my colleague repeated the question, again to a hapless look of dismay.

Finally, Gore mumbled under his breath, "Wow, you sound awfully angry." I responded with a thank you, explaining to him that we were actually extremely amused. The encounter concluded with Gore's friend mouthing a very animated "f--- you" at us, and they skulked away. My only regret is that no one at the table asked Gore, "What's the matter? The polar bear's got your tongue?"

What struck me the most about this meeting was Gore's complete inability to utter a sentence addressing his life's work. The former Vice President, Nobel Prize laureate, and Academy Award-winning producer standing before us was a moron, unable to articulate a simple comeback to address all that he has stood for since leaving office. He could have simply ignored us and kept walking, as he does with reporters, but by stopping and standing there dumbstruck, he looked like a fool.
A couple of other wonderful stories as well.

A lobster problem

I wish I had these hard decisions -- from United Press International:
Town told washed-up lobsters off-limits
A small Canadian seaside town in New Brunswick has been warned lobsters that wash ashore cannot be eaten because they weren't caught under license.

After an Atlantic storm Saturday, the crustaceans began washing ashore at Petit-Rocher on the northeastern coast and word spread quickly, the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal reported.

However, John St.-Coeur, a spokesman for the federal Fisheries and Oceans ministry issued a statement warning beachcomber they were breaking the law that says lobster can only be taken in traps by licensed fishermen during open season. Anyone else collecting lobsters could be fined $100,000, he said.

By Tuesday afternoon, the shore was mostly clear of lobsters and Mayor Pierre Godin said as many as 1,000 people -- including him -- had enjoyed many lobster meals since the weekend.

He dismissed the federal warning, saying residents had benefited from washed-up seafood for centuries.

"If it's illegal, they are going to have to make a very, very big prison for us all," he told the newspaper.
I love the mayor -- nothing like small-town reality hitting some distant government nanny's opinion of what is best for us...


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Telling it like it is -- Chip Bok:
From NBC Chicago:
Police May Scrap Entrance Exam: Report
The Chicago Police Department is seriously considering scrapping the police entrance exam, sources tell Fran Spielman.

Dropping the exam would bolster minority hiring and avert legal battles, according to one source, while others confirm that the exam could be scrapped to open the process to as many people as possible.

However, the lack of an exam would make Chicago the lone major city without one, and experts contend that the exam is integral to eliminating unqualified applicants.
They should show some stones and not give in to some vocal nitwits. The firefighters of New Haven, CT had the same exact problem -- the incoming white and asian recruits placed a lot higher than the incoming black recruits and the black recruits filed suit to change the exam. The problem with them is that the fire department had already spent significant effort to minimize the racial profiling of the exam and this suit went up to the US Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the New Haven Firefighters. A shame that the Chicago Police department is caving to this sort of mau-mauing.

Peak Oil (cough)bullshit(cough)

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From the Wall Street Journal via Yahoo Finance:
Beyond the Gulf of Mexico, companies have announced big finds off the coasts of Brazil and Ghana, leading some experts to suggest the existence of a massive oil reservoir stretching across the Atlantic from Africa to South America. Production from deepwater projects -- those in water at least 1,000 feet deep -- grew by 67%, or by about 2.3 million barrels a day, between 2005 and 2008, according to PFC Energy, a Washington consulting firm.
To those peak oil proponents - Pbbbbbbbbtttttt...

Kauai'i time

Spent the 40 minutes needed to fly from Honolulu to Lihue airport on Kauai'i. Jen's family rented a nice large house on the north part of the island so that is our homebase for the next week. Photos to come in the next couple of days...
One thing that stinks about this comment is tha... Hell -- a lot of things stink about this comment. My post is here: Dealergate - an update Please note that this post is from May 31, 2009 -- more then seven months ago. Generally, if someone reads a post and wants to comment on it, they do so within a week of the post. If they respond at a significantly later date, they have been trolling the web for instances of key words or phrases and are not really really engaged in any dialogue. The best example of the latter are feces-flinging monkeys; spatter it out there and if something sticks, call it good and MoveOn. The "It" in question is this:
This was proven incorrect. By FoxNews.com .
Ad this site to the long list of sites that don't fix their mistakes.
This was posted from Spend a few minutes and you find that is:
And you got to the MarkMonitor website and see this:
It is really sad to know that Snopes is now as intellectually honest and fiercely independent as Wikipedia. Really sad...

