Saturday, December 31, 2011

Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog

You ever have a craving for something that you loved growing up? Vienna Red Hot, mustard, pickle spear (kosher), emerald relish, onions, tomato wedge, sport peppers* and celery salt. (That's a Chicago-style dog) Probably not the healthiest meal in the world, but 2 with everything and a side of fries would be just about perfect right now.

* Sport peppers are pickled Serrano peppers. Affectionately known as "The little green bullets from hell."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Minor Disaster in the Real World

A little kitchen fire, caused by a moments inattention. Took out stove, microwave and the counter top. No real damage, except to my ego. A little painting. A new stove, microwave, and upgraded counters - none of which is in the budget. Such is my life.

Blogging will probably be non-existent for a while.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crazy Ocean Sailing

The Volvo Ocean Race is underway. Previously known as the Whitbread Around the World Race, that is exactly what it is. This year to deal with the very real threat to piracy in the region around Somalia, the boats were shipped in a large vessel around that area. Good planning.

Now they only have to deal with Iranian war games in the Strait of Hormuz.
On Saturday, Iran’s navy began a ten day drill involving warships, submarines, unmanned planes, missiles and torpedoes to showcase its defence capabilities in response to the international criticism over Iran’s nuclear programme.

With US Navy vessels in close proximity to Iranian ships, innocent errors could quickly escalate into international incidents and although the Volvo navigators will have been briefed meticulously before the second leg started
The Iranians have arrested folks before who strayed to close to their shore.

Also under way is the Australian, Blue Water Classic, or more officially known as the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. So far 7 yachts have "retired" from that race. This is the race that in 1998 saw 6 boats sink, and 5 people die due to bad weather. So far this year, things are going better than that.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work On Disability

Oh the joys of being a public employee. John Sierchio, crusader against police, firefighter disability fraud | NJ.com

You see in the real world if you file for disability you are usually in for a rough time. Even with disability insurance and social security it isn't a lot. And most people just have Social Security. But when you are a cop or a firefighter in New Jersey, disability doesn't look too bad.
Incredibly, a tax-free disability check after only five years of service can be more than a straight pension after 25 years.
So if you were faced with 20 years of risking your life for a pension, or 10 minutes of fraud for a better pension, which would you choose? Well it seems at least some of the NJ's finest are opting for the fraud.
Did I tell you the one about the firefighter who failed a drug test? He knew he was going to come back dirty for cocaine, so he filed a disability claim before he could be fired. He said he fell off a fire truck two years earlier and hurt his knee, and now we’re paying a drug user for the rest of his life.
Billions of dollars of fraud. Not very many people investigating. I don't could it be because the criminals are on the inside of the system?
In 2010, the state paid $163 million in disability pensions to cops and firemen, and in 20 years, if disabilities continue to climb at the current rate, the state will choke on a half-billion dollars in annual payments just to cops and firefighters, Sierchio says.
And as pensions get tightened in the years to come taking that bird in the hand might look better and better.

And of course, even it you wanted to do something, the system is rigged.
Here’s how to get a disability pension: Find two doctors (any two doctors) to attest to a “disability,” then get the medical review board to sign off — which is easy, experts say, because those doctors spend about 15 minutes with a patient and usually rubber-stamp the diagnoses from patients’ doctors.

In short, the system is rigged to say yes (experts say a state Supreme Court ruling that loosened the rules is greatly to blame), so even when Sierchio smells a rat, the board often has to grant the award.
While this story is about New Jersey, I am sure it isn't only happening in New Jersey.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Musical Interlude

I mostly find the videos distracting, but open a window in the background and enjoy.



Björk won't let you embed her videos. So you have to click through to Human Behavior.



They Agreed to a 50% Loss, Now Greece Wants to Up That

Forget about return on your investment. These guys have already agreed to a 50% loss, but through accounting games Greece, and the IMF, want the loss to be more than 50%. Greece’s Creditors Resist IMF Push for Bigger Losses
Hedge fund officials said that they would not accept a net present value loss that was higher than 50%, and were quoted in an e-mail saying, “Vega needs to start considering all available legal options to refuse and challenge any exchange” that leads to a loss of more than 50%.
Instead of getting 100% of their money plus interest now (or early next year) they have agreed to get 15% of their money now and accept new Greek bonds (what are those worth?) for 35% of their money. The other 50% is the cost of doing business with European sovereign nations. But now the Greeks want to pay an interest rate, so low that the net present value of those bonds are less than 35% of the amount they originally agreed to pay, and hits the bondholders with a more-than-50% loss. Which is what everybody thought they just agreed to.

So they definitely lied once. (When they agreed to return 100% of principle plus interest.) And now they seem to be lying again. (Offering less than 50 cents on the Euro.) Why would anyone believe anything that the Greek government ever says, ever again?

And the trampling of democracy continues.
Officials in the new government have conceded that a tentative Feb. 19 date for general elections is likely to be delayed to sometime in the spring, given the number of reforms requiring parliamentary approval.
Can't have elections until the Greeks' sovereignty is handed over to Brussels, or Berlin.

I wonder how long the unelected government of Greece can go on holding off elections for "just a little while" because there are things Brussels' needs to have them do?

Tinsel is Distracting

When you own a sailboat, there is a large aluminum pole (called a mast) in the middle of the boat. "Very high strength-to-weight ratio." Makes it almost impossible to not at least consider celebrating with the Costanza clan.
The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it.
Happy Festivus. Feats of Strength, anyone?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And Here I Thought the Greek Debt Issue Was a Done Deal

Not so fast. It seems that there are still negotiations. Fund threatens to sue over Greek bond losses - FT.com And when you threaten to sue, things are probably not going real well.
European leaders had hoped to complete the deal by the year’s end through a bond swap, where debt holders exchange their holdings for new bonds worth less. Greece is facing a bond repayment of €14.4bn on March 20 and officials are pushing to get a deal done well in advance so that Athens did not have to pay the full amount.

But the deal’s details were left open and bondholder representatives said the two sides remained far apart on financial specifics. Despite the agreed 50 per cent nominal haircut, the long-term value of the new bonds can change significantly by adjusting their interest rates.
And of course the bankers EU politicians want the banks to made whole.
Vega complained about the refusal of the European Central Bank to take any losses on its holdings or for Greek banks – in effect wards of the state – to accept write downs.
So both sides are still far apart, the Greek people are still not happy with austerity, the Germans are not thrilled about footing the bill. In short, no one is happy but the bureaucrats and the bankers (who don't want to take any losses). Now I am a firm believer in capitalism, but if the bonds are bad, then everybody should be in the same boat. There shouldn't be 2 classes of bondholders: the banks, and everyone else. That isn't capitalism. That is cronyism.

Some Days I Want to Ditch the Cell-phone and Credit Cards

Small businesses don't invest in security. People don't follow directions. What a surprise. Hackers Stealing $3 Million from Subway Means You Should Probably Pay with Cash
If you've eaten at a Subway recently, there's a slight chance that you might've got your credit card information stolen. Okay probably not! But a group of Romanian hackers have managed to hack into Subway cash registers and have been logging down all sorts of customer info since 2008.
I'm sure this is old news. But maybe I will go back to using cash.

Restraining Order Fails, Woman Stabbed to Death in Walmart

Man accused in Walmart stabbing denied bond | The Greenville News | GreenvilleOnline.com

He abused her on Oct 30th. His bond was set at $5242 on Oct 31st. On Dec 10th he killed her. She had secured a restraining order against him. See how effective it was.

The courts cannot protect you. The Supreme Court has ruled numerous times that the police have no duty to protect you. If you think you need an order of protection, then you might also need a plan for your personal safety.

A gun may not have saved this woman, and the fact that she was at work might mean she was disarmed by corporate policy, but it is clear that "the system" failed Lilia Blandin, and her three motherless children.

Two Teenagers with Baseball Bats Break Into a Home. One is Shot

Police are "unsure of the motives." If you break into my home at 5AM with a baseball bat, I am going to assume you are up to no good. 14-year-old shot after reportedly breaking into Eastern WA home | NWCN.com Washington - Oregon - Idaho
Police say the homeowner woke to noises in a back room of his home. He reportedly grabbed his pistol and went to investigate the disturbance. He allegedly found two people in his home and shot one of them.
If you break into enough homes you will eventually run into an armed homeowner. The results should surprise no one.

The guy who got shot is in the hospital under police guard. They guy who ran like a rabbit was "contacted later at his home by police."

Of course the gun-fearing weenies will call this a "teen tragically shot," because little things like violent felonies and justifiable self-defense just don't interest them.

