Friday, December 22, 2006

Teh innernets are back!!!




Yes, that's right. To the literally tens of visitors I get per month, I'm back. My internet connection finally came back up some time this evening. Eight days without teh innernets is enough to drive a man crazy. I have some things to write about regarding our large and relatively up-to-prediction level wind storm. Aside from my relatively short period without electricity (48 hours) and my long-assed time without internet (eight days), my only very close encounter with a near disaster is the little Cedar which came crashing down in my neighbors yard, missing their house and more importantly, my fence by only a few feet.

If you behead your wife...

...it would be nice if you'd kill yourself quietly and discreetly, without ruining any more lives.

Prosecutors alleged Time killed his wife, then tossed her severed head into his Dodge Ram pickup and drove into Boise. There they allege he swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with a sedan, killing a woman and her young daughter. He faces second-degree murder charges in those deaths.

I'd like to post more often, really.

Except that my internet connection has been down for over a week since Seattle Windstorm '06. I'm not sure what's going on with Comcast, but when I call them, they report there is a known outage in my neighborhood, and that there's no reason to stay on the line. A friend of mine who never lost internet also gets the same recording. When I try to stay on the line, Comcast eventually drops my call and politely suggests that I visit their website at www.comcast.com. Kinda hard when you don't have teh innernets.

So I'lll be posting from work (when I'm not working).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Teachers and alternative schools-- my favorite subject

Looks like the Seattle School District finally nicked a teacher for fraudulently collecting $120,000 in overtime pay. I shudder to think what her regular salary was. Strangely, they don't mention the woman's name. A union thing? That probably greases the wheels for her to be another sought-after teacher in another district.

A routine budget review by the school's new principal this fall turned up time slips on which the teacher claimed more hours than she could possibly have worked, according to a Seattle Police Department incident report.

The woman, who has worked for the district for 32 years, offered to repay the district. She has not been charged.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Here's a situation it seems you'll never see

A man, who was trapped on a snowy peak was able to call a rescuer and read off the following information before the cell phone went dead:

"I am at 46.830134 and -121.669464. Those are my coordinates."

Instead, we just get this:

Searchers thwarted by a storm whose winds were expected to gust from 60 mph to 80 mph today stayed well below the summit area of Mount Hood, where at least one of three missing mountaineers was last heard from.
[...]
Signals from the phone put it about 11,000 feet, just below the summit. Search teams in a statement today said the signals also "suggest that the phone was moved from one point to another. The points are not far from each other."
[...]
Hughes said Tuesday that calls to James' cell had produced "pings" allowing searchers to approximate where he was but that nobody had answered the calls.

Hughes said tracing the pings put James at about the 11,000-foot level.

Yep, a high tech guessing game and a race to save someones life. I'm not even going to start on the whole Kim family tragedy. As long as people make the conscious decisions to continue on a journey which has all the warning signs it will end badly, they should at least have a $150 device in their pocket which will, at minimum, tell them where they are in relation to other known objects... like the highway, or hell, back to their own car if they decide they can't walk out.

To the literally tens of visitors I get per month, I would like to introduce you to a concept called GPS. It may not save your life, but it sure as hell might help someone else save your life, or at least find your body more quickly.

Thank God


It missed the tv.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rumors of my demise...

...have been exaggerated. I would like to assure the tens of readers I get per month that I'm getting ready to start posting again. The holiday season has been pretty stacked, plus I've been concentrating on other more important endeavors, such as snowboarding and flying a small remote control helicopter.

I've got lots to write about, and I shall be back within a day or so.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Biodiesel? Not if it freezes!


I had read that colder temperatures caused problems for biodiesel cars. Freezing causes the alternative fuel to 'gel' up. This guy learned that little lesson. Thankfully, he had some good old-fashioned non-alternative diesel to buy:

Billy Amon lugs several gallons of diesel fuel for his bio-diesel car back to his home. Amon had tried to take a bus, but was denied because of the fuel he carried. His car won't operate in freezing temperatures with out the diesel.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The death penalty doesn't prevent murder-- but convicted murderers sure want to avoid it.

Convicted serial killer, Robert Yates, is trying hard to avoid it.
Yates was sentenced to 408 years in prison in 2000 after confessing to 13 killings in a plea deal with Spokane County prosecutors that included information on the Pierce County deaths.
[...]
"Mr. Yates' [death] sentence is arbitrary, wanton ... freakish and random in light of his Spokane County sentence," his lawyers argued in court documents.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I pay taxes in Peru, and all I got was this lousy 9' fiberglass penis.

Peruvians have a new theme park, paid for by public monies.

People in Huayre are bemused by the uproar. National rulers, they figure, have been squandering their riches for centuries, so what's the big deal if Mayor Wenceslao Alderete hoped to attract tourists by gracing the village's central plaza with outsize images of genitalia and of the maca root, a tuber traditionally consumed as an aphrodisiac?
I guess you can either get really mad at your elected officials or simply declare, "What do you expect?" However, if my income taxes went up 1,000%-- I say again-- 1,000%, I'd expect a little something more. Like, you know, a sewer or a road.

Mercedes: Engineered like no other car in the world.

Which could be why Mercedes has three of the seven un-coveted "least reliable" slots in the Consumer Reports New Car Preview. Mercedes, unhappy with the "results" which came from 1.3 million readers, is less than pleased.

For its part, a spokesman for Mercedes says that the data in the Consumer Reports rankings "is totally out of sync with what we're seeing in the mainstream research as well as our own customer satisfaction and warranty data." He points to the good marks Mercedes gets for ride, handling, comfort, safety and performance.
According to the article, JD Power ranked Mercedes 25th out of 37 brands, which was (and I was surprised to read this) two notches "above BMW". Wow, those Bavarian engineers have begun to slip.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've got three words for these situations: GPS, GPS, GPS

I don't know why in this here modern day, people still manage to get lost, and more importantly, manage to not find their way back:


Search and rescue teams were scouring the Cascades near Snoqualmie Pass for a woman who went missing Saturday. Dozens of workers and volunteers hiked on and off-trail and skied the backcountry trying to find the 31-year-old.

The woman, whose name hadn't been released by the King County Sheriff, went missing while she was snowshoeing with two friends on the Denny Creek Trail near Hemlock Pass, according to KING-5 TV.

The woman was equipped only for a day hike and not prepared to spend a snowy night on the mountain, rescue officials said Sunday.
In one case, an IPod was what helped find one man. Tip: GPS is a much more effective and cheaper navigation device.


An iPod glowing in the middle of the night from thick underbrush led rescuers to a mushroom picker lost in the woods.

The search leader said Pini Nou, 25, was on his first outing Thursday and got separated from his mother, an experienced mushroom hunter.

At nightfall, she called Benton County authorities for help.

Update: The woman lost in the Cascades was found safe. Rescuers worked in condions that were freezing, wet and were themselves almost to the point of Hypothermia.

Farley said she expects Wysocki will "probably become a poster child for carrying emergency gear," and will make sure to tell others to be prepared when they go hiking.
One can only hope that this "emergency gear" will include, oh, I don't know, a GPS?

Aside: Day hikers going into wooded areas: Please consider an inexpensive GPS. The worst that will happen is it won't reliably pick up a signal under wet tree-cover. However, you might get spotty coverage which would be more than enough to pinpoint your own location in relation to your base camp (car, whatever). GPS, better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Puget sound traffic study: an incredible grasp of the obvious.

The question, however, is will this diminish the crackpot ideas which have suggested routing Seattle traffic through I405 to 'relieve' congestion? A new study "discovered" that the commute to Bellevue along I405 is "worse" than the I5 commute in Seattle. I'm so tickled by this discovery, I can't stand it, I have to quote myself from a September post:

[in response to a plan which wants to route Seattle drivers through I405]
Have these people ever been on 405? Why the hell should I have to drive all the way around lake Washington on a clogged, two lane freeway that’s perpetually jammed?
Yeah well, when you're right, you're right. So how does the state sum up the Bellevue commute?

In fact, the state Department of Transportation's report says, the two worst afternoon freeway commutes in the region both originate in Bellevue: the voyage south down Interstate 405 to Tukwila, and the haul west across Highway 520 to Seattle.
I have a very good friend who has his own personal quote about driving on 520: "If you're on 520, you're just wrong."

