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.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Without Stoplights, We'd Never Slow Down

Why did the Seattle Times choose to quote this line from a bystander:

A nearby resident, Bob Bruck, said drivers regularly speed along Alki , despite the 30 mph speed limit.

"There are no stop signs or stop lights for maybe four miles, so there's nothing to slow a car down," he said.

This quote refers to a recent "tragedy" in which six teenagers, driving too fast and probably drunk went "soaring" over a seawall near the bend on Harbor Avenue at the north end of Alki Beach. Two were killed 'instantly' while the others are in varying stages of recovery.

But going back to the quote, this has to be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. I know that journalists are preternaturally desposed to find institutional fault with every accident where some dumb-ass kills himself or others. But the suggestion that drivers on a two lane, beachfront road not unlike those you'll find in San Diego or L.A., will simply accelerate indefinitely until a stop light slows them down is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. There are no stop lights on the freeway, and by the end of our trips, we're not all doing 140+ miles per hour, or whatever speed our vehicles will take us.

The reason people speed on Alki is it's a cruising draw for the young people, and as such, alcohol is often being consumed, and speeding and engine revving takes place to draw attention of the ladies. The kids on motorcycles are notorious for this activity.

It's Time to Get Medieval: When no plan is the plan.

So now this crack-pot third option of the 'don't build it, and they'll come' system where the Seattle Viaduct is torn down and replaced with...wait for it... NOTHING except some cosmetic enhancements to the surface street grid has now supposedly shot into (distant) second place billing. As of this morning, many punidts are putting the ixnay on the viaduct rebuild option suggesting that the city council resolution pretty much just leaves the tunnel option. By virtue of the fact that only a complete git would think the tunnel option is feasible, this leaves the door open to crackpot ventures such as what's being offered by The People's Waterfront Coalition, or PWC.

Their plan to move over 110,000 cars a day is summed up as thus:

o We don't need a highway
o We can't afford a megaproject
o Elliot Bay needs our help
o See what we could have instead of concrete.

Allow me to retort. Listening to a radio program in which a spokesperson for this idea spelled out their ideas was so fantastically ignorant of larger issues, that it was painful sit idly by while she spoke. One of the primary disastrous lines of thinking with every one involved is one that is completely Seattle-centric: Everyone driving around Seattle lives in and is destined for... Seattle.

It comes as a huge surprise to many people- reporters who live in... Seattle, city officials who live in... Seattle and the political groups gnashing teeth about this who all live in... Seattle. Who the hell are these people? The greater Seattle area contains about 2 million people. Seattle boasts about 565,000+ people. That means that the diff between 2 million and 565,000 live... elsewhere. A lot of these cars are not coming from and going to Seattle, but passing through. Which means that a high-speed thoroughfare is the only reasonable solution to moving that large number of cars. Sure, they plan to beef the whole 'surface street' debacle with 'improved' public transit. They also presume... PRESUME that some 25% of all trips would convert to public transit. Words such as 'challenge' are often used to describe how people would be driven (like lambs to the slaughter) to this improved public transit.

The fact of the matter is that there are so many things wrong with this plan, it's difficult to know where to even start. So I guess I'll start at the most obvious problems. Seattle is a city on a narrow strip of land, which divides a northern set of major suburbs with a southern set of suburbs. This strip of land is surrounded by water on two sides. There are only two major thoroughfares (freeways) which take cars at high speed (read no traffic lights or surface street congestion) between these two major areas: I5 and Highway 99. If you erase Highway 99, you eliminate one of those two major thoroughfares. Completely.

What this group seems to refuse to acknowledge is that there just might be a significant number of people who want to travel from an area south of downtown to an area generally north of downtown. What the group laughably points out is that they're removing a couple of miles of freeway with traffic moving at 60 miles per hour, and replacing it with surface streets with traffic moving at 25 miles per hour. "Big whoop" is their basic message when they point this out.

Guess what? It is a Big Whoop. A freeway usually takes people through an area at a fairly high speed, which suddenly terminates in a grid at 25 miles per hour, with traffic lights, pedestrians, buses stopping and cross-traffic will back up dramatically during peak periods, especially when the grid becomes... gridlocked. Imagine taking a the downtown section of I5 out and replacing it with surface streets. The effect of this backup will be dramatic to both northbound and southbound travelers who don't intend to stop in Seattle, but fully intend to pass through the downtown core, destined for places as far away as Magnolia, Queen Anne, or Boeing Field for those traveling southbound. This doesn't even begin to account for people traveling to places even further along the corridor, such as North Seattle, Edmonds, or in the South end, Tukwila, Burien or Des Moines.