Good Guys 2, Bad Guys 0.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

“we won't pay”

The people of Portugal aren't too happy with the Franco-German-lead EU and the ECB (Not to mention the IMF). Talk of 'nuclear default' sums up Left's anger at EU dictates - Telegraph

The folks in Portugal are pissed off that their parliament has just turned over the keys to kingdom to the Germans. They have adopted the latest austerity program dictated from Brussels. Or Berlin, one of the two. And the socialist response? Let's not pay anything.

The Greeks just said they wouldn't pay half their debts. The Portuguese want to see that bet and raise.

Personally I don't think any of this is a good idea, but if they put it a vote and the people say no, then they will have to live with the consequences. And those won't be pretty.

But people have a right to be stupid. They stupidly stood by while their countries ran up unsustainable amounts of debt. (Stop me if this sounds familiar) And now they are pissed that someone actually expects them to pay that debt back. So fine, they can not pay. But their countries have been living on debt since forever, and while they could print money - if they had their own money - you can only do that if people are willing to accept is as money. If not, you end up with hyperinflation, or complete currency collapse.

They are pissed that public-sector workers are going to be hit with an 8% pay cut. (16% if they are "highly paid.") So how will the feel if they keep that 8%, but the money they are paid with is worth nothing? Or very little?

But then countries decide to default on their debt all the time. Who said, "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it?"

Eventually, people who were signed up for burdens by their parents or grandparents, decide they aren't going to pay the bill. It will happen in Europe. It may happen here given enough time and abrasion.

Io, Saturnalia!

Origin of Yule RE: The War on Christmas™ and the real reason for the season.
In order to convert the masses, no pun intended, the Church and the Christian leaders took the practice of the people and "bastardized" them into Christian observances. Hence the old Yule practices of the immortal evergreen, the holly, mistletoe, the Sun God being born of the Goddess, were converted to the Christian teachings.
Back in the day, the Winter Solstice was on December 25th. But when putting Christmas on the 25th didn't quite stamp out all the other celebrations, the Catholic Church re-engineered the calendar and just happened to move the solstice to the 21st.

It isn't the only celebration they co-opted.
Imbolc, Feb. 2, was originally the goddess Brigit’s day, not to be confused with the Church’s St. Bridget, and Feb. 2 was changed into the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. May 1 is the Pagan celebration of Beltane, and Samhaim, or Halloween, was changed to All Hallows Eve, the eve of the Feast of All Saints.
While I'm not Wiccan, I think it crazy to forget that not everyone celebrates your holidays. Wishing them a Merry Christmas isn't offensive, or it shouldn't be, but interrogating them to see if they have their tree decorated or their shopping done is either just plain stupid, or in poor taste. (Almost as bad as pretending observe Hanukkah, but not actually waiting for Hanukkah to begin to do the observing. "Can you image the worldwide rage if the Obamas played fast and loose with a Muslim holiday?")

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chicago Police Misconduct Costs Millions

Chicago police wrongdoings to cost taxpayers $4 millionM Interesting look at the "professional" deportment of the Chicago PD.
The Finance Committee is routinely asked to approve multi-million-dollar pay-outs to victims of police brutality. But, seldom are aldermen asked to approve so many big-ticket settlements stemming from such egregious conduct on the same day, involving officers who were never punished for their actions.

That’s what happened Monday.
A woman who complained of chest pains was written off as "dope sick" instead of offered any treatment. Her death cost the taxpayer $2.02 million.

One guy was found dead in Chicago's central detention unit. By the time paramedics got to him, he was in full rigor. (That takes at LEAST two hours.) Other inmates said he had been screaming in pain for hours, and tried to get anyone's attention. That cost the city $1 million.
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, called the case “really disturbing.”

“I was the watch commander in Central detention for three years and part of the process is that supervisors, as well as detention aides, go and check the cells every 15 minutes,” Cochran said.
Why follow procedures? Why have an ounce of human decency? They aren't cops, they are only "little people." Can't be bothered.

And as the first quote points out, all the people responsible for all the death are still on the job. Probably still ignoring cries for help. Professionals.

Because Self-defense is a Human Right

Prosecutor: No Charges Against Store Owner Who Shot Intruder
Davis said the store owner appeared to defending himself after he heard the window of the store being broken out and someone trying to gain access. Reports say he fired two shots at Givens striking him in the head.
Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

Denmark To Follow UK's Lead and Stay Out of New Euro-pact

I wonder if they will throw stones at Denmark the way they have been throwing them at the UK. Denmark unlikely to vote on EU crisis pact - CBS News

The Danish referendum under which they joined the EU, specifically said they would stay out of the single currency. (Maintaining control of their own monetary policy.)
In 1993, Danish voters approved a revised EU treaty, allowing Denmark to stay outside a single EU currency.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt says the waiver "must be respected,"
I wouldn't count on it. Changing the rules without bothering to ask the people if they approve is SOP of the Brussels crowd these days. (Democracy is so untidy.)

Useless Nitwits Dither Over Syria

Syria crisis: UN divisions deepen as death toll rises by another 1,000 in just 10 days - Telegraph

It isn't often that I agree with the French.
, Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the UN, said: "It is scandalous that the council, because of opposition from some members and the indifference of others has not been able to act to exert pressure on the Syrian authorities."
The Russians and others are blocking any moves. And they blame armed anti-Assad groups for the mayhem.

Can we please admit that the UN is the most useless debating society ever, and that it is time to stop funding it? What exactly does it do?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maritime Piracy: Still a Growth Business

No one seems to care. British ex-servicemen battling to protect international shipping from Somali pirates | Mail Online

Could it be that authorities in the Horn of Africa are working with the pirates?
Minutes earlier, the Djibouti police had boarded the ship to take charge of their AK-47s, because they were in Djibouti waters without the correct permits. The guns would be taken to the port armoury to be locked in packing cases stamped with the security firm’s logo. That meant the British team were now guarding, unarmed, a multimillion-dollar target, in the most dangerous seas in the world, the Somali-pirate-infested waters around the Horn of Africa. Just then the dots in the distance turned into the sight they’d been dreading.

‘Fifteen minutes after the Djibouti police took our weapons, over the horizon came a whole load of fishing boats,’ says Matt, who served in the SAS before leaving 20 years ago to work in the highly secretive – and lucrative – ex-special-forces industry known as ‘The Circuit’.
This is an interesting look at the folks who are trying to do something about the state of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. And it is a reminder that the problem hasn't gone away, even if the news media (*spit*) hasn't got the time to cover anything like real news. (Not when celebrities are getting kicked off airplanes for refusing to shut down electronic devices.)
At the time of writing, so far this year there have been 228 attacks by Somali pirates, 26 successful hijackings and 450 people taken hostage – an increase on last year. There are currently 11 ships and 194 crew members being held in the pirate anchorages off the coast of Somalia.
In a less "civilized" age, the pirates would have been killed by marines (both the British and American marines have fought pirates). But now we know that is crass.

So far, the official .gov response on all sides has been less than effective. One might almost call it a cluster-fuck. So private firms are trying to stitch together solutions, made harder by the fact that "guns are bad" is still a feeling shared by a lot of the governments of the world. (Look at that first quote - the "authorities" confiscated the guns, right before their friends sailed over the horizon. Or do you believe in coincidence?)

Cheerleading Over European Debt Deal

Italian Borrowing Costs Drop in Bond Auction - TIME "Drop" sounds significant and they do use the word "significant" to discuss the change in rate.
Italy easily sold euro7 billion ($9.4 billion) in 12-month bonds on Monday at an interest rate of 5.92 percent, down from last month's record of 6.087 percent.
That's a significant change? From 6.087 to 5.92 percent is a "drop?" Really? That is a change of 0.187 percent. While it is greater than 0, it is less than impressive.

The powers-that-be seem to want the Euro to succeed even at the cost of democracy in Europe. Of course the French half of Merkozy - French President Sarkozy - faces re-election in the spring. And I think Ireland would have to have a referendum on a change to the treaty. So the fat lady hasn't sung yet.

And that 0.187 drop for Italy comes amid the euphoria of Friday's "deal." Give it another few weeks, and lets talk about interest rates.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Chevy Volt Fires



A Fire in a garage? Related to a charging unit? Hmmmmmmm.

This video is from Fast Lane Daily.

I Am Completely Happy

Penne Campagnola - penne (of course), Italian sausage, onions, peppers and crushed olives in a tomato sauce. (Of course Campanola SHOULD have mushrooms, but I much prefer crushed black olives.) Broccoli with cheese, Texas toast (garlic of course) and a Zinfandel. The Zin is a little disappointing, but I made this batch with spicy Italian sausage, which I have to admit was a mistake. Sweet Italian sausage is more than flavorful enough.

