Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Interesting Interview for 9/11

An interesting interview from Shep Smith's show with Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit. He discusses the root causes for terrorism, and how continued denial of those causes continues to endanger us.

Seriously, why do people continue to believe that the terrorists "hate us for our freedoms?" Yes, there is a cultural clash, but no one is suicide bombing us because we eat double cheeseburgers. Only lunatics would do something like that, and there are tens of thousands of Al Qaeda fighters, not a handful of serial killers.

The hatred stems from political and foreign policy. If you want to believe the policy is a correct one, and that the consequences of it are better than what would happen with a different policy, then you have formed a logical, valid opinion. But, to deny the link between policy and consequence, instead choosing to blame "America's Freedom" for the rise of Al Qaeda, is just naive, stupid, and very, very dangerous.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Junie B. Jones - unemployed gas station attendant

I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled Ron Paul plug to focus on my core task of crusading against stupidity.

Today's topic is Junie B. Jones. For those of you that don't know, Junie B. Jones is the main character for a wildly successful series of books by Barbara Park, aimed at kids in the 5-8 age range to read by themselves.

Junie B. is pretty much a bratty kid with bad manners, terrible grammar, and who is 5 or 6 years old, depending on the book. She writes about her adventures and misadventures in a journal she keeps, the books are generally pretty humorous, and kids seem to like them.

However, I have a serious issue with these books. Kaitlyn has now read two of them, and this most recent will be the last. The grammar in the books is beyond atrocious, and any benefit she's getting from reading is being destroyed by the learning--or at least confusion over--the bad English.

Here's an example:

"He clapped his loud hands together... All of us got relief on our faces. And we hurried to the auditorium as fast as we could go. And we quick put on our costumes... I tapped Sheldon very giggly."
That's just part of one page... a page I opened at random just now for purposes of this blog. This page (page 74 of "Shipwrecked") has nine sentence fragments in it, and nine other grammatical errors by my count. There are a total of 16 sentences on the page, including the fragments.

You read that right: 18 errors in 16 sentences. There are two complete sentences that are error-free.

As you might expect, using these books in school has caused a bit of controversy. Some people want them banned, others think they are fine. I think both groups are full of idiots.

First, just because a book is a piece of trash is no reason to make it's use or ownership illegal. Second, to think that having kids who are just learning grammar read books that contain almost no grammatically correct sentences is plain dumb.

From what I've read online, the controversy has been boiled down to some debate between teaching phonics and teaching "whole language." This is also complete garbage.

"Whole language," as we've been exposed to it, has consisted of letting Kaitlyn write stories and such without over-correcting spelling and grammar. This clearly makes sense: why spend 10 minutes trying to spell a word when it's the process of converting thoughts into text that the real skill you want to teach, and where the real learning takes place.

So that's fine. HOWEVER - that does not mean that you should expose the kid to all kinds of bad grammar which they will then, in turn, copy. Every person reading this blog knows someone that can't write worth a crap, because when they do, it's all grammatical garbage. You don't have to wonder why, because the person who has the bad grammar when they write, it the same person that has the bad grammar when they speak.

People write like they talk. People speak like what they hear (other people, TV, radio, music), and what they read. If your parents use incorrect grammar, chances are you do to.

Saying that kids shouldn't be overexposed to this kind of incorrect English is to advocate phonics vs. whole language is also dumb. Phonics has nothing to do with it. First, for the reasons I just listed, and second, because no one really reads using phonics anyway--you only sound out new words using phonics until you memorize the word. You want proof?

Engilsh is a pretty scrweed up langauge.

I'm sure you had no trouble reading that, despite the fact that most of it is grossly misspelled. That's because it's been proven that people only really look at the beginning and ending of a word, and scan the middle for the correct letters. If the letters in the middle are ok, even in the wrong order, and the word starts and ends correctly, then people will read it as though it were spelled correctly, often without even noticing.

So my problem with Junie B. Jones is not her desire to teach using whole language, or that I secretly have a love affair with Hooked on Phonics. My problem is that you learn proper grammar by being exposed to proper grammar, and you will emulate the language structure of your environment.

For all the millions of books out there kids could read, there is absolutely no reason for these books to be read, unless of course they were being used to discuss bad grammar.

If the books only used the bad grammar in the journal parts (where Junie B is writing herself), then I think it would be fine. The kid reading the book could easily compare that to the rest of the correct grammar used in the story. Unfortunately, the grammar is deliberately destroyed throughout, and gives no point of reference to the 6 year old kid who's trying to decipher it.