For those of you who don't live here, what he means by that is that 520 is SO bad and SO clogged 24/7, that the very act of getting on 520 is a bad idea. It's more efficient to drive 10 or 15 miles out of your way and take another bridge-- or just drive the hell around Lake Washington, than to even bother with 520.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I pile on thee:
Evening congestion on southbound 405 lasted an average of 5 hours, 35 minutes in 2005, longer than anywhere else.
That's right, 'evening congestion' lasting five effing hours. I was once accused of exaggerating when I declared that the only time I had ever been in a traffic jam at 2am was on... wait for it...I405. And this incident occurred somewhere in the neighborhood of ten or twelve years ago. It's only gotten worse since then, I can tell you.

On an interesting side note, the state considers a freeway congested when speeds drop below 40mph. Hah! 40mph! I would think that Bellevue commuters would thank the almighty if their speedometers could get anywhere near 40mph. Oh, while things may be better on my favorite whipping boy, the HOV lane, they're not much better:
High-occupancy-vehicle lanes carried a third of all freeway commuters at monitored locations in 2005, the report says. But it also says that six of the region's HOV lanes were so congested during evening peak hours that average speeds dropped below 45 mph.

Nothing good happens at 3 a.m.: PS3 edition

Or so a group of 15 to 20 people who were robbed at gunpoint learned. Yes, that's right, two thugs with gats confronted a group of 15 to 20 people waiting in a line outside a Hartford, CT Wal-Mart for the privilege of being the first to own a Sony PS3.

It was about 3 a.m. when the two gunmen in Putnam, a town of about 9,000 residents in northeast Connecticut, confronted 15 to 20 people standing outside a Wal-Mart store and demanded money, said State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.

"One of the patrons resisted. That patron was shot," Vance said.
Oh, and mad props to the guy who resisted. Shot twice, his wounds are not considered life threatening.

In stranger than strange news, the PS3 is quite a popular item and the anticipation has led to a number of violent incidents. In one case, five men attacked a man who had received his PS3 just minutes before. After stealing his PS3, and driving away in a car, one of the robbers was pushed out of the car by the other four.

The shopper told police five men surrounded and beat him as he left the Shoppes at Buckland Hills with the new PlayStation.

Police Sgt. Chris Davis said the attackers pushed one of their cohorts out of the car as they drove away. That man, a 17-year-old from Windsor, was charged with robbery, larceny, assault and breach of peace.
You can bet someone is singing like a canary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

O.J. Confesses!

Well, that's what his publisher says, referring to a new book by Simpson titled If I Did It.

"This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession," [Judith] Regan told The Associated Press. She also refused to say what Simpson is being paid for the book but said he came to her with the idea.
I predicted several years ago that O.J. would confess to the crime-- possibly on his death bed. I feel we're getting closer.

Seattle's street maintenance backlog... is it any wonder?

This is (partly) why Seattle has a $300 million street repair and maintenance backlog:

At the time, there was urgency to find a replacement for the streetcar barn near Pier 70 so the Seattle Art Museum could tear it down and move forward with its Olympic Sculpture Garden as designed.

The old barn has been torn down, and service on the streetcar line was suspended a year ago with the intent to bring it back — using the new maintenance facility — by the 2007 tourist season. Meeting that target date is no longer possible.
This city can't get anything done correctly. Oh, and hey, Bellevue's got a tiny little backlog, too. If government isn't here to maintain our roads, what are they doing?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Nothing good happens at 3 am


Well, mostly nothing. An off duty police officer was killed when some tardlet in a stolen vehicle slammed into her car. Very unfortunate. Strange, though. This is the second time a police officer has been killed while not involved in a chase.


The upside: the perp was killed too.

Dog Bites Man, Gas up .4 cents

Yep, drove by my favorite station today, and saw gas selling for $2.49. That's the quickest jump (either up or down) in quite some time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A reminder to conservative Republicans: You lost because of what you are, not in spite of it

NPR did a short segment talking to conservatives about what they felt was the message or reason that could be gleaned from Tuesday's Democratic sweep. Michele Norris posed[audio link- click 'listen'] the question to Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky, what he would say if Karl Rove called him on the phone soliciting advice.

Strangely, Mohler indicated that Republicans must get back to their core values including but not limited to issues such as gay marriage and abortion, especially given all the "hard work" that evangelicals had done for the Republicans since Ronald Reagan. Mohler expressed concern that Roe V. Wade-- despite helping to elect Reagan twice, Bush I and Bush II (twice)-- is still the "law of the land."

Mohler seems to be woefully unaware that it was precisely the social conservative issues which have done the Republicans the most damage. Roe v Wade is here to stay- (and my bets are still on the table-- takers?) and a very red state just gave the smackdown to an abortion ban by a very strong margin. So what, exactly is Mohler suggesting? Mohler vaguely implies that evangelical Christians abandoned the Republicans in this last election, but for whom? When pressed by Norris as to whether evangelicals would drift to the Dems, Mohler quickly and forcefully rejects that, stating (logically) that Democrats have clearly articulated views on these issues which are antithetical to Christians, so no leftward drift is really in the cards. This tells me that evangelical Christians are a very noisy, boisterous group, but hold very little voting power in the larger picture.

My wife indicated that she thought that Mohler was implying that evangelicals didn't go to the polls due to their disillusionment with Republican lip service to social issues. I don't think that's the case. I think that Mohler is in a case of colossal denial and simply hasn't realized that the very reason for the Republican loss was precisely because of the sharp turn towards social policies which were evangelical pet projects.

Site note: During the discussion with my wife, I began to talk about the 1994 "contract with America" brand of Republicanism, vs. what we've seen over the last six years, and she couldn't see the difference. I pointed out that the Contract With America really had no social conservative basis to it, beyond the "personal responsibility act" which 'discouraged illegitimacy' and teen pregnancy which was still coming from the locus of cutting back the welfare state.* My wife was utterly convinced that the Contract With America was a social-conservative fiery jeremaid against "liberalism" promising a nation of God, Guns, an abortion free nation and elimination of "teh gay". After I showed her the document, she sat there stunned for a moment, realizing just how bland a document the whole Contract was.

* the bill text relating to the personal responsibility act did have a provision to not allow funds being funneled to the states to be used for "abortion and family planning". The contract itself, however, makes no mention of the word abortion anywhere within.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dog bites man, gas at fav station up .02 cents

Now, I'm not saying anything about a Dem victory in them thar houses o' Congress, but I did note that after an absolutely steady fall of prices, we crept up about .02 to $2.43 per gallon at my usual station. So would a rise in gas prices immediately after the election look bad or good for Dems?

That's a young crowd over at Kos

I don't read Kos much, but I was curious to see what was going on in the wake of the Democratic cleanup of the GOP controlled houses. For a few seconds, I was interested to see some new ideas that were going to come out of the new Democratic majority. Some fresh things from the people that were responsible for a party change in Washington. I was profoundly disappointed. Between a long jeremaid against Ronald Reagan-- Ronald Reagan, for chrissakes-- some quotes by Abbey Hoffman, no attempt to distinguish Newt Gingrich and the modern Congress, some jabs at Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew by the few old timers that were there, we get this:

I can't believe that this Congress will actually stop waiting for the free market to reduce drug costs and will have the government negotiating for drug costs.
Hopefully, the days of the free-market trickle-down ideology are over! Hopefully, this Congress will directly intervene for the interests of the American people. But I still won't believe it until I see it. I've grown up in the times of Gingrich and I am still not sure that the Republican Revolution is over. Over a decade of free-market slavishness cannot be undone in 2 years.
==
this feels like woodstock felt, this feels like it felt to see janis joplin play in golden gate park the summer of love, this feels like being at the mall in washington for an anti war march in 1970 and giving the finger to the government guys photographing us, this feels like watching my daughter be born....this feels like watching a super bright shooting star cross a clear cold new england night sky...
==
That's why I still can't believe that we have elected a Congress that wants to do something about healthcare, when my whole life the only healthcare proposals I've seen involved cutting benefits or creating fake benefit programs that barely covered any costs like Bush did last year.
[...]
The Clinton years were no fun as I witnessed a full-front assault on social programs that was absolutely depressing.
Hoo boy, Nick Gillespie was right, the real losers in this election are the American people, no matter how you slice it. The times, they are a changin' back.

After six years of George W. Bush and his small-government ways, leaner budgets, and reductions of the Federal Government's power in our daily lives, now we're gonna get some work done. Government, get ready to roll, 'cause it's gonna be busy around here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Miniscule differences

It occurs to me (yeah, it's probably occurred to others smarter than I) that the reason we see so many razor thin margins in some of these elections is not due to the "deep divisions" in our country, but the lack of division between our candidates. Just sayin'.