The spokespeople for PWC repeatedly point to San Francisco's Embarcadero. They refer to "Embarcadero" so often, you're convinced they're shouting out a new dance step. First off, San Francisco and the Embarcadero are woefully poor comparisons to Seattle's viaduct situation. The Embarcadero wasn't so much a freeway as it was a long onramp to State Route 480. The Embarcadero was, quite simply a kind of landing strip, which got people into San Francisco. The Viaduct, Senator, is no Embarcadero.

The larger part of a plan like this one always contains measures to spin its failure to be comprehensive, as a feature instead of a bug. The obvious bug in the plan is that two major population centers not located downtown will become relatively disconnected from each other and as such driving between them will become a frustrating affair. This, in the eyes of the PWC is a feature, or as they refer to it a “disincentive for excessive driving”.

Imagine, if you will, living in Magnolia and wanting to take a quick trip to Tukwila to look at and possibly purchase some furniture at one of the many outlets that exist in Southcenter. According to the PWC, this would be ‘excessive driving’ and as such, you’re supposed to plant your butt into a bus, take all the transfers and exchanges that you will have to take to get that far south, make a purchase of a new endtable, hand carry it to a local bus stop in Tukwila a quarter of a mile from the furniture store… you get the idea. Then there’s this other nagging problem that some of the people traveling along the viaduct are destined for places which aren’t pedestrian friendly and are not within the control of the City of Seattle. These situations more often than not require that you have some kind of transportation waiting for you at your destination.

The fact of the matter is, it’s difficult to get around the surface grid that is Seattle. Yes, a comprehensive light rail system would do wonders. I would love there to be a rail or subway stop a block from my house, and be able to get anywhere in the central core of Seattle, quickly and easily, without having to drive. But we don’t have that comprehensive public transit system. And sorry, buses don’t count. The bus system is fantastically cranky, onerous and time consuming to take especially when going to disparate parts of town. And it’s subject to all the same traffic jams that everyone else is. So adding more buses does nothing to resolve the real issues we face.

The PWC’s plan is full of crazy harebrained schemes, which will supposedly improve flow by making it harder to get to your destination. On I5, they suddenly switch from a Seattle-centric vision to one that assumes no one wants to come here.

  • Reduce number of ramps downtown, which means less weaving

That’s correct, with fewer places and ways to get downtown, less weaving will take place, because there’ll be no way to get off I5.

  • Consider freight-only lanes or allowing freight on HOV lanes

Great, reduce the number of available lanes that exist on the already clogged I5, knowing that all the old Viaduct traffic will also now be on I5 as well, clogging it further. That’s a smashing idea: Increase traffic and reduce capacity.

  • Consider signage north and south of Seattle to send thru-traffic on I-405

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?

  • Charge tolls at peak periods to reduce rush hour demand

Read: make it more difficult to get around so people stay home in frustration.
They take this ‘frustration’ plan even further:

Reduce demand for highway-driving with denser, more walkable neighborhoods, incentives for non-car travel (better transit coordination, pedestrian and bike facilities) and aggressive trip reduction measures (peak-hour tolls, parking taxes, etc.)

I used to live in a walkable neighborhood. I miss it. No, really, I do. But I still used the freeways. Eliminating one still doesn’t make any sense. Let me give these fruitbats one piece of major advice: frustrating drivers doesn’t make them want to quit driving, it makes them want to build more freeways. Again, put in a comprehensive rail and train system, and you might attract some transit converts. But with a bus system, you’ll only annoy them to the point where they’ll want to do violence on their elected officials. Bus systems are great if you live those in-between distances from work: Too far to walk- especially in bad weather, too close to justify driving. But once you have to start making transfers- especially more than one, the bus trip gets long and it gets ugly. Public transit only converts people when they can get to their destination faster than it would have had they driven. But if it takes longer than a car trip, you’re losing riders. Add luggage, groceries, or heavy items to carry, and it’s all over but the cryin’.