Junie B. Jones is well on her way to becoming an unemployed gas station attendant who is begging for a shot to appear on the Jerry Springer show. More power to her, but that's not who I want my kids emulating.

Hasta la vista, Junie. I hoping that you'll get a very goodly life when you do.

PS - if my English is incorrect, I blame the fact that I just had to read a whole chapter of this claptrap to Kaitlyn. The last sentence is supposed to be messed up, as, of coursely, you could most plain to tell.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hurray for me! I have a patent!

Just found out that on August 14th of this year, the US Patent office finally granted out patent that encompassed the anti-spam technology we invented quite some time ago now.

And so goes the efficiency of the US Patent & Trademark office.

We applied for the patent in 2003. The company we owned at the time was acquired in 2004. Now, some 3-and-a-half-years after that acquisition, the patent is finally granted, long after the rights to the patent were assigned to someone else.

By comparison, the company that it was invented under only existed for 2 years.

LOL

But hey, I can say I was granted a patent. How about that.

Link to US Patent # 7,257,564

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Voice Mail Annoyances

Ok, perhaps people don't know that there are certain things you can do when leaving a voice mail. For one, you need to leave your name and number, the time you called, and most importantly... WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME?

For Gods sake, does the world really need me to spell this out for them? I just got a voice mail this morning that went like this:

"Hi. This message is for Jeff. My name is John ______, with Chase Bank on County Line Road. I'm a banker here. You can reach me at 555-1212. Again, my name is John _____, and you can reach me at 555-1212. "

Are you kidding me?

First of all, you clearly know that I have no idea who you are, otherwise you wouldn't explain who you were, twice, and what you do (and thanks for telling me that you are a "banker"... I wouldn't have guessed that seeing as you WORK AT THE BANK).

Secondly, not once in your minute long voice mail did you bother to tell me why you were calling, why I should call you back, and why I should care who you are. Seriously, do I not have better things to do than have a casual chat with John, the fancy-pants "banker" from the Chase branch down the road?

Has someone robbed the bank? Am I a suspect? Does he need someone to fix his computer? Does he want a Ron Paul bumper sticker?

For all I know, maybe this is something important, but if so, PLEASE TELL ME WHEN YOU CALL.

How annoying.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Physics Teacher Begs for His Subject Back

I really, really, really hope that this isn't how physics is being taught in U.S. high schools. Holy smokes...



read more | digg story

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Airport Philosophy

If you’re like me, traveling alone gives your brain all kinds of time to think about the most random things. Normally, this gives me the chance to ramble on about whatever the political topic of the day is and post it to my blog.

But I already did a bit of that this morning, and I make no promises either way as to whether or not I post about something else after the next leg of my journey. But for now, I’ll take a break from politi-speak to opine on a few other things, and give you a glimpse into the chaotic mess that is my brain.

(1) Why is it that, when connecting through an airport, you never really feel like you are in the city you’re actually in? Sometimes, you can be there for hours, and in my case, I’m in Minneapolis for the next hour and a half.

The thing is, there is really no mistaking the fact that I am in Minnesota, unless someone has hijacked this city and replaced it’s citizens with an army of people that sound unmistakenly like native Minnesotans.

(Apparently “unmistakenly” is not a word according to my spellcheck. I henceforth declare it to be one. It also says "spellcheck" is not a word. A self-hating spelling checker?)

(2) Why do they use so much gray color at airports? I assume it’s to conceal dirt, but really it makes the entire air travel experience to be a muted version of itself. I think this adds to the “I’m not really there” aspect of connecting flights.

(3) The NWA WorldClub at terminal F in Minneapolis sucks. Normally, I’m quite amazed at how these membership-only clubs manage to make the airport terminal experience seem more like sitting in your living room (although maybe this has only to do with their use of color instead of yet more shades of gray)..

In this case, my amazement is only that someone would pay for access to such things. I think there is less noise and fewer people outside the club than in it. Normally, I can take solace in the fact that this is one of the few places I’ve found where I can enjoy a non-skunky Heineken.

How so? Well, they have free beer at the club (its only saving grace), and they have Miller Lite and Heineken on tap (and if you only have two things on tap, why NOT make them both nearly identical lagers?). So, even though I could care less about Heineken, I’ve enjoyed the fact that I can taste what it actually is supposed to taste like at the NWA Club in Minneapolis.