Stuff heard on CNN

Listening to James Carville, I gotta hand it to him, he's got a point. He indicated that very soon (I didn't catch the date) that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II. On the other hand, John Kerry called Sen. Ted Kennedy the "greatest senator in history." So, Democrats have still got work to do.

Mission Accomplished? We never said that...

Via Nobody's Business, Rogier Van Bakel notes that the Mission Accomplished banner under a speech given by Bush over three years ago has been crudely cropped from the video. Check out Bakel's post for links to the video.

Update: It looks like the 'blocked out banner' has been debunked. Good old internet. Gotta love it. It appears that the blacked out portion was from network (CNN) ticker programming being eliminated. The banner itself was up high and behind the president. Click the link noted above to see the commentary on this issue at Bakel's blog.

Kos Democrats breathe a collective "oh shit"

CNN projects Lieberman keeps his seat. I'll not link to any stories on CNN, because they're apt to change. I have mixed feelings about this because I felt that the Lieberman/Lamont battle was a battle of losing ideologies, with Lamont carrying the slight moral high ground with his anti-Iraq war stance. Unfortunately, as noted elsewhere, Lamont offered little else.

[...]Lamont has at least two stances that are attractive to most libertarians: He thought the intervention by congressional Republicans into the Terri Schiavo case was objectionable and he's openly opposed to the Iraq War. Beyond that, though, is a litany of proposals that hardly sing to the "Free Minds and Free Markets" crowd: universal health care, increased federal spending on schools, and rolling back tax cuts "on the richest 1 percent."
I hesitate to offer up a completely bitter narrative on Lamont specifically, but to simply point out that as a Democrat, Lamont offered more of the same party-line positions, but had the fortune of being able to ride the anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment. All well and good. But this president, and this war will not always be with us. Well, ok, the war looks like it's going to be with us for a very long time, which is why it's so important to vote for the right candidates. Because even as an anti-war candidate, you have to have a reasonable solution to the crisis in Iraq. At this point, I have little idea what that reasonable solution is, and no, I don't accept Lieberman's 'stay the course' solution, either.

Slightly heavier than normal rains


In weather related news, we're getting some. Time to get the kayaks out, I suspect.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Islamic militants becoming more progressive about the role of women in society.

And it's about time, I say. Women are slowly making inroads into areas of militant life once seen as the exclusive domain of men:
The women, many with ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas, left their homes after daybreak in response to radio and telephone appeals. By nightfall, they were celebrated as heroes, an unusual role in a deeply conservative society that tends to keep women on the sidelines. Until Friday, battling Israeli troops had been men's business in Gaza.
It's possible that Western liberal values are finally having an effect on the old Islamic world. I, for one, will be looking forward to more of these progressive changes in the near future.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Campaign finance reform works. Proof: The parties raised and spent more money than ever

The Washington Post declares Victory for CFR laws by hailing the record amounts of cash the parties were able to raise and spend:

Not in 2004, when the parties raised a combined $1.5 billion ($785 million by Republicans, $684 million by Democrats) -- amazingly, more than their hard and soft money combined in any previous election. And not in 2006, the first midterm campaign conducted under the new rules, when the combined party fundraising was $768 million as of mid-October ($438 million by Republicans, $330 million by Democrats), according to a study by the Campaign Finance Institute. The parties, now limited to maximum annual contributions of $26,700 from individuals, haven't recouped all the soft money they once vacuumed up, but they have rebounded far more robustly than anyone had predicted.
Thank God we solved the problem of money in politics. Hooray! Except, way back in the recesses of my feeble brain, I seem to remember that the whole point of CFR was to "get the money out of politics".

The Post, a fervent supporter of McCain-Feingold declares that the money is flowing faster than ever, proof that CFR laws are a rousing success. The only fly in the ointment, according to the Post is the pesky 527's, which can create ads on behalf of the candidates so long as no consultation between the campaign and the 527 occurs.

Is it my incredible grasp of the obvious when I note that this whole CFR issue seems to be a massive bait-and-switch being perpetrated upon us by the reformers of campaign finance? Those of us who criticized CFR laws based on their potential to chill the most important speech of all-- political speech-- were repeatedly told that it wasn't about speech, it was about the money.

The Post now seems to be comfortable with the money, but not so much with what's being said [registration req'd] with it by pesky independent groups. This, to be sure, relates to what the Post deems undesirable speech. This Post commentary cements the fact that Campaign Finance Laws were never about the money, they were about undesirable speech. The Post points to the "more muted role" of the 527's from 2004, to 2006. This is certainly due to the constant legal scrutiny that 527's and now churches face when speaking about a candidate without the direct involvement of the candidate himself. According to the Post, law makers need to get right on the 527 issue, post haste.

Via: MoreSoftMoneyHardLaw.com

For Whom The Bell Tolls

And the bell's a ringing. If there's one thing that social conservatives don't need right now, it's another gay sex scandal. Questions are being raised as to the timing of the most recent news of an evangelical leader's gay sex trists with a male prostitute. It's certainly notable, but assuming the allegations are true (and it looks like they are), I say too bad. One has to assume that if you're in the public eye and at the same time a big, fat hypocrite your laundry will get aired publicly at the least opportune time.

Unfortunately, due to our two party system, often times the unbending social conservatives can remain in power while more moderate republicans find that it's their seats which are vulnerable.

One can only hope that the most socially conservative Republicans are swept from office. The time has come... they've overstayed their welcome.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gapping the bridge.

One might ask the question, if roads and bridges aren't paid for by a government's general fund, from what revenue source should roads and bridges maintenance be paid? According to the City of Seattle, the answer is "Your shoe's untied! Look, shiny things!"

Proposition 1, which will raise a projected $325 million over the nine year life of the levy, is supposed to take care of the "routine maintenance" and "basic repairs" of "1,500 lane miles of arterial streets, 150 bridges, signs and sidewalks representing an economic asset of over $8 billion." All of this is from an admitted "backlog of maintenance work". Howls of revenue strangulation most often accompany any question about the need for new taxes to pay for this backlog of maintenance.

The City needs additional sources of tax revenue. In recent years, court decisions and public initiatives have restricted the City’s sources of tax revenue to fund transportation. In 1995 the Washington State Supreme Court declared the City’s residential street utility charge unconstitutional, reducing City revenue for transportation projects by $13 million per year. In 2002, voters statewide approved Initiative 776 which eliminated the vehicle license fee, a fee that generated $5 million per year to the City for transportation purposes. The state shared gas tax revenues for Seattle do not keep up with inflation due to annexations and incorporations.
Yes, there have been specific tax revenue streams which have been tightened or removed. In one case, a tax revenue stream was removed (noted in the quote above) because it was an illegal tax!

All of this is generally endemic of municipalities reliance on special, targeted taxes to pay for what should be basic infrastructure expenditures paid out of the general fund. So, what we have is a city placing illegal taxes on its citizens, then when the State Courts reverse those taxes, the city cries that their revenue stream has been "cut". B.S.

First off, from the rather large lens called "general revenues", the Seattle bankroll has nearly doubled [see Executive Summary] in size (with adjustment for inflation) since 1980 with a population which has shown relatively small growth:

While the street maintenance backlog has been growing, the city's total tax collections have increased on a year-to-year basis for more than a quarter century. Seattle's General Fund budget, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled since 1980, when it was $156 million. While the amount of revenue the city collects has increased sharply over 25 years, the city's population has remain constant at around 560,000 people.

According to the the Washington Policy Center, Seattle residents are currently burdened with no less than sixteen levies totaling approximately $1.4 billion dollars.

What is the most annoying factor of any property tax rate increase is that property taxes increase without the rate being bumped. In fact all taxes tied to the 'value' of a thing rise as the economy expands. This way, government could expand in proportion to the economy.

There's also the other issue that I've long suspected is the real reason for this levy: It's a way for Greg Nickels to start bankrolling his beloved tunnel project which is coming against increased opposition.

These people are on crack.

I have no idea who would pay $29.95 a month to get internet for a forty to sixty minute ride on a ferry.
The ferries have contracted with Parsons Transportation Group, from California, to provide Internet access on the state ferries for $29.95 a month.

Service had been free, financed by a $775,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration, awarded to Mobilisa, Inc., a Port Townsend company, to test wireless technology on the ferries.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gas drops to near May 2004 prices.