One unintentionally funny statement on the PWC’s web page is that they excoriate Sound Transit for being “50% over budget to build half promised system, not yet constructed”. The Sound Transit system would be the primary thing that would be needed to augment the PWC’s surface grid/walkable neighborhood/get people out of their cars plan. Yet it’s used as an example of government inability to build projects in a cost effective and efficient manner.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Big Dig II, The Big Dig Goes to Washington

It appears that Seattle's Mayor Nickels is going to get his tunnel project at any cost. A recent report released by the state indicates that both the replacement viaduct and tunnel options are going to cost considerably more than initially thought. Anyone who follows governmental Big Projects knows that cost estimates are almost always short, often laughably so. What strikes me about this article (linked above) is not how the costs play out, but how Mayor Nickels and the city of Seattle plan to force a tunnel project down our throats by simply manufacturing administrative costs where none exist:

Seattle believes it has control over street-use and other permits needed for construction. By obstructing an elevated project, the city thinks it can drive up the cost [for viaduct replacement] another $1.6 billion, to nearly $5 billion, according to a chart issued this morning by Seattle Department of Transportation director Grace Crunican. That would put the elevated structure close to the cost of a tunnel.

One of the major controversies over the replacement project or The Big Dig II, The Big Dig Goes to Washington (A.K.A. the 'tunnel option') is that replacing the elevated roadway is much a much cheaper option. It's also less likely to go into major cost overruns. There are also a number of people that feel that the elevated roadway that exists now is one of the most spectacular urban drives in the country.

The use of permits to drive up costs seems to be the kind of thing that years ago would have gone unreported, and unsaid. Now, it's right out there on the table. This, to me seems to be an almost criminal use of governmental power to force a more expensive project down the throats of the taxpayers. To falsely cause the replacement costs by controlling red tape is something that warrants a criminal investigation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Snippets of Previous Conversations

"Whenever a Negro crosses this dead line between the white and the Negro races and lays his black hand on a white woman, he deserves to die," segregationist Sen. James Thomas Heflin (D-Ala.) said in 1930.

The history of the Democratic party is nothing to crow about. The KKK had its roots in the Democratic party. Now yes, most are and were southern Democrats but that was enough to cause NorthEasterners to join the Republican party because Democrats were seen as racist hillbillies and dirty secessionists. As time has evolved, however, Northeast Republicans are Republicans in name only and once being a group of arguably classic liberals-- they've evolved into rather predictable 'progressives'.

But as parties evolve, they change their focus, as one can see by merely looking at the modern Republican party. In a mere six or seven years they've gone from a party of so-called smaller, less intrusive government and losing all vestiges of classic liberalism they once had. Enter the era of George W. Bush, and you've got a 'government is not the enemy' brand of Republicanism.

And now, yippee! We've got two major parties walking the 'government is not the enemy' line. Let me quote the current progressive line:

Despite run-away anti-statist sentiments that have run amok in recent decades in the US, strong central government is not the enemy of freedom, or volunteerism or local autonomy. In the US federal structure, the federal government by its nature is endowed with resources and powers that state and local governments individually do not possess. For this reason, states have by constitution yielded certain powers to the federal government for the collective benefit of the union.

E pluribus unum - from many, one - is the motto of the nation proposed for the first Great Seal of the United States by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in 1776. As such, the federal government must assume responsibilities that are beyond the capability of state or local governments.

Now, there are obvious problems all over this. Enumerated powers come to mind. But screw that. Strong central government!!! But what about wire taps? Bah, we can fix that, we just got the wrong guy in charge of strong central government.

Let me now quote George W. Bush himself:

"I know the reputation of our government has been tainted by scandal and cynicism. But the American government is not the enemy of the American people. At times it is wasteful and grasping. But we must correct it, not disdain it. "

No, government may not be the enemy, but strong intrusive central government becomes the enemy because for its survival it begins to treat the people it serves as potential enemies. While George W. Bush is president, we're all potential terrorists. When the next Liberal Democrat is elected, we're all making bad choices about our health, abusing our children, watching the wrong kind of television or not playing the right video games. Both of these fools are crawling through your windows, lobbing stun grenades and shooting family pets while yelling "It's for your own good!"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Muslims Respond to Accusations of Spreading Islam By Sword

"We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose head tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (killed by) the sword."