What oil shortage

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It is good to be a Greenlander these days -- from Popular Mechanics:
Oil and Gas Drilling in Greenland to Begin This Summer
When the 748-foot Stena Forth plows into the deep waters of Greenland�s Disko West zone next summer, the advanced drillship will be taking the first crack at what could be the world�s biggest untapped reservoir of oil and gas. The ship, built by Samsung in South Korea�s Geoje shipyard just over a year ago, can drill to 35,000 feet, in 10,000 feet of water. It is being leased by Cairn Energy, making that oil company the first to drill in Greenland�s waters since five exploratory wells were sunk in the 1970s. The company had been planning to begin drilling in 2011, but announced in December that it was moving its schedule up by a year. The United States Geologic Survey estimates the country�s offshore reserves could hold 50 billion barrels of oil and gas, or nearly one-third of the arctic total.

The country, which voted for increased independence from Denmark last year, has a population of only 58,000�that makes for more than 860,000 barrels per person, if the USGS estimate is spot-on. No oil hasn�t been found yet, let alone exploited. But many of the world�s biggest oil companies, including Exxon and Chevron, have acquired offshore leases and conducted geological studies in the past few years. They are attracted by high projected demand for oil in the coming decades and the retreat of arctic ice.
And then of course, there is the usual hand-wringing commentary re: Global Warming and its impact on the poor native population and their quaint primitive ways:
While hunters, who make up a sizable proportion of Greenland�s population, are suffering as a result of climate change, government officials quietly confirm that warming temperatures should bring new riches to the country. In addition to oil and gas, the retreat of ice is prompting new onshore mining ventures, and in coming decades Greenland could benefit from shipping as the Northwest Passage become a viable alternative to the Suez and Panama Canals.
The hunters are suffering from the low temperatures. The ice comes and goes and is driven more by wind and currents than temperatures. During the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300AD), Greenland was truly green. It was successfully colonized and agriculture supplemented the fishing and hunting. Our variable star and our normal planetary change brought the Little Ice Age into being around 1650-1800. We are now thawing out from that event -- it may be warming now but it has been a lot warmer in recent history:
From this post: Another look at the Hockey Stick

The attack on Pearl Harbor

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Visiting Pearl Harbor was very sobering -- to think of all of these lives lost in what was an unexpected military attack. About 3,000 lives lost with 57 civilian lives lost as well. Since I had been there last, the Mighty Mo had been moved to drydock but the Pacific Aviation Museum had been opened and that was a treat -- the quality of Restoration was top notch. It is interesting to think about the difference between now and sixty years ago. Sixty years ago, we were in a deep recession and suffered a surprise attack that killed about 3,000 military personnel. We acted with resolve, pulled ourselves out of the depression, built up a huge manufacturing base and won both the War with Japan and the War with Germany. After Armistice was signed, we went into these Nations and, while preserving the National heritage and culture, we rebuilt their economies and got them back on their feet again. Now, in the beginnings of a modest recession, we were attacked by a group of terrorists who murdered about 3,000 civilian personnel and we react with about six months of resolve and then we start to dither. Our economy continues to tank, we are a laughingstock to other nations, the terrorists regroup and attack again and again and our own Government denies us the resolve to get intelligence and act on it. We are treating an act of terrorism by a foreign national as a civil crime and feeding these mokes through the court system instead of our Military Justice system. That last idiot purchased a one-way ticket with cash, did not check any luggage (but told Airline officials that he was going to Detroit for two weeks), his own Father warned the US Embassy, he was noticed by Britain's own MI5 which alerted the USA a year ago -- this did not raise any flags with Homeland Security? If we treated this case for what it is, again, an act of terror by a foreign national, the military could have held his head under water for 30 seconds or so and we could have gotten the goods on this pigfuckers network. A quick fair tribunal and either a firing squad or a lifetime of luxury at Gitmo. Instead, we read him his Miranda rights and lawyered him up on our dime. The only justice is that he successfully neutered himself. Those 72 raisins of exceptional purity are going to be pretty useless to him now...

Pearl Harbor

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Heading out there this morning. A sacred place. We will also be touring the Mighty Mo which is berthed nearby. Fascinating to see the conditions that people lived under during World War Two as well as the navigation, communications and munitions technologies of the time.
A wonderful image from designer Phillip Niemeyer at the New York Times It is a single, very large image (1K * 2K pixels) so just go there and see it for yourself. Phillip nails the pop culture...