Gas dipped again in the last couple of days. My favorite station now selling for $2.41. The cart generated from SeattleGasPrices.com shows a three year range. Blue line is U.S. Average compared to Seattle price chart.



Chart courtesy SeattleGasPrices.com

When you don't speak a word of the language...

You can be truly lost.
The ordeal of grandfather who speaks only Russian and his two grandsons — who spent at least 12 hours Monday lost and driving from Everett to the Tacoma area — is finally over.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh my God, what have we come to?

An official press release[pdf link] urges residents of Omaha to dial 911 to report violations of a public smoking ban[ordinance pdf link] recently passed in the city. From the actual press release:
Citizens or business owners that observe a violation to this smoking ban are urged to call 911 and report the violation. Officers will respond to the radio call and take appropriate action. Those found in violation to the smoking ban would be given a criminal citation. Any business owners or employee that knowingly allow smoking in their establishment will also be given a criminal citation with the first offense that will be considered a warning.
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the foundations are cracked. This problem has infected the very fabric of our nation, leading any local official to raise petty offenses to the level of a 911 emergency. The issue is no longer just the Federal Government's overt tramping of the liberties we hold dear, but local officials, largely unaccountable which are now proposing draconian rules and regulations upon the citizens they serve. It's always tempting to place this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue, but it's not. This is a disease which is non-partisan. It affects any official, no matter how petty or insignificant. Small administrative clerks at the municipal level have discovered a certain power they can grasp, and are now taking it to new heights I never imagined.

The people of this country must start to act in direct defiance of these small, petty tyrants, even at the smallest level. I argue that because we have allowed such insignificant government managers to get away so comfortably with such a capacious number of interferences in our lives, it only seems reasonable that we allow the larger bodies of government to get away with the more egregious violations of liberty. This was admittedly a slow creep, which seems to be picking up pace at an alarming rate. There has come a time to defy the law. I will attempt to do my part.

I can only hope (and suggest) that residents of Omaha will flood the city's 911 system with smoking 'sightings'-- desperate pleas for help as they percieve (correctly or incorrectly) people lighting up in public.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dog Bites Man, Gas At $2.45 (and 2.01 in Tucson)

Another price drop leaves gas at my favorite station in Seattle at $2.45 per gallon. Family members, recently in Tucson, AZ, reported gas being sold for $2.01. These price drops are suspicious and rapid, and as such, I strongly think that a senate investigation is warranted considering that Exxon reports record profits at around $10 billion. It's one thing to post record profits while gas prices are at record highs, but to post profits while gas prices drop? That's just sinister. It suggests to me that oil companies might really be making their money selling rock cocaine, meth or even heroin on the black market.

In an unscientific poll done by USA Today, a whopping 82% of respondents believe that oil company profits should be "regulated". No definition of how, or to what extent this should occur. I've said it before, I'll say it again: The more I know of my fellow man, the less I trust him to vote.

Update 10/27/06: Gas selling for $2.43 at the aforementioned station.

Gas prices in the Seattle area have dropped to a one year low:


Chart courtesy of SeattleGasPrices.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's just that thing they do...

Another rock climber gets it.
[Todd Skinner, a] renowned rock climber and author who made a name for himself scaling peaks around the world was killed when he fell 500 feet while attempting a first ascent near Bridalveil Fall, a park spokeswoman said Tuesday.

So, how did the car get there?


I'm not sayin' nothin' about this. Not one thing.

Nobody was hurt this morning when a woman apparently drove down a stairway near the Seattle Athletic Club. How the car ended up on the stairs wasn't immediately known.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Good riddance.

Skilling goes down for 24 years. Twenty four years seems a little light for any corporate officer that lobbies for Kyoto and inspired the abortion known as Sarbanes-Oxley, but at least it's a start. Speaking of which, I'm still stunned that people are stunned that Enron was a Kyoto cheerleader. If you don't get it by now, your voter registration card should be revoked.

P.S.

I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, when a high ranking official or corporate officer quites to "spend more time with family" you know his ass is in a sling:
He took over as chief executive from Lay in February 2001 but abruptly quit six months later, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. Prosecutors said he left Enron because he knew the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Manhas calls it quits

And really, who can blame him? The Seattle School District is (and has been) hovering on the same bleak edge that so many other urban school districts do: financial ruin. Manhas, in an attempt to control costs has put forward several plans to close schools as Seattle's number of children has dropped precipitously leading to the smallest class sizes one could imagine.

I'm all for closing poorly performing and attended schools, and I'm also all for laying off poorly performing and poorly attended teachers. I've yet to hear word one about laying off teachers.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

These are the so-called 'quality' teachers?

In an investigational series by the Seattle Times which uncovers improperly sealed court cases (and unseals them, natch) they detail a case where not only was a teacher molesting young girls, but the whole thing was pretty much covered up. Carl Leede, the molesting Northshore district teacher in question was quite a piece of work, and apparently quite a catch for the school district:

[Leede] applied to the district in 1976, after teaching for two years in Kitsap County. His letter [pdf link], peppered with typos and misspellings, said he wanted to reduce his "commutation time" and pursue his "educational asperarions." Northshore hired him the following year.
I don't even want to know what this guy's salary was. That's a can of whoop-ass you don't even want me to open.
He called boys "jerkballs." One wrote Leede a letter, saying: "Why do you treat the boys like crud?" He hugged the girls, beckoning with "Come here, gorgeous." He'd remark to other adults about the girls' developing bodies and predict who'd get pregnant first.
I'd like to remind the literally tens of readers I get per month that these were elementary school kids fer chrissakes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

North Korea: A quiet neighborhood.

I've been doing a lot of spying on North Korea via Google Earth the last few days. It was interesting to discover obvious military installations, especially submarines docked at various ports around the country. However, what was more interesting was what wasn't obvious. There were areas that were 'tagged' as being concentration camps complete with guard towers and the like. While from a critical standpoint, I'm not sure if these identifications are accurate. I was able to identify what looked like some large coal mine operations.

What I did note after a while was the complete lack of traffic. Admittedly, it's difficult to judge these details when viewing satellite images, but after spending quite a bit of time comparing Pyongyang with Seoul, the very first thing that you're struck with when viewing Pyongyang is, where the hell are the cars? Even via satellite, car traffic is immediately apparent when viewing Seoul. But when scanning Pyongyang, the streets are quite literally empty. I did a quick search on Pyongyang, looking for insights into what kind of traffic they had: very little, apparently. This video is an anecdotal confirmation of my observations. Other Google Earth place markers also made comment, one marked "Roads with no one to drive on them"

My interest in North Korea has been piqued by recent events there. While I knew in general the the country was a truly old style Stalinist Regime, I'm beginning to really appreciate the extent of this. I guess I placed it on par with China. China, in my estimation is nothing like North Korea.

During my Google Earth tour, I found many city names on which I searched for information. Any information. I was stunned to find out just how little information there is on North Korean cities and towns. Some information so scant you begin to wonder if they officially exist.

This country appears to be a dark place. I can only wonder how truly desperate its people are.

As of a few minutes ago, MSNBC reports that Kim Jong Il is "sorry" for his nuclear test.

This country needs to be liberated. Communism is evil.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'd love to marry you, babe, it's just not legal!

I wonder if there will ever be a day when gay people will lament legalized gay marriage if or when it ever comes to pass. While amittedly it doesn't look good for gay couples to legally tie the knot, especially in Southern states, it's looking pretty messy in places that at least recognize so-called domestic partnerships. Like any other officially recognized institution, regulations and then shortly thereafter, lawyers get involved and then everyone has that kind of "morning after a big party" look when the legal notices start arriving in the mail. To wit:

Something like that came up in a nasty divorce filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this year involving an Oakland lesbian couple — one woman was a real-estate agent, the other an animal-control officer. Things got so contentious that the warring couple, who lived as domestic partners for less than three years, even fought over who had the right to attend a specific twelve-step meeting they both cherished.

Anyway, the real-estate agent, the couple's breadwinner who pulled in $265,000 in commissions last year, flipped when her ex demanded spousal support. In court papers, she claimed her partner had assured her before they registered that she would never come after her for money if they broke up. "So I felt betrayed by her retaining a lawyer and asserting that she was going to take half of everything I have," she wrote in a sworn declaration.