Or so say the Muslims who will kill you if you don't convert to their religion or pay the so-called "head tax".

Ironic Link of the Day.

Blind man credited with inventing curb markers to help the blind see the road was hit while crossing a road:

GLIDE, Ore. – A blind man who invented curbside markers to help the sight impaired was struck and killed while crossing a highway, the authorities said.
Stockton developed Blind Signs, curbside markers that help blind people cross the street. Earlier this year, Roseburg completed a two-year project to install 82 of the markers at intersections throughout the city.

"He developed Blind Signs to keep stuff like this from happening, and this is a hell of a way for the point to get across," his wife, Emmy, told the (Roseburg) News-Review.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Here We Go Again.

So, here's a new twist. Something someone said has sparked outrage in the international Muslim community. It seems that it doesn't take much these days, and is likely to be repeated again and again.

I have no strong opinion about what the Pope said about the Islamic faith. I don't much listen or care about what the Pope says, nor do I much care what the Ayatollah or some random Imam says. I certainly wouldn't go rampaging through my neighborhood screaming about the mutterings of some religious leader. Makes one wonder if the Pope's 9/11 is coming.

Eh well, nothing like handling an insult with poise, maturity and dignity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Honda Discontinues Most Fuel Efficient Car

It looks like Honda is going to discontinue the Insight, its hybrid offering which sold only 320 units in the first quarter of '06. Toyota, the worlds leader in hybrid cars reportedly now makes a profit on their hybrid, the Prius. Toyota is the clear leader in hybrid technology-- something I consider to be a largely transitional technology-- where everyone else loses buckets of money on them.

Toyota arguably has the most experience with hybrid technology and overcame some interesting battery problems in the first years of research and development.

The Prius needed a large battery pack to power the car at low speeds and to store energy, but it would shut down when it became too hot or too cold. During road tests with Toyota executives, a team member had to sit in the passenger seat with a laptop and monitor the temperature of the battery so that it wouldn't burst into flames.

While Toyota reportedly makes money on each hybrid sold, I don't have any data as to whether or not they've even come close to recuperating research and development costs of over $1 billion.

There are some fascinating tidbits about Toyota's development and initial marketing strategy of the initial hybrid model. For instance, they had to figure out what market demographic would be drawn to it. Hard-core environmentalists seemed the obvious first bet, but that turned out to be spurious:

It quickly learned that extreme environmentalists weren't interested in hybrids: They were turned off by the technology and tight with a buck. And some dealers were still skeptical.

Interesting article here.

I Got Gas...

Yeah, I know, this is getting to be one of my regular features. So anyhoo... I got gas for $2.71 at one of my favorite (cheapest) stations, Safeway. According to an article in the Seattle Times some analysts believe that we may, may be in for an historic plunge in gas prices, leading back to 1990 prices:

The recent sharp drop in the global price of crude oil could mark the start of a massive sell-off that returns gasoline prices to lows not seen since the late 1990s — perhaps as low as $1.15 a gallon.
There's a certain someone I have (had) a bet with, where I suggested gas prices would eventually go back below $2 a gallon. I have since semi-officially conceded that bet for a couple of reasons.

1. Emotion: When prices kept rising, and rising, and rising, I began to think that maybe, they just might not go back down.

2. Reason: The state of Washington has enacted about a .9 cent a gallon gas-tax increase, and as such, if prices didn't go enough below $2, market be damned, the price at the pump would remain above $2.

While I still concede the bet (and once conceded, I can't unconcede, can I?), when watching the recent and rapid dip in prices, I'm heartened that we might get a significant price drop, bet be damned.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Initial Reports Are Always Wrong

Or at least they are most of the time. CNN reported yesterday that three or four people were dead in the Montreal college shooting. I read this morning (including the link I made yesterday) that only one person is dead. Fascinating.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shooting Rampage In Canada

A shooting at a college in Montreal has left at least four people dead and another thirteen wounded. Motives unknown, but one assailant was wearing a "black trenchcoat" and sporting a mohawk.