That last piece of Texas toast was probably a mistake, as well. Guess I will save the desert for breakfast.

In That Place Where Great Britain Used To Be

You have to be in bad shape if you aren't qualified to stock shelves. Morrisons forced to retrain school-leavers - Telegraph ["School Leavers" is British for "Drop Out."]
Morrisons, Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket with 135,000 employees, found that many of its applicants in Salford, Greater Manchester, lacked even the basic skills needed to stack shelves and serve customers.

While some had a poor grasp of maths and English, others lacked simple skills such as turning up on time and making eye contact.

Norman Pickavance, the human resources director of Morrisons, said: "Many of the people were just not job ready. They lacked a lot of confidence and social skills. It is quite clear the education system has failed them.

"Whatever the environment has been at school, it has not been conducive to instilling basic skills. It is a crying shame."
If you can't stock shelves, you don't have many prospects.

Life on the Dole.

Some of these kids have no model for someone going to work. And the problem isn't getting better.
He said the main problem was school-leavers whose parents and grandparents who had never worked and lacked the aspiration to work.
[snip]

Government figures show that in 2.5 per cent of households in north-west England, no adult has ever worked – the highest in the country after inner London.
People in England are found to not have a suitable grasp of the English language, and punctuality is unknown to many.

It's sad really. What do you do with a population who has no "aspiration" to work and make their lives better?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Government Motors: Can't Say Bad Things About the Volt

The Volt has problems. The Volt has had problems. Too bad the government body responsible of automobile safety didn't bother to say anything. Chevrolet Volt Battery Issues Growing, Safety Findings May Have Been Suppressed | AutoGuide.com News
Apparently, way back in June, General Motors heard about a Volt fire that happened three weeks after said vehicle was crash tested, yet it wasn’t until November that the company, or NHTSA disclosed there was a potential problem, urging both dealers and customers to drain the battery pack immediately following an accident.

As a result the public relations nightmare surrounding Chevy’s halo vehicle appears to be deepening, though a good deal of the blame in this case also rests with NHTSA.

Joan Claybrook, a former adminstrator at NHTSA believes part of the reason for the delay was the “fragility of Volt sales.” Yet she also believes that “NHTSA could have put out a consumer alert, not to tell them [customers] for six months makes no sense to me.”
Of course it makes sense. They are Government Motors. Socialized (i.e. handed to the Unions, and the rest "owned" by the government) by Dear Leader. Why would anybody say anything.

GM is now "redesigning" the lithium-ion battery system.

I said there was a problem a while back, and was jumped on for being "anti-environment." Of course the truth is that there was a problem. GM didn't put in much time on the Volt's battery compared to say Tesla.

The official "procedure" today is to power down the battery after a crash. But that is today.
until July it hadn’t finalized a standard proceedure to power down the battery system, the Volt had already been on sale in the US for six months at that juncture.
So no way for anyone to take these precautions for 6 months. Why wasn't the debut delayed until it was safe? Probably because the government - and government motors probably feels the same way - doesn't have to worry about little details like that.

$3K Fine for Assault with a Deadly Weapon

If anybody besides an off-duty Chicago Cop had done this, its legality wouldn't still be under investigation.Jury awards $3K to man shot at by Chicago cop - chicagotribune.com

The cop in question was pissed that his ex-girlfriend was actually his ex-girlfriend and that she would dare to date someone else.

The night ended when the cop shot the door of the new-boyfriend's car. (After throwing a soda at the woman.)

But instead of being charged with battery for the soda, and something for discharging his service weapon, the new-boyfriend is arrested and charged with 2 misdemeanors. Those charges were later dropped of course.

The cop? He is still on the job. The "Independent Police Review Authority" is still investigating. The incident in question happened in 2007, and they haven't figured it out yet.

Thugs with badges.

Now That's What You Call Ironic

Mark Zuckerberg victim of Facebook security glitch - Telegraph
Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook, has fallen victim to a security glitch in the social networking site which allowed hackers to steal his own personal photographs.
Mark Z. has "personal" photos? I thought he was the guy who said privacy is overrated, or antiquated or something.
The security breach came at an embarrassing time for the world's largest online social network website, which last month agreed a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns.

The US Government regulator had accused Facebook of often misleading its users about the sanctity of their personal information.
Another reason not to use facebook.

I still believe privacy is important.

He Suffered a Breakdown of the “Victim Selction Process”

Don't try to rob a mixed-martial-arts fighter.
Video after the break

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Best Summary of European Debt Crisis


From the London Telegraph.

Sounds Like Civil War

Inside Syria: Soldiers defecting to join rebels - CBS News
[Members of the Free Syrian Army] are former Syrian soldiers. They say they refused orders to fire on their own countrymen, and so decided to take up arms against the Assad regime.

The commander spoke off-camera, for his own security. He said, "We are fighting those who have made our children orphans and our wives, widows."
No way to tell how many there are, but what started as protests is turning into a full-on civil war in Syria.

So tell me again why NATO had a duty to protect civilians in Libya, and NATO (or anybody for that matter) has no duty to protect civilians in Syria. Couldn't be the dependence on Libyan oil? Seems like "No Blood For Oil" was a big statement when a Republican was in the White House.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Really, You Have to Rewrite “Deck the Halls” to remove "Gay"

Some people have too much time on their hands. Teacher strips word "gay" from Christmas carol : News : UpNorthLive.com
The music teacher at Cherry Knoll removed the word "gay" from the song Deck the Halls because the children kept giggling. Instead students were taught to sing "don we now our bright apparel".
I thought they removed Christmas from public schools. You know, as part of the War on Christmas™. I guess "Deck the Halls" made the cut because of all those Yule references. (It must be a Wiccan song.)

UPDATE: Some perspective on the War On Christmas.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Everyone Dies, That's Just the Way It Is

Well you probably aren't interested in my "TV" viewing habits, but they are bound to interrupt blogging for a day or 2.

I unpacked my copy of Dead Like Meseason 1.

If you appreciate dark humor, you might like this. Like so many shows, that were really good, it got canceled to early. It only made it through 2 seasons, though they did one straight-to-dvd movie (which I haven't seen.)

Aside from the fact that I do like Ellen Muth, this is one of the better roles for Mandy Patinkin.

The UK National Heath Service: Killing People?

IWF - On The Road To Liverpool
It seems that every year “thousands” of patients in the U.K. are put on the benignly-named “Liverpool Care Pathway,” but neither they nor their families are told. The Liverpool Care Pathway is--in fact--the withdrawal of care:
No food. No water. Sedate them so they can't request food or water. To give them a "good death" without "unnecessary and burdensome" care.
Unpack this: “unnecessary and burdensome” = expensive; “artificial hydration and nutrition” = hydration and nutrition delivered to patients who can no longer feed themselves; “good death”=dying of thirst.
Don't you just love the caring type of treatment known as socialized medicine?

Or as Tam said the other day,
Look, without getting into my usual rants about public education (in which I point out that the adjective "public" modifies the noun "school" the same way it does "transportation" or "restroom": serving as a warning that it is filthy and full of junkies and criminals
I think you can include Public Health Care in that list.

It Isn't Often a Congressional Hearing is Entertaining

But when you invite Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs to speak, it is entertaining.



Mike Rowe Speaks To Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee [05-11-11]

Friday, December 02, 2011

Store Owner Shoots Robber

Watch This Guy Shoot A Robber | New Haven IndependentWith security video - though you don't have to see the guy actually get shot.
After Jawad got his pistol and permit in April he posted signs in front of the counter to inform customers—and anyone up to no good—that someone who works at the store had a gun.
“I guess he didn’t read it well,” Jawad said, chuckling.
A copy of his NRA Basic Pistol course certificate, and a sign reading, "Never mind the dog. Beware of owner," with a drawing of a revolver.

The store owner, Karar Jawad, 22, took over ownership from his father. He shot the armed bad guy 2 times.

The bad guy, one of 2 in the store, with a 3rd in the getaway vehicle, was dumped at a hospital by his associates. He is currently held by police.
[Police Lt.] Johnson confirmed Jawad has a permit for his gun. Even if he hadn’t had one, a storeowner or clerk is allowed to keep one at work and use it if his life is threatened, Johnson said. Jawad definitely had reason to fear for his life, Johnson said, and he had a legal right to fire at the alleged robber. As a result, police did not charge him with a crime.
Self-defense is a human-right. Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

Much Ado About Not Much

EuroThe World from Berlin: 'Central Banks' Coordinated�Move Has Solved Nothing' - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Global stock markets on Wednesday were euphoric after the major central banks around the world made it easier for banks to access dollars. But the euro-zone debt crisis rages on nonetheless. At the most, say German commentators, Wednesday's move merely buys some time -- but not much
The bankers are determined to save the Euro, because the Eurozone is shaping up to be dictatorship of the bankers. So the Fed dumped billions of US dollars on the European banks. Because what's his name believes he is saving the us from the Great Depression 2.0.