It's worth noting that the article is about a messy new law which requires that all domestic partnership file legal 'dissolution' paperwork. This, of course was done with the perfectly reasonable and always welcome progressive idea that the 'less fortunate' members of the partnerships get their fair due. However, the real mess was caused when the law was applied retroactively, leading to situations like this:
Out of the blue one day in May 2005, the East Bay woman wrote to her ex saying that they'd never terminated their domestic partnership and now would have to do it in court. The Oklahoma woman had never received notice from the secretary of state. In fact, she didn't even remember they'd registered as domestic partners, court papers say.

After receiving the letter from her ex, the Oklahoma woman promptly filed for divorce to comply with the new rules. Once she did, the local woman demanded spousal support and a share of the proceeds from the sale of their million-dollar Piedmont home years earlier. The financial adviser had purchased the house using a generous bonus from her employer as a $460,000 down payment. In the end, the Oklahoma woman settled out of court and picked up her ex-girlfriend's $7,500 legal tab.
Whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another shot fired

Michael Strong weighs in over at Cato Unbound with good piece on why Democrats should get their libertarian on, not the other way around. It provides a nice contrast to the calls for libertarians to vote Democrat first, then hope for a donkey party policy shift later. Here's a snippet:

The Democratic Strategist recently printed an essay titled “Message of Misery,” on how the Democrat’s litany of economic catastrophe is not resonating with voters:
$23,700. That is the household income level at which a white person became more likely to vote for a Republican over a Democrat in congressional races in 2004.
The authors of this article point out that the reason that Democrats have been losing is not because Democrats have been framing the issues poorly (Lakoff), nor is it because voters have been deceived by Republicans into voting against their economic interests (the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” thesis). Their research shows that voters simply don’t buy the anti-capitalist doom and gloom rhetoric put out by Democrats. Their research shows that 80% of Americans think it is “still possible to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and when asked to identify the biggest threat to America’s future 61% chose “big government” compared to 27% who chose “big business.” That 61% is the foundation of a libertarian majority.
Regarding the latest from Moulitsas, I don't vote Democrat first and hope they move in my direction. Sorry, that dog don't hunt.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This libertarian is setting the conditions for a swing to the Dems

I've read all I can read, and said all I can say about the Cato Unbound forum on the Libertarian Democrat. Anyone who has read my posts (here, here and here) knows I'm very skeptical about the so-called Libertarian Democrat.

Democrats can get my vote. But my demands for any Democrat (for which I am able to vote-- and a national politician of course) are as thus:

You must take an unequivocal and unambiguous promise to overturn the Patriot Act, the torture bill and aim for a full reversal of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform laws.

Not one or two of the three, but all three. In addition, this will be seen only as a first step, further judgments will follow-- at my discretion. It is, however a simple platform that you can use as the bedrock of your campaign.

Politics being what they are, I don't expect that you'll be completely successful, but your efforts must be unambiguous, clear, and completely devoid of political compromises of convenience.

I will not accept any excuses regarding 'earmarks' or other addenda to the goal uness there are significant extenuating circumstances- to be judged by me and me alone.

You want my libertarian vote? Those are my demands. Elections are predicted to be close. Think long and hard when you merely offer more of the same.

A Bit of Advice for Wesley Snipes

Dear Mr. Snipes,

As a celebrity, you may be under the impression that you can get away with anything. I'm here to tell you, that even as a celebrity you can't. Celebrities can get away with many things the rest of us can't. As a celebrity, you can often get away with one or more of the following:
  • Beating your wife
  • Consuming large amounts of illegal substances
  • Committing assault
  • Murder-- especially if it's your wife

But the one thing that you won't get away with, Mr. Snipes, is tax evasion. If there's one thing the United States Government a-la the justice department can't abide, it's a tax cheat. It is under these circumstances that all are equal under the law.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rush A Gun...

Once in a while, I read a story that just warms my heart. This story is one:

Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth, Texas, school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they've got -- books, pencils, legs and arms.

"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
I've long held that the concept of allowing the criminal to continue his course of action until law-enforcement arrives is utter B.S., and I strongly believe that this is the correct approach. I've certainly thought(especially after 9/11) that assuming if you comply utterly with an attacker's demand you won't get hurt is bunk.
The fight-back training parallels the change in thinking that has occurred since September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93 made it clear that the usual advice during a hijacking -- Don't try to be a hero, and no one will get hurt -- no longer holds.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Safety Equipment Fails to Engage After Plane Explodes in Fiery Blast

I'm no expert on aviation safety systems but I find this statement interesting:

The Cirrus SR20 was manufactured in 2002 and purchased earlier this year, Hersman said. The small aircraft has four seats and is equipped with a parachute designed to let it float to earth in case of a mishap. The parachute apparently did not engage after the crash.[emphasis mine]
My first question is, why would it?

Those parachutes are generally designed to deploy in the event of an airborne situation, such as engine failure during flight, or inability to control the plane. But if your plane slams into a building and explodes into a fiery ball of wreckage, what advantage would a post-crash chute deployment get anyone?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm Channeling My Inner Jack Black...

All I can say is Goddamn, this guy kicks total ass:

Progressives—a good many of them—will readily answer the call for the defense of art and artistic freedom. This, for them, is the easy call, one they have made time and again, in the face of demands of censorship. Limits on political speech are another matter and on these, liberals—Beinart included—display markedly less commitment.
[snip]
A concise rebuttal by Micky Kaus exposes the multiple problems with Beinart's argument. The question remains, however, why progressives will rise up in defense of opera or James Joyce or controversial grant-making by the National Endowment of the Arts but then rally behind pervasive limits on political speech. Why is a cancelled performance of Mozart in Berlin suddenly "the last straw?"
Progressives can’t quite shake off a preference for elegant over inelegant speech, the beautiful over the vulgar. Idomeneo causes shudders of delight, whereas there is no frisson on the viewing of a 30-second commercial. It may be unkind or too much to say of this view that it is elitist. Yet it is obvious that there is, in the difference of responses, a perceived difference of quality of speech.
A more profound difference is that of the relationship of politics to the speech at issue. Art, understood as an autonomous sphere of speech, is seen as requiring protection from politics. Expressly political speech is politics and instantly becomes fair game for manipulation as political objectives and biases dictate. Progressives are all too tolerant of speech restrictions where there is a choice of speech to be restricted and reliable political criteria for making that choice.

No One Supports Free Speech More Than The ACLU, But..

It seems that ACLU big-wigs can't just get along when it comes to pesky political speech. Here's the core tidbit:

"While I am proud of my ACLU service and continue to support the ACLU's matchless efforts to preserve the Bill of Rights, I believe the national ACLU's position on campaign finance reform is wrong on constitutional and policy grounds," stated Burt Neuborne, currently the legal director of the Brennan Center and formerly the national legal director of the ACLU. "Opponents of reform should no longer be permitted to hide behind a constitutional smokescreen."
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Dude, this article is like, so old... and these are former members." Yeah well, I was doing a little light research on the ACLU's position on the First Amendment because despite what the ACLU faithful will tell you, it's not always a slam dunk. I was inspired into this research because of a blog I've found utterly fascinating which deals primarily with campaign finance issues vis-a-vis free speech.

The blog eventually linked to an article where local Connecticut ACLU officials took issue with a campaign "issue advocacy" ad placed by the ACLU national office. This ad, according to the local office may have crossed the line regarding the ACLU's self-styled position on non-partisanship.

If you actually RTFA, any thinking person who actually supports unfettered free speech can't help but be struck by the fact that the ACLU had to be very cautious about what and how their ad was presented lest it violate CFR laws. Let me be more clear: The ACLU is acutely aware that they can't just go and say anything they want in the arena of politics. Which amendment were we talking about again?

Anyhoo, the FEC isn't particularly concerned that the ad violated CFR laws because FEC officials have a "gut feeling" that it doesn't. I know I feel better. A few officials at the FEC can determine whether your political speech stands based on a "gut feeling".

A former member of the Federal Election Commission, Scott Thomas, said the ads would not meet the standard to be considered an improper donation to a federal campaign. "My gut feeling is that that probably would not be deemed express advocacy," Mr. Thomas said. "It does seem to be done in the context of a legislative battle."

Asked about the reference to the November election, Mr. Thomas said,"Obviously, that is a veiled public threat, if you will, that does tie into the election, but I have a feeling you wouldn't get four votes at the FEC for saying that's express advocacy."
Going back to the blog that led me here, it's a must-follow blog for anyone concerned about campaign finance reform laws and their overt tramping of the Amendment that is First.

Harold Meyerson: Economic Freedom Is Nuts!