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Just got in this afternoon -- we were scheduled to depart Seattle at 10:00AM but that flight was delayed two hours. The ticket agent offered to transfer us to the 8:05AM flight -- there were seats available and, as we got there at 6:00AM, there was time to arrange for the swap. Just... Their computers would not allow us to switch -- the clerk cited a security issue. Finally, at around 7:15AM, we got a pair of hand-written boarding passes and made the dash to the security check-point. With my artificial hip, clearing this takes about twenty minutes and our gate was the next to the last one along that wing of the airport. We got on the airplane at 7:50AM and the plane was scheduled to take off at 8:05AM. We ran into her parents at the airport (our party is 11 adults and kids) and proceeded to the hotel bar -- anyway, a couple Mai-Tai's later, life is good... Heading out to Pearl Harbor tomorrow -- Jen's Mom and Dad have traveled extensively but never been to Hawai'i and then flying off to Kauai on Wednesday. Called the store and it's in the high 30's and raining heavily. The Internet at the Hotel is free and fast. Very cool! Last night, the $15/24hr Internet "access" (SeaTac DoubleTree) was just a nudge above dialup -- I ran speedtest and it came out at 0.18MBPs up and download with 700ms latency. Here (Outrigger, Waikiki) it is 3.4Mb/s with 10ms latency -- for free internet... Comments are back on again.

2009 Darwin Awards are up

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Go here and be grateful that it is not you being that stupid (or dead)...

Minimizing the chance of camera loss

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Photographer and blogger Andrew McDonald leaves these photos on his camera in case someone finds it:


The rest of the sequence at his website. Brilliant!

Hotel blogging

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Down in Seattle staying at a hotel near the airport. Have a wakeup call for 5:00AM and I am NOT a morning person... Surf for a bit and see if anything interesting turns up.

Copyright issues and car repair

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Some bad news from TechDirt:
How Automakers Abuse Intellectual Property Laws To Force You To Pay More For Repairs
Back in May, we wrote about the effort to get a Right to Repair bill passed for automobiles.

So far, thanks in part to lobbying by automakers, that bill hasn't gone very far. Reader MR sends in this article exploring both the bill and how automakers have been abusing intellectual property law to force you to pay more. Basically, as cars become more sophisticated and computerized, automakers are locking up access to those computers, and claiming that access is protected by copyrights. Mechanics are told they can only access the necessary diagnostics if they pay huge sums -- meaning that many mechanics simply can't repair certain cars, and car owners are forced to go to dealers, who charge significantly higher fees.

There is no legitimate basis for this at all. It's a clear misuse of intellectual property laws -- which were never designed for this sort of thing -- to prevent independent auto mechanics from repairing newer cars. But it's the end result of the increasing creep of intellectual property rights, and the growing computerization of everything. It allows manufacturers to extend "IP" rights to physical goods, and create all sorts of new monopolies. In a perfect world, this wouldn't need a separate law. It would be a clear violation of antitrust laws. But, we don't live in a perfect world, and for the time being you're probably paying a lot more money to repair your car because of it.
It will be interesting to see if designs like Microsquirt and Megasquirt start taking off. You get ten thousand of a specific vehicle out there, someone is going to start hacking it and publishing the results. My sister-in-law's husband is working with the Megasquirt system and is having a lot of fun -- it works very very well...

OK - a couple more before I go...

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I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Spirit turns six today.
NASA's Mars Rover has Uncertain Future as Sixth Anniversary Nears
NASA's Mars rover Spirit will mark six years of unprecedented science exploration and inspiration for the American public on Sunday. However, the upcoming Martian winter could end the roving career of the beloved, scrappy robot.

Spirit successfully landed on the Red Planet at 8:35 p.m. PST on Jan. 3, 2004, and its twin Opportunity arrived at 9:05 p.m. Jan. 24, 2004. The rovers began missions intended to last for three months but which have lasted six Earth years, or 3.2 Mars years. During this time, Spirit has found evidence of a steamy and violent environment on ancient Mars that was quite different from the wet and acidic past documented by Opportunity, which has been operating successfully as it explores halfway around the planet.

A sand trap and balky wheels are challenges to Spirit's mobility that could prevent NASA's rover team from using a key survival strategy for the rover. The team may not be able to position the robot's solar panels to tilt toward the sun to collect power for heat to survive the severe Martian winter.