First of all, the situation is grave. Even worse apparently than the bankers want to admit.
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"While it is important that the central banks ensure that financial institutions have access to money, the massive intervention is a shrill warning signal. The banking system, it would seem, was close to collapse. Many banks no longer trusted each other and ceased lending to one another. European institutions, in particular, were having a hard time getting access to enough dollars because US money market funds, for example, have become mistrustful. The danger that some European banks would become illiquid or insolvent was apparently greater than many thought."
But as Die Welt points out, this is like giving a fix to a drug addict. Detox isn't pleasant, but probably indicated anyway.
The fact is that the world economy is on drugs -- and they're called credit. The debt burden on states and banks has piled so high that a difficult detox with unpredictable consequences can only be hindered with even more money.

It's clear that politicians will look to the central banks more and more because the glut of money doesn't need approval from any parliament. And the consequences will only be clear years from now, namely, in the form of increasingly swift inflation. This way, just like drug addicts, we're only buying more time. And without the essential therapy, we're only making the withdrawal and later recovery more difficult.
They can pump money into the banks because central banks create money, but eventually they create inflation.

It's funny really. Central banks are supposed to control inflation. But they seem to create an awful lot of it. Currency. Fiat currency has failed in the past. Brazil had an inflation rate of better than 1000% for several years and one year it stretched all the way to 30,000% or more. Germany had people carrying bank-notes around in wheelbarrows. People would dump the bank notes, and steel the wheelbarrow.

Is it happening again? The price of gold is getting awfully high relative to the dollar. Another bubble or the canary in the mine?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Shortage of Doctors, or Government Intervention?

It isn't good to have a medical emergency in the UK. Bowel cancer patients dying due to lack of surgeons - Telegraph

OK, emergency surgery is by definition more of a problem than if you had been diagnosed early, and your doctor had planned for the event.
However, surgeons believe it is also because hospitals have tended to prioritise pre-planned surgery over emergency surgery, due to the way they are paid.

Professor Paul Finan from Leeds General Infirmary, lead author of the audit, said: "There has been a real push to do elective [pre-planned] surgery to reduce waiting times, and emergency surgery has become a bit of Cinderella.
There are government regulations about waiting time, you see. And if you show up in the Emergency Ward (ER on this side of the pond) you haven't been waiting long. Even if any waiting might mean you will die. (And you do, at a slightly higher rate of 2.4%.)

Now only an idiot (or a government bureaucrat) would ignore the difference between planned - or elective - surgery and emergency surgery. But that is exactly what the British have with their socialized medicine.

The Insanity of the Criminal Justice System

Adams County Sued Over Deaf Man Held 25 Days � CBS Denver More criminal than anything else.

He was basically arrested for being deaf. Once arrested, they couldn't be bothered to get an interpreter.
The Denver Post reports Siaki doesn’t read or write English or read lips, but he does communicate through American Sign Language. Deputies arrested Siaki after a noise complaint at a motel where Siaki and his fiancDee were verbalizing sounds while arguing.

Deputies responding to the complaint knocked down the motel-room door and tackled Siaki after he failed to respond to their commands.
That's great. Tackle a deaf man because his deafness is an affront to your authority.
The suit claims Adams County is violating the ADA by failing to provide an interpreter or auxiliary aids for deaf suspects during their arrest and booking process.

“To this day,” [the lawyer] said, “we don’t know why he was held for 25 days.”
So, is this cops behaving badly, or just cops being most stupid jerks on the face of the planet? [via]

That's One More Bad Guy Off the Streets

Self-defense wraps this up nicely and hands the police a confession. Armed robbery suspect shot, confesses in 911 call | WCNC.com Charlotte

The store in question has been robbed 3 times in as many weeks. This time the clerk was armed, and shot this guy twice.
The suspect, John Arthur Davidson III, is in the hospital in serious condition with two bullet wounds. Investigators are waiting until he gets out to arrest and charge him. He was wanted on outstanding drug warrants as well, police said.
He stumbles out of the store, calls 911 and confesses on the 911 recording to trying to rob the store and getting shot for his trouble.

Good Guys 1 - Bad Guys 0.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Reason Not to Use Facebook

Privacy on Facebook? Zuckerberg said privacy was a quaint, antique kind of notion. And then went on to prove it. Facebook forced to overhaul privacy policy after regulator finds it is 'unfair and deceptive' | Mail Online
The eight-count complaint made public last night by the FTC lays bare how the company, which makes £1.1billion a year from advertising, shamelessly exploits its users for its own gain.

It states that since 2007 areas of concern include broken promises not to share personal information with advertisers.

Facebook told users that third-party applications would only have access to the user information needed to operate, but in reality they accessed all of their personal data even if they did not need it.

The website told users they could restrict sharing of data to a limited audience, but even then it was still being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
Little things like US and EU laws on international data transfer were also not worth abiding by.

Facebook makes a ton of money on advertising. They do that by respecting your privacy. Or keeping promises.

Some of the things they permitted could have aided in identity theft, but it isn't clear if it did.
Perhaps the most serious charge was that Facebook falsely claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts their photos and videos would be inaccessible.

In reality it still allowed others to access the content.
I don't even like friends to post pictures of me on their Facebook pages. But then I have this antiquated notion that privacy might mean something.

The thing I don't understand is why no fine? It isn't like they can't afford to pay. Years of close supervision, and threat of future fines, but no fines for past misdeeds. Seems a bit unfair.

Socialized Medicine - You Can't Sue the Government

So they don't care. 'Sunday hospital staff nearly killed my mother’ - Telegraph

This story details the near-death of an elderly patient on Sunday in a UK hospital because no one was in charge, really. It boils down to one statement.
That junior doctor – and I don’t blame him individually, but regard his behaviour as symptomatic of the attitude of too many parts of the medical establishment that had trained him – made a calculation that Sunday. He didn’t understand why my mother was dying, but he preferred to let her die rather than disturb the consultant who was being paid to be on-call.
Had she died, and the truth came out (she was not being given the correct medication) there would have been a public apology by all concerned, but not even a slap on the wrist.

Hasn't Anyone Read The Stand?

YES, THIS IS SCARY: ‘Anthrax isn’t scary at all compared to this’: Man-made flu virus with potential to wipe out many millions if it ever escaped is created in research lab.

That story, was about a man-made flu-virus that escaped a government installation. (The rest of it was to Steven-King-esque for my taste, but it started out pretty well.)

US Economic State

A lot has been said, by me and others, concerning the state of the Euro-zone, and how it is struggling to continue.

But the state of the US debt, is something to worry about as well. The chart (click for enlarged view) shows US Government Debt as a percentage of GDP. (Hat tip to The Department of Numbers.) As of Q2, 2011 it was more than 95% of GDP.

Can I Get Germany to Pay My Debts?

I don't have any debt, but if Germany would agree to pay them, I'm sure I could incur some. Merkel: 'We have our own debts to pay' - The Local

The people screaming for Germany to "save the Euro" basically want Germany to pay everyone's debts. Surprisingly, the Germans aren't to keen on that plan.
"We in Europe can't pretend we have financial means that we don't really have... we are strong in Europe. Germany is strong, but we are not strong to an unlimited degree. That is true also for the federal republic," [Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman,Steffen Seibert] added.
He also said the unending stream of unfounded rumors isn't helping matters.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

They Just Don't Want to Admit Defeat

The Euro-zone technocrats want to be able to say they saved the day. But denial ain't just a river in Egypt. Merkel's fight for German stability - Business Analysis

The markets are aware of the fact that Germany isn't big enough to bailout all of the struggling Euro-zone economies. (Even if you believe they only need 1 bailout.) So with the technocrats selling the idea of Euro-bonds, bonds basically backed by German taxpayers for the struggling economies, German debt got hammered.
So keen have investors been for Germany's AAA-rated bonds that they have eagerly switched into them, even though they paid less than 2 per cent. But advocates of the eurozone bonds failed to realise that pooling the peripheral nations' debt with Berlin's would pull up German yields.