The gunman, who was wearing a black trench coat and had a mohawk, fired a shot and "everybody just ran inside," he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Housing Prices, Gas Prices

While driving to work today and listening to a story about the air coming out of the so-called 'housing bubble', I saw gas for $2.73 at Safeway, marking another .4 cent drop in two days. Air escaping all over the place, I guess.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Liberals Even I Can Love

Reason's Kerry Howly points out that British Columbia's Liberal party has decided to cancel the fall session. The fall session is apparently "optional" and the Liberal party believes that there's nothing pressing to debate. This is the kind of story that makes a libertarians heart go pitter patter, even more than the 1995 government shutdown during the Clinton presidency. What's great about the B.C. sitch is that it's not shutting down over a disagreement, it's a legislature that is literally convinced that there is no new needed legislation.

"I haven't heard anybody thus far who has said I'm offended you decided not to impose more laws," Mr. De Jong said.

Wow, maybe I've been too hard on Canadians all these years. If he hasn't heard a single complaint, it's possible Canadians don't have the government they deserve. Maybe they're finally getting it with the Liberal party, however.

What's interesting, is no matter how rosy the libertarian picture is, someone is always waiting in the wings to ruin the party:

"Unfortunately, the legislature in B.C. has not been as relevant as it could be and it should be in the lives of British Columbians," said Mr. Mitchell, a vice-president at the University of Ottawa. "The legislature exists to keep the government accountable and if it's only in session for a few months a year, it's hard to make them accountable."

So there ya have it. No "keep your laws of my body" sentiments from the veep at the U of O. Oh, speaking for myself, if accountability goes part-in-parcel with being "in my life", I'd prefer an unaccountable government.

Microsoft Goes All Apple On Us

Microsoft has been issuing guidelines on computer hardware styling to manufacturers for its upcoming rollout of Vista. Microsoft gets regularly accused of being an over-controlling behemoth in its industry, some of it well deserved. However, Apple is often under-criticized (in my opinion) about being an even bigger control freak. But with only a tiny percentage of the market, it's possible that no one cares. I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that Microsoft is learning (or as Steve Jobs would complain, copying) from Apple again:

"Apple Computer has shown that if you control the software and you control the hardware, you can make the two fit harmoniously into a beautiful, elegant package," said Don Norman, a former Apple executive who now consults with Microsoft

For those of us a little more intimately tied to the computer bidness than the average person, Apple is well regarded as being an uber-gatekeeper of everything that touches or even comes near an Apple system. Apple has been in scraps with people who 'discovered' a way to put tunes sold from other servies on the iPod, something Apple fiercely covets.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Gun Control Liars

The Seattle Times posted another tired editorial from the Gun Control Lobby. Allow me to retort.

What is it, exactly, that possesses the Gun Control Lobby to falsify or blatantly lie about statistics? Does gun control advocacy naturally draw liars, or at minimum, people who are predisposed to inflate, or manufacture numbers out of thin air? In Washington Ceasefire President Ralph Fascitelli’s op-ed piece to the Seattle Times, he cites three figures, two fairly concrete, the third more vague, but all are exaggerations at minimum, and at worst, complete fabrications. Why he cites these numbers is a mystery to me, but I do have some suspicions. The Gun Control Lobby tends to be a closed feedback loop when it comes to statistical reporting. Quite simply, their organizations use each other as statistical sources. At the core of this movement, there exists what I, and many critics of this movement believe, a small group of congenital liars. Then, through dishonesty or at least sloppy research, the outer reaches of the Gun Control Lobby rely on the statistics manufactured by the core group and cause their further proliferation. I’ve even witnessed reporters, without any question or investigation—let alone clarification--repeat statistics carefully handed them by gun control activists.

Remember, reporters, if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. Why so sloppy on gun statistics? Fascitelli claims that in the state of Washington, one child per month is killed in an accidental shooting:

It's a sad fact that a gun in the home increases the chances of a completed suicide by 500 percent; almost every month in this state, a child is killed accidentally by a gun.[emphasis mine]

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using their database search tool (found at: ), between the years of 1999 and 2003, fifteen children ranging in ages from the very generous and liberal age range 0 to 20 were unintentionally killed by a firearm. Had Fascitelli’s alarming statistic been even remotely close to true, that number would have been around 120 children, or eight times the CDC figure. However, he did say “almost every month in this state, a child is killed accidentally by a gun.”. Will these be the weasel words to get out of claiming this breathtakingly inaccurate statistic? Did he use the word ‘child’ in the typical generalized and sloppy way that so many gun control activists do? Maybe ‘children’ to him are between the ages of 0 and 26- a common tactic used by the gun control lobby. I adjusted my query to include ‘children’ between the ages of 0 and 26, and the number of these ‘children’ killed by accidental shooting in the same five year period rises sharply from 15 to 25. So at this point, how he came to the figure of ‘almost one child per month’ is a complete mystery to me.