In "The Libertarian Democrat, part XVIII", Harold Meyerson weighs in with this one:

[Democrats] may be civil libertarians and to some degree social libertarians, but they’re not economic libertarians. And for good reason: Economic libertarianism has never been more preposterous.
*sigh*

Effing blinders. It's funny how a completely discredited philosophy is still hip and groovy in Meyerson's world.

In short, as the balance of forces in capitalism shifts entirely towards investors and executives and away from employees, the need for a state that takes the burden of economic and health security off employers who won’t pick it up and employees who can’t pick it up is increasingly urgent.
The good news for Meyerson is that this country will get some sort of socialized healthcare and the irony which will be missed entirely by Democrats is that the corporations will be the primary movers of such a scheme. Corporations are getting tired of providing healthcare benefits for employees when governments in other countries provide the healthcare, taking their own corporations off the hook.

Cost of healthcare is therefore, indisputably transferred back to the individual citizen through increased taxation. This, despite the fact that the poster child of Democratic nationalized systems is in deep kimchee. But this never quite sinks in.

In an increasingly competitive world where corporations in the U.S. have to compete with business in Europe where corporate welfare and subsidies[pdf link] are a way of life, U.S. businesses are getting more and more cranky and hoping for a shift away from employer provided healthcare to government provided healthcare. That way, the cost is picked up by everyone, especially wage earning employees, as opposed to the individual contracts negotiated between employer and employee.

Meyerson, despite clear and compelling evidence has made the classic Democrat blunder: Confusing corporations and big business with Capitalism. Corporations don't want economic liberty from their governments, they want economic protection from their government. And once one sees this Truth, you can see why it's only a very short step between what we have now and the ensconced public/private partnerships so evident in places like Europe. I personally guarantee that the U.S. answer to subsidized industries in Europe will not be for Europe to drop or lessen its subsidies of European industry, but for the U.S. provide its own subsidies for industries deemed "too big to fail".

And I also want to go on record by saying I'm very, very tired of Democrats whining about corporate welfare. I agree already, so stop providing it to them with your creepy schemes!

Libertarian Democrats: Bruce Reed Replies (or Retorts)

In continuing the minor kaffufle regarding Markos Moulitsas' ideas on the Libertarian Democrat, I was moved to read Bruce Reed's "reaction essay", "Governing Well is the Best Revenge". I'm pretty disappointed with what I read, and frankly, I found Markos Moulitsas highly flawed essay at least somewhat thoughtful and redeeming of at least several good points. But after getting just a short way in to Reed's piece, I kept wondering if I had been redirected to the DNC webpage, and were reading a 'Clinton in '08' campaign flyer.

Bruce Reed almost immediately confirms rumors of a government draft with this line:

These beliefs lead us to take stands that many libertarians will not agree with. For example, I believe that every American owes our country a debt of service. I believe that government is bound to fail any time it values responsibilities less than rights.
Well, how very George Orwell of him. Another word for what Mr. Reed suggests is “conscription”. Hey Bruce, try lying next time, you'd have a better shot of swinging my vote Democratic. Anyway, read the whole thing here. However, Nick Gillespie gives the old-school smackdown to the Libertarian Democrat and Bruce Reed here.

Gillespie points out that a Libertarian/Democrat date always starts on a good note, but ends on a very bad one... for the Libertarian:

It's true that there was a bracing moment during the first 15 minutes or so of Howard Dean's presidential run where he looked to be the candidate of "gays and guns," a fiscal conservative, a social liberal, and, perhaps most daringly, a forthright opponent of the Iraq war. In short, he might have been mistaken for some sort of libertarian. Yet he almost immediately started talking about "reregulating" whole swaths of the economy, even the media which had given his candidacy such a boost. And what are we to make of Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, who is one of Moulitsas's pet projects and arguably his greatest success as a Donkey Party political operative? As Reason's David Weigel has written, Lamont has at least two stances that are attractive to most libertarians: He thought the intervention by congressional Republicans into the Terri Schiavo case was objectionable and he's openly opposed to the Iraq War. Beyond that, though, is a litany of proposals that hardly sing to the "Free Minds and Free Markets" crowd: universal health care, increased federal spending on schools, and rolling back tax cuts "on the richest 1 percent."

Dog Bites Man, Price of Gas $2.53



Six month chart courtesy of Seattle Gas Prices.

Drove by the Safeway in West Seattle today and saw regular unleaded for $2.53. The prices, they are a droppin'. How low will they go?

Any time I think about gas prices, my mind always turns to people who go to great lengths to save a couple of pennies per gallon. The irony in all this is that the worse your gas mileage, and the higher the prices, the less it makes sense to drive any distances to save a few pennies.

Unless the savings per gallon is significant it may be costing you money to drive any distance to root out the cheapest gas. If you have a 20 gallon tank and you fill up all 20 gallons, a six cent price differential will net you $1.20 savings. Assuming you won't always have an absolutely empty tank, that savings drops per gallon already in the tank. Given the meager savings, the station sporting the .6 per gallon savings had better be very, very close.

My vehicle (an SUV) is only averaging about 15-18 miles per gallon. If I have to drive more than a couple of miles out of my way (doubling that in a round trip situation) I can quickly eat up $1.20 in savings at the current price of gas.

For instance, I usually grab a bite (purchase lunch) during my day at work. Some days when I'm trying to save money, I'll take my lunch. But if I forget my lunch and decide to drive home to eat it, the round trip from work to the house will cost me approximately $5 at the current price of gas considering my current gas mileage.

It's funny how people perceive the cost of things-- especially gas prices. It seems to me that most people don't think long and hard about the cost of trying to save a very small amount of money.

Conversely, the only time it makes sense to seek out a few pennies difference in gas prices is when you get very, very good mileage on your vehicle. If you drive a total of 6 miles out of your way, and you're getting 35 miles per gallon, then very little gas will be used to cover that six miles. At the current price of gas (stated above), if I drive 6 miles out of my way, I spend .92 cents getting to the cheaper station. Assuming a .6 differential, I'll save a total of .28 cents.

Basically, using very round numbers and assuming the current price of gas, it costs me about .15+ cents per mile to drive, period. That does not take any wear and tear, insurance or any other things that are usually factored into 'cost per mile'.

So you guys with big pickups, and poor mileage, fill up down the street, even if it's .10 higher than the station across town.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Government Hospital Calls 911 for Help

If you're dying, drive past the VA hospital in Spokane.

A Spokane veteran of three wars died after collapsing in the parking lot of a veterans hospital where staffers called 911 instead of helping the man.
"This man who fought three wars was dying in front of the VA Hospital, and no one inside would help," said the Rev. Eugene Singleton, who drove Fuller. "I thought a professional person, no matter who you are, who has taken an oath to save lives, would help."

I'm sorry, but I don't fully buy the excuses. It's a hospital, it should be able to handle heart attacks. No, they may not be able to handle amputees or gunshots, but any hospital should have the ability to stablize a victim, and then send him on.

"Calling the fire department was quicker than getting equipment and bringing it back out or finding someone who could offer the medical assistance," he said.

Well, yes, in the case of the VA hospital, calling the fire department probably was the best course of action.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things Are Back on Track

Now that we've prevailed with cooler heads and passed the torture bill our government can finally get on with the pressing task of scrutinizing its own citizens. I feel that it may be time to start re-doubling our efforts to pass meaningful and sensible gun control. After all, it's the next logical step, isn't it?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terrorist, extremist Pope be hanged!

Or so say Muslims who are annoyed at the assertion that the spread of Islam might occur under less than peaceful means. A good deconstruction of Peaceful Islam can be found here. A choice section:

In Mogadishu, not to be outdone, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, a leader of the Islamic Courts Union which recently seized power in what was the capital of the former Somali state, told worshippers at Friday prayers that "whoever offends our Prophet Muhammad should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim." Members of his congregation, not having ready access to the pontiff, did what they evidently regarded as the next best thing: they hunted down and killed a 66-year-old Italian nun, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who had devoted her life to training nurses at a children's hospital in this wretched city.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So Kos is a Libertarian Democrat, Is He?

Kos wrote an essay which I initially saw pointed out on Reasons H&R. Initially, I hadn't read the entire thing and was taken to task for pre-judging what I didn't know. Now I've read it, and I see his whole essay deserves a complete and utter smackdown, old school libertarian style.