The lesson came at the regular auction last week, when Mrs Merkel's government offered new debt to replace maturing bonds. Bids were received for only two-thirds of the issue. Rather than buy German bonds, investors became sellers.
German debt is now at 2.23%. (Bets on if it goes up?)

And the window-dressing of new governments hasn't pulled the wool over the eyes of the markets either.
Portuguese debt has just been down-graded to “junk” status. Short-term Italian debt is now trading above 8pc, deep into bail-out territory.
Spain's new government has vowed it will not need international assistance to get its house in order, but really only time will tell.

And of course, the German taxpayer isn't too keen on the notion of shouldering the burdens of the likes of Greece.
the vast majority of the German public are appalled at the idea of financing the rest of Europe. They resent not only the cost, but also (rightly) worry that one eurozone bail-out inevitably leads to another.
Greece, for example, apparently won't meet its commitments under the previous austerity measures, while they are still clamoring for the next payment of cash based on what the promised in the most recent austerity measures. Hasn't anyone heard that "Actions speak louder than words?" You can promise anything, but if you don't live up to your past promises, why should anyone believe anything you say?

The Anti-gun Crowd Will Call This, “Teen Tragically Shot”

Because the fact that he was engaged in a felony at the time he was shot, is just an unimportant detail. Teen shot during home invasion on West Side� - The Charleston Gazette -
According to Charleston Police Sgt. Mike Pridemore, a juvenile boy kicked in the front door of a home in the 700 block of Main Street at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday and started firing shots up the staircase of the home with a shotgun.

The homeowner, who was armed, returned shots at the teenager and hit him in the arm.

After being shot, the teen fled, firing shots back toward the house as he was running way.
The homeowner was not injured and will not be charged. The teen will be charged with burglary and wanton endangerment. No explanation for the attack.

Self-defense is a human right.

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

The criminals in Texas are brash. These guys didn't stop rummaging through a car, even after the owner showed up and told them to stop. Homeowner opens fire on car burglary suspects on Houston's south side, killing one | abc13.com
It happened near Gulf Valley and Springtime. Police say that homeowner saw three suspects stealing from his car and repeatedly yelled for them to stop. He said the three men had his car doors and trunk open, and were rummaging through.

The suspects didn't comply, so the homeowner went to get his gun.

The homeowner told police the suspects began to run back to their vehicle, but says he saw one of them reach for a weapon, so he started shooting, striking the driver of the suspects' vehicle.

The suspects' vehicle made it a couple of blocks from the scene, where the driver died inside the car. The other two suspects took off on foot. One was later captured, but the other remains on the loose.
He only shot in self-defense. The idiots could have left when they were discovered, but that would be like admitting they didn't have the right to your stuff.

Self-defense is a human right.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

But I Thought The UK Had Excellent Socialized Medicine

Britain has some of the worst cancer survival rates of the industrialised world following years of wasteful Labour government
Andrew Lansley: Labour failed to focus on what really matters: patients - Telegraph

It seems that spending on the "Health Care System" increased, but spending on actual health care did not.
They hugely increased spending on the health service, but wasted much of it on managers, failed IT projects and unsustainable [private finance initiative] projects.
They built facilities, hired managers, spent billions on computer systems - that didn't actually materialize in the end - and in general did everything but hire nurses and doctors, or pay to have the hospitals cleaned.
Hospital care following a stroke often fails to deliver the standards achieved in other countries.

The number of people with asthma who end up in hospital is too high. All of that was after a decade when Labour pushed through record spending increases.
I can't wait until we have socialized medicine.

Cops And Robbers - both at the same time

It is hard to tell the cops from the gangsters. Chicago cops accused of working for Latin Kings held without bond
Alex Guerrero, 41, and Antonio C. Martinez Jr., 40, were the ones in handcuffs Monday afternoon, appearing before a federal judge in orange Porter County jumpsuits. The duo were named in a 46-page indictment unsealed Friday that alleges a racketeering conspiracy among fifteen Latin King gang members or associates.
And so Chicago PD maintains its historic traditions. Of being criminal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

25 Years in Jail for Murder

Justice? Maybe. Oxnard teen accepts plea deal in killing of gay schoolmate - San Jose Mercury News
McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter with use of a firearm in the fatal shooting of Larry King, 15.
King was murdered because when he was taunted for being gay, he didn't run away and cry, he through it back in his tormentors' faces. McInerney being one of them, and he couldn't take it as well as he could dish it out. So McInerney shot King. Executed him for being different.
The sentence for the murder charge will be waived and McInerney will accept a 21-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter at a Dec. 19 hearing. He will not get credit for the nearly four years he already has served or be eligible for parole, which will make him 38 years old when he gets out of prison. He will transfer from juvenile hall to a state prison after he turns 18 in January.
Probably the most justice that could be obtained in this case.

After Dozens of Stories About Hacked Utility, The FBI and DHS Say All is Well

Nothing to see here. Move along. FBI: No evidence of water system hack destroying pump • The Register Do you get the impression that the government is trying to downplay the danger?
Federal officials said there's no evidence to support a report that hackers destroyed a pump used by an Illinois-based water utility after gaining unauthorized access to the computer system it used to operate its machinery.
So all the early reports about how this utility and hundreds of other utilities around the country are vulnerable can all be disregarded. (Short message = All is well. We are in charge.)

So who do you believe, the FBI, DHS, or Computerworld and various hackers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Even in Massachusetts, The Truth Eventually Wins Out

This truth being that when violence strikes, cops are no where to be found. Not a dig against cops, just the truth. WHDH-TV - Store clerk shoots at man trying to rob his store
Police said that the store has been robbed so many times that the owner decided to register for a license to carry a handgun.
He didn't hit the guy, but he did scare him pretty good.

I wonder why this simple truth seems lost on so many people. When violence strikes, you are most likely on your own.

Another Domino or 3 in the Eurozone Crisis

Well it seems there are other problems aside from folks actually in the Euro, who are gonna get creamed by this situation. Hungary turns to IMF as stress mounts in Eastern Europe - Telegraph

With the 50% loss on the Greek bonds, sovereign-debt bondholders have come to realize that the promises made by governments don't mean a thing. Add to that the need to raise capitalization rates, and no one is lending money to the smaller countries in Eastern Europe.

Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine and perhaps other Balkan states are all in trouble. Most of their loans come from western Europe.
Lars Christensen from Danske Bank said Balkan states are in the firing line as Greek lenders batten down the hatches. "Bulgaria faces a significant squeeze because Greek and Italian banks make up 60pc of loans," he said.

The story in Hungary is complicated by an erratic government accused of violating EU principles across the board, from confiscating private pensions and imposing an ad hoc bank tax, to judicial abuse and curbing press freedoms.
Not looking good.

None of those countries are in the Eurozone, but they are in the European Union.

Britsh Rep to EU Parliment Lets the Euro Bosses Have It

You have to give British politicians credit for calling them like they see them. This guy doesn't mince any words.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Store Clerks Are Shooting Back

First in North Carolina. FIRST ON 3: Video from inside store as clerk shoots robber | WWAY NewsChannel 3 | Wilmington NC News
In video from the store's surveillance cameras you can see the robber, who police say is Joseph Ryan Anderson, 20, point a gun at Headstrong. The clerk then pulls a gun of his own and shoots the crook twice then holds him until police arrive.
Then in Atlanta. Store clerk shoots at masked robber | www.wsbtv.com
Atlanta police are searching for a robber in a skull mask who has hit several stores. A store clerk in southwest Atlanta decided to fight back.

“Everybody works for their money and someone comes in and takes it. The only regret I have is that I missed him,” store clerk Imran Mehdi told Channel 2’s Ryan Young.
If more of this happens, perhaps the word will get out the being a robber isn't safe.

Good Guys 2, Bad Guy 0.

The Problem With "Say Anything" Politicans

They will say anything to get past the moment. They make "promises" they have no interest in keeping. They solve the problem of the hour, not the year or the age. They certainly can't solve complex financial issues. Debt Crisis Contagion: The Euro Zone's Deadly Domino Effect - SPIEGEL ONLINE
In July, European leaders broke their promises from March. In October, they broke their promises from July. The participation of private investors would now be much higher, they decided.

Following that summit, investors came to the logical conclusion that politicians have basically been lying at euro summits. They surmised that, if the economic situation in Greece and the political mood in Germany changed, then the owners of Portuguese and Italian sovereign bonds would also be asked to contribute. In the meantime, even normal individuals are now withdrawing their savings from banks across southern Europe.
Some bureaucrats are still saying that all will be saved in the end. But the man in the street doesn't believe that.