Nine months ago, Spirit's wheels broke through a crusty surface layer into loose sand hidden underneath. Efforts to escape this sand trap barely have budged the rover. The rover's inability to use all six wheels for driving has worsened the predicament. Spirit's right-front wheel quit working in 2006, and its right-rear wheel stalled a month ago. Surprisingly, the right-front wheel resumed working, though intermittently. Drives with four or five operating wheels have produced little progress toward escaping the sand trap. The latest attempts resulted in the rover sinking deeper in the soil.
Keeping the lil' guy in my thoughts this winter... Here is the website for NASA's Mars Exploration Program

Shutting down for a day

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This time tomorrow, we will be taking off to Hawai'i. Finishing up a few things here (cleaning out the fridge, &c.) packing and will be driving down to Seattle later this evening. Thanks to the efficiencies of the Homeland Security brigade, we will have to be at the airport at 6:00AM for a 9:00AM flight -- carry-on will be interesting as I have a camera bag, the laptop and a tripod and I refuse to check any of these. We will see what Hawaiian Airlines has to say about it. Blog comments have been disabled until I'm in the hotel in Honolulu.

Dumba** of the day

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From Seattle station KOMO:
Cigarette-smoking teen burned while siphoning gas
Cowlitz County authorities say a 17-year-old Longview boy was burned when he lit a cigarette while trying to siphon gas from a car.

Fire and Rescue Lt. Jason Sanders says the boy suffered first- and second-degree burns over 30 percent of his body during the incident early Friday. The teen, whose name was not released, was taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview to treat the burns on his pelvis, hands and feet.

Sheriff's deputies say the incident occurred in the Beacon Hill area north of Longview. They say the teen was trying to siphon gas from a family member's car.
Paging Mr. Darwin, Mr. Charles Darwin to the white courtesy phone please...

A nice New Years Celebration

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A great time was had by all -- from the Beeb:
Guests snowed in for New Year at UK's highest pub
Guests celebrating new year at the highest pub in England had a longer than expected stay, after heavy snow left them stranded for three days.

About 30 people arrived at the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire on New Year's Eve to welcome in 2010.

But the wintry weather conditions meant the residents were snowed in for a further two nights.

Resident DJ Peter Richardson said: "We've kept our spirits up. It's actually been quite heart-warming."

The Tan Hill Inn stands 1,700 feet (520m) above sea level in the Yorkshire Dales.

Mr Richardson, from Richmond, North Yorkshire, said there had been a strong sense of camaraderie among the guests, who had come from across the UK.

"People have been helping peel veg for the dinner and pitching in," he said. "We've also held quizzes."

Guest Paul Manson, who lives near Alnwick in Northumberland, said: "Everyone's been chipping in by doing the washing up, peeling potatoes, getting cars out of the snow and keeping the generator going."

A manager at the pub said morale had remained high.

"It snowed heavily throughout the night on New Year's Eve, but no-one gave it a second thought until the morning when they couldn't move their cars," he said.

Guests began making their way home on Sunday, after gritters and snow ploughs arrived and cleared the roads.
Booking tickets for 2011...

Oh - and happy Palindrome Day

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01, 02, 2010 And why isn't the word "Palindrome" a palindrome

That's it for tonight

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Check emails in the DaveCave(tm) (still trying to resolve that Sequencer purchase -- the guy has ripped off three people and nobody has heard a peep from the moke in two weeks...) and then get the camera stuff together and charge a couple more batteries. I will be taking the Nikon D-90 (DSLR) as well as the Canon G11 (P&S) and will be traveling with the laptop so photos will show up from time to time. Kinda wish I wasn't leaving here (love this area) but it will be good to get some warm sunshine...

Reading H.R. 4173

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And Barney Frank is giving it all away... From David Reilly at Bloomberg:
Bankers Get $4 Trillion Gift From Barney Frank
To close out 2009, I decided to do something I bet no member of Congress has done -- actually read from cover to cover one of the pieces of sweeping legislation bouncing around Capitol Hill.

Hunkering down by the fire, I snuggled up with H.R. 4173, the financial-reform legislation passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives. The Senate has yet to pass its own reform plan. The baby of Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, the House bill is meant to address everything from too-big-to-fail banks to asleep-at-the-switch credit-ratings companies to the protection of consumers from greedy lenders.

I quickly discovered why members of Congress rarely read legislation like this. At 1,279 pages, the �Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act� is a real slog. And yes, I plowed through all those pages. (Memo to Chairman Frank: �ystem� at line 14, page 258 is missing the first �s�.)

The reading was especially painful since this reform sausage is stuffed with more gristle than meat. At least, that is, if you are a taxpayer hoping the bailout train is coming to a halt.