The most obvious thing I can point out is that he refutes his own argument while trying to make it:


As hekebolos further noted, defense contractors now have greater say in what weapons systems get built (via their lobbyists, blackmailing elected officials by claiming that jobs will be lost in their states and districts if weapons system X gets axed). The energy industry dominates the executive branch and has reaped record windfall profits. Our public debt is now held increasingly by private hedge funds.


Exactly, corporations have this ever increasing power with the direct help and support of government. When a corporation only has the simple tool which attempts to appeal to the self interest of potential customers, the above can't happen. But, as P.J. O'Rourke once brilliantly noted, when politicians control buying and selling, politicians are the first thing to be bought and sold.

More precisely, when government creates and controls the onerous and heavily regulated environment for business to navigate, the first target of corporate largesse becomes the branches of government. One of the greatest blunders of his article is this:


In the non-virtual sphere, cities use eminent domain to strip property owners of their rights on behalf of private developers.


Damn those private developers! Except once again, it's not the private developer I fear, it's the government which has the vested power to strip property rights. The corporation and profit is the motive, government the tool, increased tax revenue the excuse.

Safeway may be eyeing my property for an expansion, but without the runaway powers of government eminent domain, Safeway has no other option to gain my property beyond that of appealing to my self-interest. When a private developer yearns for my property, it's not the developer I fear, it's the institution with legislative and police powers that I fear. I wonder who that might be? Hmmm?

One of the biggest jokes regarding the above mention of Eminent Domain was that it was his own website which trumpeted success over the infamous Kelo decision where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the wanton abuse of Eminent Domain and property was subsequently handed over to... wait for it... private developers. Kos fans were delighted with the decision, even though it might *gasp* benefit WalMart:


Still, I'd have bet on it going the other way, given the way the Court has been ruling on takings in recent years. And while I hate the very idea of doing anything to improve Mall*Wart's position, I hate the idea of the conservatives' position on takings getting enshrined in our law any more than it already is.


The state must have the ability to take land for public goods (though I would be more inclined to say that such takings could only be used for construction of roads, parks, hospitals, and other public facilities, and not just for "economic development"). If they can afford to, let them buy the property outright. But if the owners won't sell, then they must be subject to eminent domain, always assuming they are given fair compensation for the property they lose.

Hooray for the Libertarian "Kos" Democrat! Let them work it out on their own, but if they can't, bring in da cavalry boys! The owners won't sell! Well, isn't that nice to know. You're free to work out your own deal, but if the deal's not sweet enough for the current owner, then fuck you, hand it over. After all, we're Democrats, and we're always for the little guy. If this is Kos' Libertarian Democrat, who needs Republicans to attack our freedoms?

I also believe that the term 'corporation' is often too broadly used. A corporation might consist of three people working in a garage, trying to scratch out a living on some idea in its infancy. Most never survive the first couple of years. Are these the people I fear? Are these the people that Kos and his fans fear? Hardly. They fear the biggest corporations-- the ones which have the pockets deep enough to affect and influence a willing and receptive government.

This is certainly no reason to love or defend those corporations who so cavalierly use government for their ends. However, it is only with a willing and receptive government that their ethical deficiencies can result in damage to the liberties and freedoms about which Markos writes.

A corporation, working on its own can not damage my liberties and freedoms, period. It can only do so when enjoined in the great institution revered by so many Democrats, and reviled by so many libertarians: A public/private partnership.

Markos eventually takes a complete about-face, and attacks the justice department for going after a corporation that receives much anti-corporate ire: Microsoft:

In the waning years of the Clinton Administration, the Justice Department waged a massive anti-trust battle against Microsoft. At the time, Microsoft seemed unstoppable, a monopolistic behemoth who would either swallow or crush anyone that posed even the most minute threat to its business. I cheered the Justice Department on, thinking its efforts would be the only thing to dent the prospects of a Microsoft-dominated world. I was despondent when Microsoft emerged victorious. Innovation seemed dead. But I was dead wrong.

Glad to hear the admission. Which in turn means that I was dead right. Being a Democrat, Markos is preturnaturally disposed to cheer on any ham-fisted government intrusion into a corporation- especially a successful one. Guess what, I'm the libertarian here, so if 'Kos' is joining my club, I'm going to have to lay down some ground rules.

I would like to first note, however that before the JD's assault, Microsoft was well known to have a hands off approach to D.C. politics. They preferred doing business, not hob-nobbing with politicians. Post Justice Department? They're now very involved in Beltway politics. Microsoft learned the hard way when it comes to doing business in America. You either pay your protection money, or something bad happens to you. Do you think any of this irony has really sunk in with Markos? I fear not.

Innovation always seems dead to the Democrat, because they see everything in a one dimensional world where the top company will always be the top company- they're seemingly incapable of seeing (or understanding) that without government interference (or support) the top company will never remain the top company forever. It may remain on top longer than a Democrat is comfortable with, but the top company will never innovate as quickly let alone even see where the next revolution will come from. A Democrat never seems to be able to conceive of change, and then when they do perceive it, they're predisposed to fight it. If it moves, tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it, if it stops moving, subsidize it.

It's been said by a number of savvy observers that the biggest companies will hire people to tell them what the 'next big thing' is, and these same companies almost never believe or listen to those people. It's funny how libertarians knew that the justice department's efforts were not only a waste of time, but an incredibly dangerous application of force. At the behest of several other big companies, the justice department went after Microsoft, showing that as your success rises, so does your chance of an attack from the zillion-pound hammer of government. So the message is: Be successful, but not too successful. However, I must note that the good news for the biggest companies is that if your success begins to wane, Uncle Sam will be just as likely to prop you up through corporate welfare, especially once you've reached the "too big to fail" category. A concept which often counts on the direct support of Democrats.

Kos is absolutely flat wrong about a number of other things.

There is also no individual freedom if corporations arenÂ’t forced to provide the kind of accountability necessary to ensure we make proper purchasing or investment decisions. For example, public corporations are regulated to ensure that investors have accurate data upon which to base their trading decisions. If investors canÂ’t trust the information given by corporations, the stock markets couldnÂ’t function. If the stock markets couldnÂ’t function, our current market system would collapse.
One minor point of economics that's been lost on Kos is that the stock markets are not the economy. Most libertarians don't have trouble with rules and laws which prevent fraud. Again, I might only find issues with the details of Kos' message. But he's taken the oft misunderstood notion that the stock markets are the economy and somehow vaguely suggests that more government involvement is good. What are the limits of that involvement? He doesn't really say.

Now, none of this is to suggest a defense (even partial ) of the GOP. Certainly not the current GOP. Markos notes early in his article that "Libertarians, while not exactly perfect allies of the GOP, were likely to get more of what they sought by making common cause with conservatives than liberals." I would say that this statement is largely correct. The primary reason for this lack of connection with liberals is that Democrats have refused to even pay lip service to smaller government where at least a libertarian could get the occasional Republican to sing the tune.

Alas, those days are over, and I think I can rightly agree with his larger point that Republicans have waged a war on freedom. Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats have, in their own unique ways waged wars on freedom, usually coinciding with a respective majority status. I'm not sure if 'Kos' is really trying to convince real libertarians to crossover to the Democrat camp. Given the fact that there are a lot of close races around the country as the Repubican support begins to erode, it's possible that Democrats see an opportunity in a new constituency.

What seems to be lost on "Kos" is that the problem is government power. The American people have repeatedly handed over a blank cheque of power to our leaders, hoping that they'll use it wisely and ethically. Basically, it'll all be ok as long as "our guy" is at the controls. Well surprise! "Your man" will not always be in control-- it's kind of a quirk of this here democracy. But luckily, Democrats have made big inroads into fixing that as well. Campaign finance reform is possibly one of the most onerous assaults on free speech. A system of 'reforms', largely led and supported by Democrats and progressives, it flys directly in the face of the first amendment, making a mockery of "congress shall make no law..." Guess what? Democratic congressmen "made a law" and it was signed by George W. Bush. A real bipartisan effort! Thanks!

Democrats have historically claimed ownership on first amendment protection issues. However, they seemed to be only indignant about protecting 'artistic' or 'entertainment based' speech being attacked by right-wing moralists. All fair and good. But then they go and directly tear down what is arguably the most important speech of all: political speech. So cool, I can now go watch a 2 Live Crew concert without fear of censors getting in the way, but I can't say anything about a political candidate within sixty days of a general election. What kind of shit is that, Democrats? As many critics have rightly noted, it all really comes down to protecting speech with which they agree.