Who, in their right mind, would loan the Greeks money right now? They may pay it back. But they just declared they wouldn't pay back half their debt. So why won't they do that again? Why won't Spain or Italy follow their lead?

Italy is in particularly bad shape.
As things now stand, Italy's debt accounts for 120 percent of its annual GDP, growth is close to zero and the country is currently slipping into a deep recession. In fact, it's a matter of mathematical inevitability that Italy won't be able to service its loans if interest rates on its sovereign debt don't fall. Granted, there have to be reforms. But reforms don't resolve an acute debt crisis. We've already learned that lesson from other crises.
Much talk of Argentina and how it handled a crisis in its currency and debt. But that was 1 country. Not a collective.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Like Rats Deserting a Sinking Ship, Bondholders Dump European Sovereign Bonds

France and Spain are having troubles, as well as Greece and Italy. Mass bond selloff takes Europe from bad to worse - The Globe and Mail
The mass selloff drove up the debt yields of countries that had been considered havens, including Finland and the Netherlands. “Global financial markets are facing a key pivotal point,” analysts at Barclays Capital said in a Tuesday research note. “A further escalation of the European debt crisis is putting at risk the nascent stabilization of global growth.”
Yields on Italian bonds are back above 7%.

Spanish bonds are yielding between 5 and 6.3% - depending on maturity.

For comparison, Germany is able to borrow money at just 1.76%, with France (who is also in trouble) at just over 3%.
Economists think the rush to sell sovereign bonds was triggered by several factors: a European Union agreement with the banks to write down Greek bonds by 50 per cent, creating a precedent that bond investors fear will be repeated elsewhere in the euro zone; the European Central Bank’s reluctance to buy distressed bonds; and European politicians open talk about member countries leaving the euro zone.

On Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it should be possible to expel members from the euro zone. The day before, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party voted to allow countries to leave the euro zone. While the vote carries no legal weight, it reflects the CDU’s rising skepticism about the euro project.
To add insult to injury, the Euro Zone's GDP was up a mere 0.2 percent in the 3rd quarter. (0.8% annual growth, more or less.) While Germany did OK, the rest, not so well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Can the Average Woman Fight Off the Average Man? With a Gun

Akron Woman Scares Off Sex Offender with Gun - WJW The headline says it all.

He tried to push her into her car, and she was able to get her gun and shoot. (Just a warning shot, but it did attract a lot of attention.)
Bennett says she hopes her experience shows other women they can protect themselves if they need to.

"Before it happened, if somebody would have said, 'If somebody would attack you, what would you do?' I would probably flip out like normal women would ... but I didn't."

"I hope that other women can look at this and realize from it that they can protect themselves--that it's a very good thing to be able to protect yourself."
They caught the guy in the area. He was wanted for failing to register and other warrants. [Hat tip to Uncle]

The End of Democracy in Europe

Everyone treats it like it is such a good thing. Italy and Greece have new governments. But what does that really mean? Debt crisis: live - Telegraph
What we have witnessed is a coup d’├ętat: bloodless and genteel, but a coup d’├ętat none the less. In Athens and in Rome, elected prime ministers have been toppled in favour of Eurocrats – respectively a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank and a former European Commissioner.

Both countries now have what are called ‘national governments’, though they have been put together for the sole purpose of implementing policies that would be rejected in a general election.
So if the people don't get a say, and the mere mention of a referendum in Greece was enough to send everyone into a fit of hysterics, what kind of government is it?

So What Happens If The Middle East Goes to War?

Won't do much for the price of oil. Arab press predicts regional war over Syria - Telegraph
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based pan-Arab nationalist newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, raised the prospect of a conflagration in which a Turkish attack on Syria would coincide with an Israeli attack on Syria's closest ally, Iran.

Other newspapers renewed claims, first raised in the summer, that Turkey was on the brink of ordering its troops to create a "buffer zone" on its border with Syria as a safe haven for refugees from the crackdown on protest by President Bashar al-Assad.
Looks bad.

If Syria is attacked by Turkey - even to the extent of creating a "buffer zone" - that would probably draw in Iran. (Just as a "no-fly zone" included bombing tanks, a "buffer-zone" is really code for an invasion of Syria.) If Israel decides in the same time window that it is on its own with respect to Iran's nuclear program, then a lot things could happen is very short time. I don't think any of them will be good.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So, This Is What Happens When There Are No "Boots on the Ground"

Obama & Co. (Including NATO) decided that they could fight a remote control war. And for the most part they were right. A few problems, but on the whole everything worked out pretty well. Except now there is a vacuum. And people don't like vacuums. Six Dead as Libyan Militias Clash Near Tripoli - NYTimes.com
Lethal rivalries have emerged within the huge population of Libyan fighters who rose up against Colonel Qaddafi’s rule. The poorly trained and only moderately organized militias are often suspicious of one another and are sometimes openly hostile, posing difficult problems for the transitional council now trying to govern the country.
Who could possibly have guessed?

Too soon to say that this is a civil war, but it sure looks like it could go that way.

Of course if there were NATO troops there, they would have started acting as "peace keepers." But NATO doesn't have troops on the ground, because that was not politically feasible.

Again, it is early days. But if Libya descends into the abyss of civil war, who will be responsible? (Didn't NATO have a part in arming some of these militias?)

Chevy Volt May Have a Few Problems

Electric car battery catches fire after crash test - latimes.com One of the reasons that the Tesla Roadster was so delayed was over battery safety. Lithium batteries are a bit of a problem. So Tesla added a lot of weight to make the batteries more fireproof.

Looks like maybe Chevy didn't do its homework.
A Chevrolet Volt that caught fire three weeks after its lithium-ion battery was damaged in a government crash test has regulators taking a harder look at the safety of electric car batteries, federal officials said Friday.
That is just enough time to get the car fixed and have it parked inside your garage. Just in time to catch fire.

Sweet.

Anyone who thought a bunch of government-appointed folks could build a better mousetrap must have been working in government (or community organizing) for the last 30 years. OK, a fair number of people at GM were people who had always been at GM. Expecting them to do something different also doesn't make sense.

To be fair to GM, the government didn't follow the procedures specified.
GM spokesman Greg Martin said the test did not follow procedures developed by GM engineers for handling the Volt after a crash. The engineers tested the Volt's battery pack for more than 300,000 hours to come up with the procedures, which include discharge and disposal of the battery pack, he said.

"Had those protocols been followed after this test, this incident would not have occurred," he said.
So how much does it cost to replace the Volt's battery pack after a crash?

And why isn't the government testing center following the standard procedures?

Greece and the Euro: When, Not If

At Least that is my opinion. And a lot of people are getting ready for the event. Worst-Case�Scenarios: Berlin�Prepares for Possible Greek Exit from Euro Zone - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
The German government has been simulating a range of scenarios to prepare for a possible exit of Greece from the euro zone. Under a worst-worst-case scenario, the country could descend into a vicious circle of misery that could last decades
The Greeks could see the type of inflation that Brazil saw for so many decades. 50% or 80% inflation. (Listen to Act 1, of The Invention of Money, for a description of what a worthless currency looks like. And how one country turned the situation around.)

If debts remain denominated in Euros, Greeks could be in big trouble, even if they reinstate the Drachma.

Another Dead Pirate

Finally, it seems, the international community is responding to piracy the way the Brits did, back in the day. UPDATE 5-Turkish commandos shoot dead lone ferry hijacker | Reuters
Turkish commandos killed a lone hijacker, identified as a Kurdish militant armed with a bomb, in a pre-dawn operation on Saturday to rescue more than 20 passengers and crew held hostage for 12 hours on a high-speed ferry near Istanbul.
They did try to get him to surrender, but with 450 grams (just under a pound) of plastic explosive on his body, they were going to bring him in alive.
Another passenger, Ceyhun Tezer, 28, told the NTV channel: "It lasted no more than 10 minutes after we saw them (the commandos). We heard six gunshots, they told us three in the head and another three in the chest, there were no more gunshots."
That will ruin your day.

Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Interesting News on the Manufacturing Front

Caterpillar plans to move plant, 1,000-plus jobs to U.S. - chicagotribune.com Not that they are abandoning a 3rd-world nation, this manufacturing is being relocated from Japan.

1000 manufacturing jobs, plus the additional jobs such a plant generates (diners, grocery, bars, whatever) isn't a lot, but will probably make some small Midwestern town very happy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Always Makes Me Smile

The movie El Dorado is one of the most entertaining westerns ever made. John Wayne. Robert Mitchum as a drunken sheriff, and James Caan spouting poetry every juncture. Add in the 1967 soundtrack (that always sounds like the old batman soundtrack when they are sneaking around) and it is classic. I was going to say it was a ridiculous western. But that isn't true. It just doesn't take itself too seriously. It never fails to make me smile.