If you�re a banker, the bill is tastier. While banks opposed the legislation, they should cheer for its passage by the full Congress in the New Year: There are huge giveaways insuring the government will again rescue banks and Wall Street if the need arises.
A couple of the more egregious line items (and there are lots of them):
Since Congress isn�t cutting jobs, why not add a few more. The bill calls for more than a dozen agencies to create a position called �Director of Minority and Women Inclusion.� People in these new posts will be presidential appointees. I thought too-big-to-fail banks were the pressing issue. Turns out it�s diversity, and patronage.
Acorn gets back into play with this one.
Don�t worry, this time regulators will have better tools. Six months after being created, the council will report to Congress on �whether setting up an electronic database� would be a help. Maybe they�ll even get to use that Internet thingy.
This is the same government failure to innovate that we have with Homeland Security. They cannot search a list of 500,000 names efficiently but I can go online to Amazon, use my credit card and it takes just a few minutes to verify it and to make a purchase and there are how many hundreds of million credit cards out there worldwide?
Instead, it supports the biggest banks. It authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for �no-more-bailouts� talk. That is more than twice what the Fed pumped into markets this time around. The size of the fund makes the bribes in the Senate�s health-care bill look minuscule.
As Margaret Thatcher said: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."


Heh... Florida seems to have more than its share of wierd news. Two writers at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal compile the good ones at their blog: FloriDUH One of the tamer stories:
Accused turtle killer looks at possible 60-year sentence
Hesam Oddin Mirani bought a vacant Gasparilla Island lot in 2005 for $512,500 and wanted to build a home.

There was a problem -- gopher tortoises.

They're protected as a threatened species under state laws. For years, some Florida counties allowed developers to bury the tortoises alive for a fee. The state outlawed that practice in 2007. Property owners are now required to keep the tortoises on their property or relocate them to a suitable site.

But Mirani is accused of doing something different. Like killing them.

Cops have charged him with 12 felony counts of killing or wounding gopher tortoises, reports the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Mirani pleaded not guilty and his case is about to go to trial in February in Punta Gorda.

And it is a big deal -- the maximum sentence for conviction on the charges is 60 years in prison.
60 years is lunacy -- the enviros have gone a bit overboard there...
Try to pick a discrete, out of the way place. From Nashville, TN station WSMV:
Police: Man Passes Out Cooking Meth At Gas Station
A man was found passed out New Year's Day at a gas station while cooking methamphetamine in his vehicle at the fuel pumps, authorities said.

A Shell station employee called Murfreesboro police to report the passed-out man. The worker said the vehicle had been parked for about an hour.

Officers found the man, Nathan Beasley, in the driver's seat and saw he was cooking meth in the back of the vehicle, police said.

"Any time you have this type of chemical in location of a gas pump, an explosion can be tremendous," said Assistant Fire Chief Allen Swader.

Rutherford County EMS transported Beasley to Middle Tennessee Medical Center, where he was reported to be responsive.

Officers are investigating, and charges are pending.

The meth lab was secured and dismantled by Murfreesboro police and hazmat crews.
Makes you wonder just how low that moke's functional IQ was...
We are taking two weeks off and heading to Hawai'i for some much needed relaxation. Posting will be light while I am in transit. I will be disabling comments tomorow before we leave -- I have been having 100% success rate with my anti-comment spam script but I don't feel like tempting the fates.

Flying in Israel

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A good writeup on the state of airline security in Israel. This is how we should be doing it. From Cathal Kelly writing at The Toronto Star:
What Israel can teach us about security
At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, screening is done in 30 minutes. The key? Look passengers in the eye

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience.

"It is mind boggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for � not for hours � but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, `We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.'"

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.
Luggage is handled a little differently too:
At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate � what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?' And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, `Oh. My. God.'

"Take (Toronto's) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic � which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.'"

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.' If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.
We could change the way we deal with security but that would require a bureaucratic change originating from the top. With jackasses like Napolitano in power, this will never happen. It is interesting to see calls for her resignation coming from Democrats as well as Republicans.

Ten politicians to keep an eye on...