But not today--they’ve got a padlock on both of the taps. Maybe it’s because it’s only 10:30 local time, but I’ve been up since 5am local and I want my beer. Come on.

I’m also sitting about 3 feet from the “Free Wi-Fi” sign and I keep losing my signal.

(4) If you’ve been in the business world, I’m sure you’ve heard someone use the phrase “I’m out of pocket.” In case you haven’t heard this bit of business hyperbole, it means “you won’t be able to communicate with me during this time.” I hear it all the time, and I don’t think I’ve used it myself but if I have, I apologize.

My question is, where in the hell does this phrase come from? Out of pocket? What pocket? And does that mean you can only answer your phone when you are *in* someone’s pocket? Is it some bizarre football reference, a la the quarterback is out of the pocket?

You hear some pretty stupid phrases in business, and I assume most of them have root in something that makes sense, but I don’t any idea where this one comes from.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Never Too Late for a worthy cause

I almost forgot to mention (actually, I did, but someone reminded me) Amy's fund raiser for Never Too Late. It's like the Make-a-Wish foundation, but they focus on nursing home and hospice patients. It's a great cause. From her website:

I'm sure some of you are wondering what the chart is on the right side of the page. It is a fundraiser I'm doing for a group called Never Too Late. They grant wishes for the elderly in nursing homes, hospice patients and others in adult day care situations. This organization is so amazing that they try and grant one wish a day to someone! The wishes they grant are simple ones, but can end up making a profound difference in the outlook in an elderly person's life. It gives them something to look forward to, something to hope for, and in the end, something they can think back about in a positive way. I am currently trying to raise $1000 for them, so they can continue doing the wonderful work that they do.
So reach deep into those pocketbooks, and send a few bucks Amy's way, and help her reach her fund raising goal!

Gun control, illegal immigration, and 9-year-old clay pigeon champions

(Update: This article turns out to be false. The snopes page is here. This is why you can't trust everything you read!)

For those out there that think either (a) we need more gun control laws or (b) illegal immigration is not a problem that needs immediate corrective action, take a read of this article.

It seems that 11 year old Patricia Harrington was home alone when 2 illegal aliens broke into her house shortly after her father had left. One of these criminals (it was later found out), had broken into another home earlier, and left a 50-year-old man dead from stab wounds.

But young Miss Harrington had no plans of ending up dead (or kidnapped, or raped) this afternoon. As it turns out, Patricia has been a clay pigeon shooting champion since she was age 9. When she heard the break-in, she ran to her fathers room, and took his shotgun.

When the first "undocumented citizen" reached the top of the stair, Patricia opened fire (at slightly-below-the-waist level, as it turns out), and dropped the man from point blank range. When the second of these upstanding young men ran to the base of the stairs in response, Patricia took aim and dropped the second man with a shot to the shoulder. Both intruders died from their wounds.

Can you imagine what would have happened to this girl if owning a gun had been illegal, or if this had been one of these "gun free zones" ? What a story.

I found this article on Digg - if you like to digg, then digg the original to give credit where it's due. Link is here.

Barack Obama, Eminent Domain, and MySpace

Well this is a curious little tidbit, and one which surely should get chalked up into the Halls of Stupidity.

Apparently some Barack Obama supporter has been running a MySpace page for two years, with the profile name "barackobama". With the ongoing presidential campaign, the page has become quite popular, amassing over 160,000 (!!!) friends. Wow. Up until recently, the Obama campaign had actually been working with the owner of this site, as it fits right in with the grassroots, online effort that Obama has been utilizing all along.

As popular as the site has become, it's no huge surprise that the campaign wanted to bring it in-house, rather than leaving 160,000 supporters at the whim of one political webmaster (cha ching for my use of a "web 1.0" term - haha).

Some discussions took place, and the webmaster wanted $39,000 for the site. Despite having raised millions of dollars from Hollywood alone, apparently old Obama can't part with $39k to compensate this guy for 160,000 names and 2.5 years of work. Alright, fine... IF they don't want the site... BUT - what happens next?

In conjunction with MySpace, Obama seized control of the site!

That's right. Rather than pay the man, the Obama campaign went to a higher authority and just took it. Sure, in the "settlement" the previous owner gets to keep all the friends, but seriously, the site is surely linked from all over the internet, and most all of these people will just head right to the new Obama site and re-friend themselves. It's not like it's too hard to memorize http://www.myspace.com/barackobama, after all.