And I really needed a smile today.

(And I also can't believe the prices at Amazon - I paid much less. This is a movie I can watch over and over again. This and Rio Bravoare two of my favorite John Wayne westerns. Rio Bravo, which is almost exactly the same story is also worth watching.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Computing Through the Ages

The history of portable computing. Fairly interesting look at where "portable" computers started, and where they ended. (They don't include a smart phone, which I think is a big miss.)

And where the big guys started. Early Products of Today's Tech Giants.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Police: Man shot dead in Antioch threatened homeowner with knife - San Jose Mercury News
Acting Capt. Leonard Orman said the homeowner was startled because Schmidt broke through sheet rock between the home and an exterior water heater closet, leaving no signs of a break-in from the front of the home.

A confrontation ensued, and when Schmidt wielded a knife, the homeowner opened fire with a small handgun, striking Schmidt more than once, Orman said.

"At this point, everything indicates that it was a case of self-defense," he said. "However, we collected a lot of evidence, which will be analyzed, and that will dictate whether this was a justified shooting."
No Castle Doctrine in California.

'Run For Your Lives': One More on the Eurozone

EuroOK, this is a dead horse. Or almost. But I found one section of the Der Spiegel article fairly interesting. 'Run For Your Lives': Euro Zone Considers Solution of Last Resort - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

It seems everyone is abandoning the Euro, at least everyone in the southern part of the continent.
"Run for your lives" is the new motto in Europe, and not just among banks and insurance companies, which are selling off southern European bonds as quickly as they can, but also among ordinary holders of savings accounts. Banks and regulatory agencies are noticing that anxious citizens throughout Europe are trying to bring their money to safety. The flight of capital from Italy, Spain and Greece is in full swing.

Since the beginning of the crisis, ordinary Greeks have withdrawn about €50 billion ($69 billion) from their accounts, or a fifth of total deposits. In May, when the first rumors about a possible withdrawal from the euro zone were making the rounds, the Greeks withdrew €1.5 billion from their accounts within 48 hours. And it is no longer just the rich who are moving their money to a safe place. A Greek nun recently closed her convent's bank account, telling the bank employee that she needed the €700,000 in the account for renovations. But when pressed by the bank employee, she finally admitted that she was worried about her order's assets.
The whole thing is really worthwhile.

And You Thought Greece Was the Only European Country You Needed to Worry About

The bond market is starting to signal that it has little faith in Italy's ability to repay its debt. With Italian Bond Yields Surging, Key 7% 10-Year Yield Looms - WSJ.com (They always do this in the financial sections of papers so here goes - When the price of a bond goes down, the yield goes up. High rates are a sign we don't believe your promise to pay.)
-The embattled Italian government's bond yields pushed above 6.5% Monday for the first time since the introduction of the euro, a move that portends an even tougher financial struggle for the country in the months ahead.
For comparison, US ten-year notes are currently holding a rate of 2.11%. And that is slightly higher than it was a few weeks ago.

So will Italy need a bailout? Let's hope not. As the 3rd largest economy in the Eurozone, it is too big to be bailed out.

And if that wasn't enough, Spain is still struggling. Spain unemployment claims in October up by 134,000 - BusinessWeek
Last week the government said the jobless rate now stands at 21.5 percent and the economy posted zero growth in the third quarter. The Bank of Spain says the stagnation is bad news for government efforts to meet deficit-reduction goals.
That is a pretty bad unemployment rate, and it is likely to get worse.

Meanwhile, Greek Unemployment Hits 17.6%, and is likely to get worse. (Youth unemployment is approaching 50%.)

These are not the signs of health economies.

So Ireland and Portugal needed bailouts. Greece got one bailout and needs (at least) one more. The Italians, and Spaniards are having problems - if not actually needing a bailout right this minute. So how long are the Germans supposed to keep handing out money? Forever? Maybe Germany should get out of the Eurozone.

The point is, all these wonderful socialist nirvanas seem to be crumbling, houses of cards, built on debt they have little to no hope of paying back. (Did they ever?) Greece lied to get into the Eurozone, so it knew it couldn't match the requirements. And the Greek government had to know, even if the people weren't paying attention, that the "game of debt" was going to come to a halt sooner rather than later. (You don't wake up one day and discover you can't pay back half your debts. You get into that position one day at a time, one decision at a time, one bureaucratic snafu at a time.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

What Happened to Education? Costs, Rip-offs and Reflections

Is a College Degree More of a Rip-Off Than a Benefit Today? As they say, read the whole thing. Though it may upset you, seeing how much we pay, and how little we get. (Quoted from a Post Gazette article)
We spend about $10,600 per pupil in public schools—377 percent more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than we spent in 1961. Yet among students who go to college, 75 percent require some remedial work.
. There is more like that.

"Remedial work" means that they can't read at the 12th-grade-level, they can't write worth a damn, or they are hopeless when it comes to math. Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic are not the focus. of education anymore. Students have to memorize Al Gore's movie. (A Arnold Ahlert says: "Environmental literacy? How about literacy, period?")

Some of this can be attributed to the dumbing down of America, but part of it is the insane behavior of colleges
A look at the various new specialty degree programs, however, provides a peek into the priorities of the schools: to accept as many students as they can, and also to broaden their own revenue streams. The offerings are most likely not made to produce anything meaningful in academia—and certainly not in the “real world”—but they do attract a certain type of student. This is often someone who is willing to buy into the myth that a degree in gender studies is going to be useful. These naive young people are willing to pay the big bucks demanded for such a thing—even if that means borrowing the money

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cops Don't Like Cameras

Even though it is (and was) LEGAL to record cops, they took violent exception to being recorded. Man arrested while video recording Boston police officers files lawsuit - The Boston Globe

They were arresting his friend, so he thought he would record the proceedings. That made him guilty of questioning their authority to do whatever the damn well pleased.
Friedman, Paulino’s lawyer, said his client was charged with resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer, and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident. He was acquitted of all charges in April
The department has since "reinforced" that public recording is allowed under Massachusetts' law. Probably won't help much.

Interesting Turn of Events

David Willetts warns over 'striking' university gender gap - Telegraph
Data also shows that women in their 20s now earn, on average, more than men of the same age.
I wonder if there are similar numbers in the US, but it isn't surprising really. Not given that women are more likely to go to university, and more likely to graduate, once they begin.
“There is now a rather striking gap, if we look at the statistics, where it looks as if approximately 50 per cent of women are graduating from university by the time they are 30 and perhaps about 40 per cent of men," he said.
So much for the victimization narrative.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Milton Friedman Defending Free Enterprise

This is worth 2 minutes of your time. A 31 year old video clip ABSOLUTELY worth your time - dauckster's posterous
Pretty interesting clip…even though it is 30 years old, the content is “timeless”

Milwaukee PD and Domestic Violence - More of the Thin Blue Line

Violent offenders often get to plead to small misdemeanors when the offenders carry a badge. MPD lax on domestic violence standards - JSOnline

Pretty discouraging. Missing 911-call tapes. Threats. Whatever. A distinct lack of action.
"They see it as protecting their own, but it's corruption," [Judy Munaker, an attorney who spent five years training cops about officer-related domestic violence] said. "They need to stop protecting their own and start protecting victims."
Like that's gonna happen anytime soon.

Here is just one of the several incidents.
A fourth officer, Zebdee Wilson, now has a clean criminal record despite pleading guilty to violating a restraining order in 1994. His wife needed oral surgery after he punched and kicked her repeatedly in the face, court records say.

That conviction should have stopped Wilson from continuing to serve as a police officer after the federal law banning domestic violence offenders from carrying guns took effect in 1996. The ban was retroactive and applies no matter when the conviction occurred. There is no exception for police officers.

But then-Gov. Tommy Thompson pardoned Wilson, erasing his conviction and saving his career.
Criminal Justice System? The system is more Criminal than concerned with Justice.

Hate Crime Roundup

Some of the insanity out there.

WSYX-WTTE: Mother Calls Son's 'Caught-on-Tape' Beating a Hate Crime - YouTube Ambush of gay student by another. No one helped, but one person did video the whole thing. (That will help with prosecution.)

Corrective rape: South Africa women attcked to 'cure' them of being lesbians | Mail Online South African men apparently think you can "cure" a lesbian by raping her. Authorities do nothing.