Democrats rightly complain about GOP intrusions into the bedrooms or areas of sexual morality. Great, then stay the hell out my kitchen, my healthcare, my supermarket, my favorite fast-food joints, my choices of video games, television or fifteen dozen other areas which Democrats feel the need to address.

Finally, a few words of advice: You want my vote? Start talking about cutting budgets, cutting government, slowing down regulation, stopping real corporate welfare, come out against eminent domain transfers to private entities, cut spending, get out of my kitchen, simplify the tax code, slow down on the public/private partnership abberations, filibuster terrorism legislation such as the Patriot Act and repeal campaign finance reform. When I see real progress on these issues, then we'll talk. Until then, bugger off.

An Open Letter to Mark Foley

Dear mr. foley,

Being drunk doesn't make people send lurid text messages to sixteen year old boys. Being drunk makes it easier to send lurid text messages to sixteen year old boys.

Maf54 (7:39:32 PM): you need a massage
.
Xxxxxxxxx
(7:41:57 PM): ugh tomorrow i have the first day of lacrosse
practice
Maf54 (7:42:27 PM): love to watch that
Maf54 (7:42:33 PM): those great
legs running
Xxxxxxxxx (7:42:38 PM): haha.they arent great
.
Maf54
(7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend
Xxxxxxxxx
(7:46:38 PM): lol no
Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:40 PM): im single right now
Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:57 PM): my last gf and i broke up a few weeks agi
Maf54
(7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny
Xxxxxxxxx (7:47:29 PM): lol.a bit
Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself
Xxxxxxxxx
(7:48:04 PM): no
Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:16 PM): been too tired and too busy
Maf54 (7:48:33 PM): wow.
Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha

Friday, September 29, 2006

Alaska Villages to Chavez: Bugger off

Looks like Alaskan tribes are telling Chavez to bugger off (in a polite way):

An offer of free heating oil from a critic of President Bush will be rejected by four remote Alaska villages.

Leaders of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said Thursday that they will not accept oil for residents of Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George offered by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez out of loyalty to Bush and the country.

Chavez last week called President Bush "a devil" and made other inflammatory comments about the United States.

"Despite the critical need for fuel in our region, the Unangan (Aleut) people are Americans first, and we cannot support the political agenda attached to this donation," leaders of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said in a prepared statement Thursday.

Some People are Straight Up Crazy

This is an interesting statement:
Today if you mention raw milk, many people gasp and utter ridiculous statements like, You can die from drinking raw milk!" But the truth is that there are far more risks from drinking pasteurized milk than unpasteurized milk. Raw milk naturally contains healthy bacteria that inhibit the growth of undesirable and dangerous organisms. Without these friendly bacteria, pasteurized milk is more susceptible to contamination.
Especially after considering this:

A 5-year-old boy from Issaquah was still hospitalized with [E-Coli] Thursday, while an 8-year-old girl from Snohomish County was recovering at home, said state health officials and a spokeswoman for a store that sold the milk.
The unpasteurized milk came from Grace Harbor Farms, a small dairy in Custer, north of Bellingham. It is sold by PCC Natural Markets and Whole Food Markets.[emphasis mine]

May I remind people that the reason we pasteurize milk is so that people don't die from easily preventable microbial infections like, oh, E-Coli. I've about had it with the natural foods/organic crackpots invading my store shelves. Stop. Please, please stop.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Get The Money Out Of Politics...Until I Win

Maria Cantwell, the campaign finance reform supporting Senator who ran on a promise to get the money out of politics turns out to be one of Washington's most prolific fundraisers.  Here's a snippet from the Seattle Times story (for which Cantwell refused an interview):

A vice president for RealNetworks worth about $35 million, Cantwell vowed to spend more time with voters than with big-time donors, rejecting political-action-committee (PAC) contributions and the Potomac cocktail-party circuit.

Now seeking re-election, Cantwell retains her no-PAC pledge, but instead of remaining aloof from the hunt for campaign dollars, she has become one of the most prodigious fundraisers in the U.S. Senate.

The story also alludes to the mostly forgotten fact that Cantwell, who first ran on her personal fortune, ran into debt troubles when the tech market tanked in the late nineties, leaving her $1 million in debt.  Immediately after her election, Sen. Hillary Clinton held a fundraiser for her inviting the D.C. elite:

Politicians and donors sipped white wine and nibbled hors d'oeuvres under a white tent in the backyard of Senator Hillary Clinton's mansion just off Embassy Row. They listened to good words spoken about a new colleague from across the country.

Ain't it funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Gas, Why So Crazy?

A gas giveaway at a downtown [Seattle] Shell station was shut down during Tuesday's commute because police said traffic was gridlocked and motorists became angry.

Cars trying to get to the gas station at Denny Way and Queen Anne Avenue North stretched to Mercer Avenue at least a half-hour before the giveaway started at 4 p.m., said Seattle police spokesman Rich Pruitt.

Here we go again.  People go nuts over some free gas.  Let's pretend that I was to go to this gas giveaway shindig and my gas tank was absolutely 100% bone dry-- I have to have four friends push my car to the gala event.  At the current average price of gas in Seattle, about $2.64 per gallon, that would be $42.24 worth of gas.  Now, $42 bucks is nothing to sneeze at, but I'm not sure it warrants the absolutely bonkers reaction that these P.R. stunts always elicit.  That figure of $42 drops for each gallon of gas I would have in my tanks when I hit the station.  If Nordstrom's did a $50 pants giveaway, would people react the same way?

Willie Wonka's Dad Worked for CSPI

I was watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night and it occurred to me that Willie Wonka's father (Dr. Wonka) was the founder of Center for "Science" in the "Public Interest".  Dr. Wonka, a renouned dentist has young Willie strapped in headgear that was scarier than his halloween costume.  After returning from trick-or-treating, Dr. Wonka (played by a dark and intimidating Christopher Lee) inspects the candy and derides lollipops as "Cavities on a stick".  The he proceeds to tell young Willie that he read an article where some kids are allergic to chocolate.  Willie muses outloud that he might not be, to which Dr. Wonka replies, "Why take the chance?!!" and chucks the whole lot into the fire.
 
 

There May Be Hope For Me Yet

For those of us who were curmudgeons before our time, take heart:
Are you a forty-something grouch who's first to shout invectives in a slow-moving checkout lane? A youngster who mocks your dad's counsel? A graduate student known for driving your professor crazy with sardonic verbiage?

Take hope: Today, you might be dismissed as a smart-aleck. In your old age, you might be viewed as smarter than average.

Or so says a study by a professor at Morgan State in Baltimore.

New York New York, What a Dumb-Ass Town

NYC, not shy about regulating absolutely every aspect of life and behavior is now scratching chins over the possibility of a ban on partially hydrogenated oil. Yes, that's right trans fatty acids.

Three years after the city banned smoking in restaurants, health officials are talking about prohibiting something they say is almost as bad: artificial trans fatty acids.

The city health department unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would bar cooks at any of the city's 24,600 food service establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.

To think that a government can now ban food items on this level suggests that something has gone very haywire in the minds of public officials. We have created so-called public health departments with hyper-active busybodies who have nothing better to do than to scrutinize food, ingredient by ingredient and regulate our lives into the grave. These idiots and despots must be run out of office as they are completely unaccountable and untouchable by the electorate.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Economy Good

The City of Seattle plans to increase spending about 10%.

Religious Leaders: Police Evidence Must Pass Our Litmus Test Before You Arrest

Over at Nobody's Business, Bakel details a deal where religious leaders are allowed to pre-judge evidence and even the arrest of members of the clergy. I would normally link directly to the U.K. Times story, but I like Bakel's take (and presentation). I strongly suggest you read it.

Here's a teaser of Bakel's commentary:

Think about it. The lay panel members, who do not necessarily even possess a law degree, get to pre-judge the soundness of the evidence as if they were warrant-issuing magistrates. They may call off arrests if they consider the evidence unconvincing, or if police action is likely to displease British Catholics.

The Real Impossible Dream: Smaller Government

Over at Cato, Neal McCluskey writes about the Fordham Foundation's new plan to increase federal control over the schools. The new plan, dubbed "To Dream The Impossible Dream" is being put into place because the current federal controls are broken, and so more controls are needed.

Trust not when government is on a united front:

Thursday, their idea got two huge endorsements. In a Washington Post op-ed, former U.S. secretaries of education William J. Bennett and Rod Paige seconded Fordham's call for national standards and tests, paradoxically arguing, like Fordham, that because current federal policy is broken, we need much more federal control.