In recent history, various state and local governments have been utilizing Eminent Domain to seize private property from U.S. Citizens for purposes of economic development and raising tax revenue - a move which many people, myself included, feel is grossly unconstitutional.

I wonder where Mr. Obama stands on the issue, given that he himself has just gone to the "governing body", rather than pay a market price (and a cheap one, at that), for something created by a private party, just because he wanted it for himself?

Furthermore, why would a leading presidential candidate run the risk of alienating the very bloggers that support his campaign?

Links to check out:
News Article
New site of the webmaster

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Stupidity from Congress (shocked?)

This will be a short post, but as a crusader against stupidity, and I had to make a quick comment.

Today, legislation made it through the Senate to begin a troop pullout on October 1st from Iraq. The legislation will be vetoed by the President shortly. I'm sure you've already heard all this, but if not, here's an article.

What's so stupid? Let me just tell you (you knew I would).

Wanting to pull the troops out of Iraq is a rational and logical stance to have. It's not one I agree with, because I believe the resulting mess is sure to be worse than things are now - BUT - to say that the war is screwed up and, therefore, we should get out, is a rational position to take.

However, to say that "It's screwed up, and we should get out, not now, but in October" is patently ridiculous. Why not start getting out now if we're getting out? Do we want to leave troops there just for fun? Do we like to see soldiers get blown up in a war that we've already written off?

It's like some kind of sick, sadistic, madness. The war is either worth fighting, or it isn't. Period. I'll respect and debate a position that says we should withdraw now. But, to say we should leave out troops out there, not to win the war, but to wait until October 1st is, very simply, stupid.

Stupidity from Congress? Who would have thought.

PS - One added stupidity: This "war funding" bill has 90 billion dollars for the war, and almost $35 billion in random domestic spending, i.e., pork. A war-funding bill where a third of the money is not for the war? Stupid.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Are you threatening me?

I had to take a quick break from my series 65 studying because it's not every day to get to make references to Bevis and Butthead. Apparently there was some scuttlebutt argument this weekend between Sheryl Crow and Carl Rove over global warming.

I'm sure it was quite the scientific battle-of-wits.

Seriously, can you think of anything that would provide less usefulness to your life than witnessing an debate between these two? Lord have mercy.

Anyway, among all of the hoopla I happened to see that Ms. Crow is advocating a policy of one-square of toilet paper per sitting, in order to help the environment. Yes, that's right. Regulation of toilet paper consumption to save the planet.

"I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting."
And that's not all - she also thinks that paper napkins "represent the height of wastefulness", and had come up with, as reported by the BBC the following:

She has designed a clothing line with what she calls a "dining sleeve".

The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve" after the diner has used it to wipe his or her mouth.

Yes sir. In the Utopian world of Sheryl Crow, we'd all be walking around with skid marks in our pants and spaghetti sauce on our sleeves! That really is a sign of progress and forward thinking!

Maybe Ms. Crow thinks that paper is made by Haliburton or something. For her information, paper comes from a type of plant we commonly call "trees". These "trees" are actually something that we grow -- we call them a "renewable resource," when we're being all scientific about it. The companies that make the paper buy the trees from companies that, surprisingly enough, grow the trees so they can sell them to the companies that make paper.

This is a process we call "farming", and I'm sure Ms. Crow is all about helping the poor farmers, isn't she?

We're not running out of trees because of paper any more than we're running out of carrots or broccoli because we eat them. (Alright, because *you* eat them. I stick with meats.)

And I'm not going to carry a removable sleeve so I can wipe my mouth, or to use in a pinch when I'm over my toilet-paper-square quota for the day. Please.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui... Forgiven?

It seems that there is a sudden outpouring of forgiveness for the freak-of-nature that killed over 30 innocent people just a few days ago, according to this CBS article. Here's a quote from one of the students at Virginia Tech:

"People are talking about the senseless violence and hatred of his actions. They are senselessly hating him in return, and that is completely unfair." -- MacKenzie Swigart
Excuse me? A guy goes on a killing rampage through campus and it's "senseless" and "unfair" to hate him? What would it take to justify hatred? 300 deaths? 3,000?

Some people really do live in an alternate world I guess. It's okay to hate this guy. Really. It's fine. You don't have to forgive him. In fact, I think it's a little odd that you'd forgive someone just days later for something as heinous as this.