Let’s examine another couple of statistics that were mentioned in his piece. First, he claims that 50 people per month die from gun violence in this state:

In this state, almost 50 people are killed each month by gun violence.

For the year 2003, a total of 117 people were killed not just through homicide, but what the CDC calls ‘Legal Intervention’. This will include people shot by police officers in the course of duty. If Fascitelli’s facts held up, this number would be almost six times what the CDC reports. Also, he cites that some 200,000 people have been killed by firearm violence in the seven years after the Columbine tragedy. Using the same CDC website, choosing firearm homicides for the five year period between 1999 and 2003 (website only allows a five year range), I come up with 56,726. Is it possible that the two years not included since the Columbine tragedy could make up the difference between 56,726 and 200,000? You can bet not. So why and where does he get these numbers? Frankly, I’m not quite sure, and he offers no source. But I do have a possible idea where he came up with this statistic: other gun control groups. And where do the other gun control groups get this number? Easy: They redefine what constitutes ‘violence’. I caught a reporter for the Dallas Morning News repeating an equally bogus statistic when she had mentioned ‘gun violence’ numbers for a particular year. When I looked into her numbers what I found she was using were total deaths from firearms, regardless of cause. For most recent years that I’ve been able to check, more people die from firearm induced suicide than actual gun crime, or what most people would truly identify as ‘gun violence’.

Why such an all-inclusive definition of ‘violence’? Is it violence when someone hangs himself? Is it violence when someone slashes his wrists? How about when someone takes an overdose of sleeping pills? Suicide is a voluntary act where one decides to end his own life. A tragedy to be sure, but “violence”? While some methods chosen may seem grisly, or yes, by broad definition, violent in the nature of the death itself, it does not constitute a criminal “act of violence”-- an assault, let alone premeditated murder.

It’s reasonable to assume that without inflating the statistics, gun ‘violence’ would begin to pale in comparison to vehicle deaths, or many other more innocuous deaths that occur in this country, but don’t carry the emotional weight of firearm related deaths. For example, there were over 44,000 motor-vehicle related deaths in the year 2003. This, to me, seems to be the primary reason for the complete fabrications of gun violence figures.

In the spirit of honesty, one will note that “suicide” is placed as a subcategory of ‘violence-related’ on the CDC website. While I find this curious, it’s reasonable to assume that this creates a kind of easy out for misreporting or categorizing of suicide by violence. The problem with taking this idea at face value is that it creates a whole new subcategory of violence-related deaths that would also need the requisite scrutiny. For instance, ‘suffocation-related suicide violence’ (presumably people who hung themselves) resulted in 6,635 deaths for the year 2003. We can quickly see how ridiculous this broad definition of violence becomes. What next, rope control?

None of this, however, excuses the patently false numbers, let alone the statistics, which assume questionable inclusions- such as suicides and homicides. I understand this is an op-ed piece, and therefore not subject to anything in the realm of fact checking or reality. Apparently, fact checking for op-ed pieces is my job, not the job of the newspaper. However, I’ve seen these same types of statistics thrown about in ‘real’ news stories that weren’t opinion pieces, but being printed as hard fact in major newspapers. As far as I can tell, the real violence is that the truth, or at minimum, the facts are quite literally being murdered.

WTO Protests Go Hollywood

A movie starring Charleze Theron portraying the WTO protests in Seattle begins filming as early as next month. From the Seattle Times article:

Charlize Theron will play a pregnant bystander who loses her baby in Seattle's WTO riots. Susan Sarandon may take the part of a newscaster sympathetic to the protesters.

I'm not sure where they're going with the whole 'loses her baby' thing, but this movie will be interesting if for no other reason than I was there and witnessed the protests (and the rioting) first hand. Given the fact that hardly anyone was hurt, let alone seriously, the story is going to have to really draw out the human emotion angle. Given the size of the crowd and the police force present, the worst injury was a broken arm which netted the injured man $30,000. I broke my wrist and had a mild concussion and was denied medical care by my sixth grade teacher and received $0. Eh well, different times, I guess.