Gay couple: targets of hate crime at home - KWGN Lesbians want some more "special rights." In this case, they want to live in the suburbs. Even the HOA can't get things together.

Man suffers horrific burns after being set alight in pub beer garden | Mail Online Having a quite drink in a pub, and you get set on fire. By a stranger who doesn't like who you love.

Imagine wanting to be safe in school, or to know that the authorities would punish someone who attacked you. Imagine living in suburbia with no one spray-painting messages of hate on your garage door, or having a drink with friends without having your life endangered. Those gays sure do want some crazy "special rights."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Finally Some Democratic Moves in Europe

Since the start of the European Union and the Euro, it seems that a lot of European policy was taken out of the hands of the people and given to the "elites." (That's the politicians - with a side order of bankers thrown in.) Seems to be changing. Greece to hold referendum on EU debt deal - Telegraph
Responding to the riots that followed last week’s proposal, as well as dissent from within his own Socialist party, Prime Minister George Papandreou said: “The command of the Greek people will bind us. Do they want to adopt the new deal, or reject it? If the Greek people do not want it, it will not be adopted.”

Staging a referendum, reportedly to be held in January, threatens to throw the eurozone further into crisis as the majority of Greeks object to the bail-out, according to a survey published last week.
So Greece won't adopt austerity. (That's OK, really. They haven't implemented all of their promised reforms from the LAST go-round on their debt. "Say Anything.")
If Greece were to reject the plan, which requires deep spending cuts, it would risk a full-scale default and possible ejection from the euro.
They aren't looking at the longer term of course. If they don't abide by this plan, no one - in their right mind anyway - will lend them money. Their newly-reinstated-currency will tank. And all those public service unions complaining about cuts will get no pay. Ditto for the retirees.

But the Germans will breath a collective sigh, and go back to beating the odds.

(The UK promised a referendum on the latest encroachment of the EU on British sovereignty, but when it was clear the average voter would reject it, it never came to pass. Similarly, one of the Scandinavian countries did vote to reject that round of EU expansion, but that plebiscite was just swept under the rug. The elites knew what they wanted and a little think democracy wasn't going to stand in their way.)

(Of course "what they wanted" was the end the unending series of wars fought on European soil. The grandaddy was probably The Hundred Years War, which actually lasted more than 100 years. Even in more modern times major wars were fought about every 50 years or less. Instituting tyranny isn't a good alternative, however.)

“Don't get Mace. Get a firearm”

Spartanburg County's (North Carolina) Sheriff is fed up over the constant release of violent criminals. Sheriff: Time For Citizens To Arm Themselves - WYFF Greenville

Walter Lance is held for what appears to be attempted rape. (They don't say.) He was denied bond.
Wright said Lance had been charged numerous times with crimes against women, and other crimes such as resisting arrest and escape. Wright said Lance had been on probation for a federal gun charge.
Out on probation, a violent criminal with a history stretching back to 1983 was on the street free to attack again.

The sheriff apparently isn't one to mince words.
Sheriff Chuck Wright opened his news conference by saying, "Our form of justice is not making it."

He said, "Carry a concealed weapon. That'll fix it."
As for his description of Lance....
He said Lance "doesn't fight police or men folk -- he just goes after women." He said Lance is not married because, "No woman can stay married to him because he beats them down too much."

[snip]
He said several times, "I want you to get a concealed weapons permit."
Liberals give this sheriff a hard time over his "chain gang justice." Well the let's-rehabilitate-them form of justice isn't working either. Not with this monster back on the street.
[Thanks to Alphecca for pointing this out.]

This High-speed Intertubes is amazing

Now that I have swallowed the anchor and moved ashore, I have been able, for the first time in 10 years or so to have my very own private, high-speed connection the interwebs. (As opposed to secure, but communal WiFi, sometimes competing with 15 or 20 other boaters, all trying to download movies.)
Oh. My. God.

You people just don't know how good you've had it all these years. (No, I won't go into a "back in the day" reminiscence, though I do remember how much better 4800 baud was compared to 300.)

Video - even high def - I don't have to wait for. I may never leave my office again. (I'll have to buy a better chair!)

An Appropriate Article for Halloween

As it combines two organizations I really love. (Well one of them gets a mention anyway.) But the whole thing is devoted to Zombie Squad. Zombie Squad combines fascination for the undead with philanthropic mission | OregonLive.com

It is all about disaster preparedness.
If you're ready for zombies, you can handle anything.
Or so says Gabriel Martin, Zombologist, and president of Oregon's chapter of Zombie Squad.
Martin and his partners, Kate Schwartz and Nate Warren, both 25, launch into a list of tactics to avoid joining the ranks of decayed, drooling, foot-shuffling monsters.

Among them: Keep a survival kit stocked with bottled water, nonperishable food, and first aid supplies. It will come in handy when you're on the run from the undead, or trapped at home waiting out the epidemic.

The kit also happens to match Red Cross guidelines for creating natural disaster emergency kits.

"Engaging with an audience and disseminating information in a lighthearted, fun and engaging way while at the same time raising critical awareness is what they're all about," says Francisco Ianni, disaster preparedness director for the Red Cross in Oregon, "whether that vehicle is zombies that move people to action, or a major earthquake."
Having lived in both tornado alley (missed a visit by an F5 tornado by 5 blocks) and hurricane central, I am always surprised that so few people seem prepared. You can't gauge much from tornadoes, but the scream "HURRICANE" for days before a storm could ever hit, and people rush out to buy bottled water. People, while it is true that you often can't trust the water AFTER a disaster. BEFORE a disaster most Americans live somewhere that has perfectly (or at least reasonably) good tap water. Store some of it. I think my 5 gallon storage cost less than 10 bucks. Go buy 1 or 2, fill with water and put on a shelf. It won't go "bad." It won't be aerated, so it might taste funny. (Pour it back and forth between 2 glasses and it will taste fine.) I much prefer the Jerrycan-style of container, but the price is higher. Plan for 3 days. At least. And a way to catch rainwater is helpful too. (A clean tarp and some ropes can work wonders in a downpour.) For larger groups, more storage is recommended.

Clean water put into clean containers and kept in the dark will last a long time. (DON'T use washed out milk jugs. They have a shelf-life, which while it is much longer than the milk, isn't as long as you think.) The 55 gallon drum (link above) claims 5 years if you use their purification tablets when you store it.

The government says be prepared for 3 days. (That is how long it took supplies of water to reach the Super Dome after Katrina flood NOLA.) It isn't hard. It doesn't have to cost much if you plan for it. (Buy some extra canned goods, some rice and beans, and figure out how you are going to cook things if the power goes out. And yes, even some gas ovens and cooktops need electric power today.) Hint - a camp stove, or a wood-fired barbeque work wonders.

Oh, and the honorable mention? It goes to Pink Pistols - which I wasn't sure was still in existence - which hosted one of Zombie Squads lectures.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ignoring the Guy with the Shotgun Can Get you Killed

This guy is lucky to be alive. Burglary suspect shot by homeowner in Atlanta: CBS Atlanta

If you break into enough houses, you will eventually find an armed homeowner. This one had a shotgun, and a security alarm system, which is what alerted him to trouble.
Police said as he approached the top of the steps, he saw 25-year-old William Leisy, Jr. coming up the steps towards him and his family.

The homeowner told him to get out of his house.

Police said Leisy kept advancing towards the homeowner, so he fired a warning shot into the floor in front of him. Leisy paused then started coming further up the steps.

The homeowner fired another shot at Leisy's leg and he fell onto the steps.
Maybe I'm mean, but I would have shot him center-of-mass.

The bad guy is in stable condition and charged with burglary.

Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

Is "Just Following Orders" a Defense?

It seems that New York's Finest have got their panties in bunch because "ticket fixing" is considered corruption. NYPD Officers Angered by Corruption Probe Poor babies. Their feelings are hurt.
Patrick J. Lynch, the union president, said in a news conference that the officers had been arrested on something "accepted at all ranks for decades." He did distance himself from those charged with graver offenses.
So, because something has been "accepted for decades" that means it always was and always should be OK? Besides, if you asked the "ranks of citizens" - you know, the people who employ the police - I don't think those ranks would think it was acceptable.

So, what else would be acceptable, based on the "for decades" criteria? Beating up gays? Falsely imprisoning black men? What? When you open that door - "But we've always done it that way" - how do you close it?

But anyway, back to those "Just Following Orders" signs in the photo. Is that really an excuse for anything? If your captain told you to kill his wife, would you? How about if he just told you to arrest her, but for no good reason. Would you "Just follow orders?" That excuse hasn't worked since at least World War 2. And it shouldn't work here.