There's more:
"Cho Seung-Hui lived eight-thousand, four-hundred, and eighty-nine days. I and no reasonable person, or deity, could or should allow the events of one of them to discount the other eight-thousand, four-hundred, and eighty-eight," the student wrote.
Sometimes you want to reach through the computer and slap someone. Is this kid out of their mind? You know what? I *DO* discount those other 8,000 days based on this one day. I most certainly do. Does that make me a bad person?

Look, I don't know what drove this guy to do this. Maybe he had a bad reaction to some anti-depression or other psychosomatic drugs. Maybe he was the victim of some kind of pysical or extreme mental abuse that made him a lunatic. Maybe aliens abducted him. Maybe it was just good old mother nature dealing someone a fricked-up brain in the great evolutionary lottery.

Either way, he picked up the guns, he planned the assault, and he killed all those people.

It was not society. It was not government. It was not anyone else's fault but his own. Period. End of story.

I think people like to find "something else" to blame because the thought of some totally random event - like a psychopath storming a classroom and killing everyone in sight for no logical reason - makes them uncomfortable.

As well it should.

It's easy, in modern society, with all of the technology, science, and knowledge we have about the world, to forget that there are many, many things we simply can't control on a daily basis. And it's events like these that should get you to spend at least 30 seconds to try and rationalize what YOU might do if you ever found yourself in that situation. Jump out the window? Barricade the door? Charge the assailant? Stand there in a panic?

These things do really happen, and at least running through a little bit of mental preparation might help keep you out of harms way. Or it might not. I have no idea, and I hope I never have to find out how I'd react. But still, evil people do bad things to good people, every single day.

It's okay to blame them.

It's okay not to forgive them.

And if you don't blame them and hold them accountable for their actions, then you're kidding yourself, and you're doing a disservice to yourself, your friends, and your family who might need you to be the one that does something rational during a future crisis.

Just standing there, wondering how society drove this madman into your classroom, and what he did with the other years of his life, is not going to help you get your butt out that window and to safety. Compassion won't bar the door, and forgiveness won't provide a weapon so you can fight back.

And when it's all over, you don't have to "lovingly remember" the perpetrator, as Ms. Swigart advocates.

I'd consider you to be a bit crazy yourself if you did.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'll take a Big Mac, AK-47, and a side of ammo

Here is an article that explains contends that the reason for the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech is the lack of strong gun control laws in the United States.

I'm glad they cleared that up for me. Here I was, thinking the real cause was the fanatical bloodlust of this Cho Seung-Hui fellow.

His family must really be ticked off, seeing as his name is all over the news as the bad guy, when in fact, it's Charleston Heston's fault.

Perhaps that makes Mr. Cho Seung-Hui one of the "victims", given our senseless government and it's lack of gun controls.

And perhaps I am Mickey Mouse.

I mean, seriously folks: 3,000 people died on 9-11 because of a group of fanatics, armed with box cutters, wanted to kill them. Box cutters. Do you really think that this guy would have otherwise been sitting in his dorm room thinking, "Oh hey, I was going to shoot up the entire campus, but since I can't buy a gun from Wal-Mart anymore, I think I'll join the chess club instead."

Probably the most entertaining quote from this particular article comes under the caption of the first picture:

In America, "buying a machine gun is often easier than getting a driver's license."
A machine gun? Come on now. Granted, Amy points out that it's usually the trip to the DMV that *makes* you want to buy a machine gun, but I don't think that's what Der Speigel is getting at here. LOL.

In Britain, the Independent writes:
"The passionate feelings of the gun lobby may be traced to the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, enshrining 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms'. Although the provision stems from the times when 'well regulated militias' were deemed necessary to protect against a British attempt to regain the lost colonies, it is the default position of any argument against greater gun control here."
Ugh. Not that I'd expect the Independent to be fully up-to-speed on the reasons for the second amendment, but the purpose of Constutional Rights is to protect citizens from their *own government*, not from a foreign government. We don't have the freedom of speech because we were worried the King of Spain would censor our newspapers, do we? I'd think the basic mechanics of why we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution would be obvious to a journalist assigned to such political topics, but I guess that's not he case.

I'm sure that somewhere in the back offices of the Independent, there rests a dusty old dictionary like Webster's, which defines "bill of rights" as the following:
a summary of fundamental rights and privileges guaranteed to a people against violation by the state
Of course, we all know that Webster was just a ultra-right-wing militia-joining nut-job who was in cahoots with the shadow-government war cabal.

Or not.