I must also add that I'm shocked, SHOCKED to hear that Susan Sarandon may play the part of a newscaster sympathetic to the protesters. Nothing for nothing, but Hollywood can still surprise.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Seattle Police: Defend Yourself With Firearms

Or at least that's the impression one would get after reading about the Seattle Police guild trying advertising for tips into a recent scuffle involving an off duty, non-uniformed police officer who drew his revolver and fired at his assailants, injuring one in the abdomen. This gives me hope that some members of Seattle's police force won't be so radically hip to the notion of gun control. From the statement made by the Seattle Police Guild:

"Our conclusion was that Officer Dornay was the victim of a crime and he had the right to defend himself in that attack," Satterberg said. "There is insufficient evidence at this time to identify his attackers and to describe the extent of involvement of Mr. Walker."

I have no personal position as to who was at fault in this situation. I think that probably, both parties hold some blame. Drunk people coming out of bars and restaurants, coupled with potentially hot-headed police officers who overstep their authority. The reason, in fact, that prosecutors didn't have enough evidence is that the situation basically came down to a he-said-she-said situation. The incident consists of normally law abiding people walking through a Seattle alleyway (an attorney and some of his co-workers) after an evening in a restaurant, and an off-duty police officer driving his motorcyle through said alleyway end up in a scuffle.
There's certainly no doubt that the Police Guild will defend their own, but it's an interesting statement, especially considering that police chief Gil Kerlikowske is a notorious gun control advocate. He has received honors from Washington CeaseFire for his efforts on gun control. This is the same police chief who lost his firearm when his car was stolen. Kerlikowske is also a bit of a political opportunist by tying any tragedy involving guns to the needed increase for gun control:

With orange spray paint, [Kyle Huff] wrote "now" on at least three concrete steps at homes near the party. As he approached the house, he opened fire with a pistol-grip shotgun, a weapon Kerlikowske said was designed "for hunting people." [emphasis mine]

Trapped In a Vegetative State.

An article on the BBC website reveals that scientists have found that people in a vegetative state can communicate. The story details a one Kate Bainbridge who, after falling into said state was fully aware and conscious, but unable to communicate with anyone around her. It was discovered that she was 'aware' of her surroundings after a brain scan of some type had been performed.
"Not being able to communicate was awful - I felt trapped inside my body. I had loads of questions, like 'Where am I?', 'Why am I here?', 'What has happened?'.

It may be too early to tell, but I wonder if this will have retroactive implications in the Terry Schiavo case, where certain political figures with an axe to grind might use this as a 'ray of hope' in any case where someone is in a vegetative state.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm Embarassed About My Ron Jeremy Post

Mainly because I have been informed by certain persons that this is Old News(tm). I didn't realize that the photo that CNN posted was a couple of years old. Had I realized that, I would have consulted the Oracle first (because it's just so damned obvious) and found dozens of references to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as Ron Jeremy. Damn! And to think I was fast on the draw to notice such a connection. Curse you CNN!

OMFG!!! Ron Jeremy is a Fricking Terrorist!!!

I flipped over to this afternoon, only to catch Ron Jeremy's mug staring back at me, with a story about the CIA secret prisons!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Got Gas...

For $2.87 in West Seattle. Now, I know my previous post noted gas for $2.88 in Federal Way, but the Federal Way gas station was a good .5 to .8 cents cheaper than Seattle at the time. I did a check on and found stations in Federal Way selling for $2.75. Usual disclaimers apply.

What we need now is a crisis in the Middle East. That'll get those prices going back up.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Krikey! The "Crocodile Hunter" is Dead!!!

Steve Irwin, the slightly off, but wildly popular Australian wildlife show host is dead, taking a stingray barb to the heart. Everytime I saw this guy on TV, my thought was "Matter of time for this guy..." only to have that thought diminish, year after year as he survived Grizzly Man style encounters by the dozens. I have no doubt that much media criticism will follow, some of it undoubtedly deserved.

While I found Iriwn entertaining (albeit in small amounts) I considered him plumb crazy.