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And not in a good way - from Judicial Watch:
Judicial Watch Announces List of Washington's "Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians" for 2009
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2009 list of Washington's "Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians." The list, in alphabetical order, includes:
  1. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT): This marks two years in a row for Senator Dodd, who made the 2008 "Ten Most Corrupt" list for his corrupt relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and for accepting preferential treatment and loan terms from Countrywide Financial, a scandal which still dogs him. In 2009, the scandals kept coming for the Connecticut Democrat. In 2009, Judicial Watch filed a Senate ethics complaint against Dodd for undervaluing a property he owns in Ireland on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms. Judicial Watch's complaint forced Dodd to amend the forms. However, press reports suggest the property to this day remains undervalued. Judicial Watch also alleges in the complaint that Dodd obtained a sweetheart deal for the property in exchange for his assistance in obtaining a presidential pardon (during the Clinton administration) and other favors for a long-time friend and business associate. The false financial disclosure forms were part of the cover-up. Dodd remains the head the Senate Banking Committee.
Drain the swamp. Let's hope that people remember what is happening now when November rolls around...

The butchers bill for Fannie and Freddy

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Time for some serious house-cleaning starting at the top. From Bloomberg:
U.S. to Lose $400 Billion on Fannie, Freddie, Wallison Says
Taxpayer losses from supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will top $400 billion, according to Peter Wallison, a former general counsel at the Treasury who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

�The situation is they are losing gobs of money, up to $400 billion in mortgages,� Wallison said in a Bloomberg Television interview. The Treasury Department recognized last week that losses will be more than $400 billion when it raised its limit on federal support for the two government-sponsored enterprises, he said.

The U.S. seized the two mortgage financiers in 2008 as the government struggled to prevent a meltdown of the financial system. The debt of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks grew an average of $184 billion annually from 1998 to 2008, helping fuel a bubble that drove home prices up by 107 percent between 2000 and mid-2006, according to the S&P/Case- Shiller home-price index.

The Treasury said on Dec. 24 it would provide an unlimited amount of assistance to the companies as needed for the next three years to alleviate market concern that the government lifeline for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest source of money for U.S. home loans, could lapse or be exhausted.

Lax regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to the mortgage companies taking on too many risky loans, Wallison said.

�It turns out it was impossible to regulate them,� he said. �They were too powerful.� He said no one knows how much will be needed to keep the companies solvent.
Let's see -- population of the USA is about 310M so this is about $1,200 for every man woman and child. Hey -- thanks Barney Good luck on your next election.
Back on December 28th, I posted about some comments that Bruce Schneier had on airplane security: Air travel these days - our security He amplified his thoughts in this editorial published on the 29th on CNN:
Is aviation security mostly for show?
Last week's attempted terror attack on an airplane heading from Amsterdam to Detroit has given rise to a bunch of familiar questions.

How did the explosives get past security screening? What steps could be taken to avert similar attacks? Why wasn't there an air marshal on the flight? And, predictably, government officials have rushed to institute new safety measures to close holes in the system exposed by the incident.

Reviewing what happened is important, but a lot of the discussion is off-base, a reflection of the fundamentally wrong conception most people have of terrorism and how to combat it.

Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear.

The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: They are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

A "movie-plot threat" is an overly specific attack scenario. Whether it's terrorists with crop dusters, terrorists contaminating the milk supply, or terrorists attacking the Olympics, specific stories affect our emotions more intensely than mere data does.

Stories are what we fear. It's not just hypothetical stories -- terrorists flying planes into buildings, terrorists with explosives strapped to their legs or with bombs in their shoes, and terrorists with guns and bombs waging a co-ordinated attack against a city are even scarier movie-plot threats because they actually happened.

"Security theater" refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards.

Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at U.S. airports in the months after 9/11 -- their guns had no bullets. The U.S. color-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.
One thing that has cropped up are stories about security for people flying in and out of Israel. They have a much more effective system that is simply based on two ideas -- profiling and observation. If someone looks a bit nervous, they get asked some questions. If the answers don't line up, they get some more questions and maybe a patdown. They enjoy a 100% success rate. Something that we could learn here instead of always checking against what the last couple terrorists tried. Shoes, items on lap at landing, etc...

Happy New Year

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A bit of a late post but we were over at a friends house, started at 7:30, talked a lot, ate some tasty treats, watched the Seattle Space Needle fireworks and then watched another movie (on their new BluRay and HD setup -- tres cool!!!) and are finally home and decanting ourselves into bed. This is what community is all about -- there are a lot of areas where we agree, there are a lot of areas where we do not agree. We accept each others views and give and take from there. We are dear friends and we do not measure each other by our beliefs, we measure each other by the content of our character. There is a big big difference between the two. It will be wonderful to be rid of the double-oughts...

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