On the other hand, all the "great" gun control laws in the U.K. aren't helping matters there. There rate of assault in this gun-free utopia is 7.5 per 1,000 residents. In the USA it's 7.6 per 1,000.

(And I certainly wouldn't want to try to, say, rob the home of the family shown in this picture I snagged from Google. Someone's getting the raw end of that deal, and I don't think it's going to be the young kiddos pictured here!)

In fairness, I will grant that the assault rate with firearms is much greater in the US than it is in the UK. Not that I'd feel much better if someone assaulted me with a chainsaw, kitchen knife, or large collection of Benny Hill tapes.

When discussing this article, my friend Scott quipped: "As if I'm going to listen to a bunch of socialist fools whose record on freedom adds up to 2,000 years of wars and serfdom."

But is that really fair? It's got to be really hard to overthrow all those kings, emperors, and warlords when all you can do is throw Benny Hill tapes at them, after all.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Don Imus may be a knucklehead, but...

... he's sure driving a lot of traffic to my blog! LOL

Special thanks to Don Imus, who drove me to make a post about him last Thursday, which resulted in 44 blog visits and my first ever appearance on Digg with a whopping 2 (or 3?) diggs. (you can see the digg count at the bottom of each post).

This got me to actually look at my stats since, at least for a short while, I've grown tremendously from my usual 6 hits a day. And I found the following statistic:

Over the last month, 34 people have visited my site after searching for "Jeff Ready" in google. Thirty-four. So now that you've found me, didn't you want to say Hi, or ask me a question, or something? Or are you just stalking me?

Ah, the mysteries of the Internet.

Don Imus Fired Because of 9/11 Conspiracy

What in the heck is this all about? Russian newspaper Pravda (of cold-war fame), ran this story today, alleging that Imus was fired not because he's a knucklehead, but because he was about to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets about 9-11.

I'm not making this up. Really. For serious.

Here's the lead paragraph:

In a clear sign of its intent to reign in dissident American media personalities, and their growing influence in American culture, US War Leaders this past week launched an unprecedented attack upon one of their most politically 'connected', and legendary, radio hosts named Don Imus after his threats to release information relating to the September 11, 2001 attacks upon that country.
The article goes on to associate Imus with our old friend Rosie, from which, I presume, we're supposed to draw the tie between Rosie's wack-job conspiracy theories, and her concern, on a separate issue, about the "thought police" going after Imus.

Maybe Pravda is reading my blog? Ha ha.

They then bring up Charlie Sheen, who is set to narrate a 9-11 conspiracy "documentary" as further evidence of some kind of cover-up. A cover-up that can (apparently) only be exposed by American pop culture media personalities.

Mmmmmm-kay.

So the only people that can save the good folks of the United States from the grasp of a shadow government war-cabal are: Rosie O'Donnell, Don Imus, and Charlie Sheen.

And that's not all! Despite offering no proof, sources, or actual hard research, the article concludes as follows:
To the American people themselves there remains no evidence that they know, much less care, about the dire state of their once Free Nation.
Right. And I'm further to believe this nonsense because, hey, it's coming straight from that bastion of "truth", Pravda, the former state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union.

Let me go on record by stating that, if the future of the United States hangs in the balance and can only be saved by a handful of comedians, and a media outlet for communist propaganda, then we're already screwed.

Do people really believe this stuff?

God help us all, Comrades.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who the F is Don Imus?

Since this is all that's been in the news for the entire week, I feel compelled to offer some commentary on this Don Imus situation. Fortunately, I've been studying for the Series 65 exam (don't ask) and it's kept me away from most of it.

First off, until this week, I've never even heard of Don Imus. I could not have picked the man out of a lineup. I could not have identified his name as someone who is on the radio (or television). I think he looks an awful lot like a homeless man. I have no idea who he is, what he thinks or acts like, or what format his radio show is. I think I had a jean jacket like that in 6th grade.

Anyway, I trust that you don't need me to give you the full scoop on what's gone on, but the real brief summary is that, on his radio show, he referred to the Rutgers women's baskball team as "nappy headed ho's" supposedly in some kind of joke context. I don't know. I didn't hear it, but supposedly this guy is some kind of Howard Stern-like character which explains (1) why I didn't hear it and (2) why he would say something as idiotic as that.

You don't need me to tell you that what he said was... well... the stupid kind of crap you just shouldn't listen to.

So there's a bunch of hoopla, he ends up on the reverend Al Sharpton's show (I didn't know he had a show either - maybe I should sign up for one of these things if they are just handing them out to anyone), and apologizes. Then he meets the basketball team and apologizes.

Alright. Whatever. I don't care.

His TV spot on MSNBC got canceled. Ok. From what I can see, MSNBC isn't exactly hitting it out of the park in the ratings department, so avoiding controversy probably isn't a bad move.

Then today, CBS cancels his radio show. I guess the guy has been on for 30 years or something (who knew?). *This* is what I find a little strange.

Now, if CBS just doesn't want to be associated with this guy, then good for them. Kick him to the curb. If they think his ratings will drop tremendously and they'll lose sponsors and revenue, then yeah, out the door you go.

But, if they are doing this because of some kind of political pressure, then, well , what the hell. The statement from CBS reads to me to be a little political in nature.

"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society," CBS President Leslie Moonves.
That, to me, seems political. Why not just tell it like it is? "Don Imus is a jackass who's fatheaded remarks will cost this network millions. We kicked his nappy-headed butt to the curb. Good riddance." ... something like that anyway.

For one thing, costing your employer is plenty of good reason to give someone the ax. Although, I doubt that he *did* cost them any money - at least not yet. If anything, more people are aware of the show and will tune in, at least for a little while. Sponsors may pull so as not to be associated with Imus, even with the larger audience, but I read nothing of the sort.

Then I'm reading about Al Sharpton and his blathering on about cleaning up the public airwaves. He says:
"It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves."
Are you serious? The beginning of what? Who needs to have this broad discussion, and with whom? Is he going to call for stations to stop playing Snoop Dogg next? I mean come on - no one is forced to listen to any radio station, and if people opt not to listen, then that person, artist, company, whatever, will go out of business. Period. God Bless Capitalism (tm).

This kind of chatter troubles me, because Al Sharpton is a political figure, and if he's advocating going through political/government channels to get some dude kicked off the air for using language that, while ignorant, is present in all kinds of music, movies, television, and otherwise, it's a disturbing attempt to quell free speech.

Imus can say what he wants, and he must live with the consequences. Free speech doesn't free him from consequences. It only frees him from *government* consequences, which, I think, is what Big Al Sharpton is advocating here.

And who is on my side? None other than Rosie, who I just made a few negative (and well deserved posts) about.
O’DONNELL: But, what’s the next step Elisabeth? If you say— the though police–you’re going to get--your job is going to be taken away if you think or say something?
But I only partly agree with her. Earlier in the exchange, Rosie seems to think that if a corporation takes action that's a violation of Imus' free speech. Unless the corporation is the government or run by the government, then no, I don't think it is. They can do what they want, and have no obligation to keep him around if they don't want to.

Anyway, that's all I have to say on that issue (at least for now). The point being, give this Imus character the can because it makes business sense, or because you just don't like the guy, or whatever. Just don't do it because of some political hogwash from someone who appears to advocate government censorship of free speech.

At least I can say I've never heard the man speak. What a knucklehead.

If only I had a demo tape to send into CBS to fill that now-vacant radio slot...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Black Eyed Alanis

So props to Hawkins for find this hilarious parody of the Black Eyed Peas "My Humps" song and video, done by Alanis Morrisette.

For reference, here is the real video:




And then here's the Alanis version



LOL. I think that's just funny.

And hey, make sure you bookmark/RSS/memorize Hawkins' site, so you don't , you know, have to wait for me to steal all his best posts.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

We have met the enemy -- and it's our bureaucracy

There's an interesting op-ed piece I stumbled onto that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle a couple weeks ago, by Newt Gingrich. Here's an excerpt:

In Afghanistan, it has taken us more than five years to complete a 300-mile stretch of road. It's no wonder that the only form of commerce blooming in Afghanistan is poppy production.

And in Iraq, it was estimated that with an infusion of U.S. dollars, we could jump start more than 150 old and new Iraqi factories, creating tens of thousands of jobs. One is a fertilizer plant north of Baghdad. It used to furnish all fertilizer for the ministry of agriculture. It has produced none since Baghdad fell. As a result, crop production has decreased 50 percent, according to the Pentagon's analysis.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rosie the Poet

On a random whim I decided to take another look at Rosie's Website this evening, and... well... hmmm. Let me put it this way: Her site reads like the myspace page of a 15 year old kid who is depressed, writing to no one, and on the verge of suicide.

Seriously.

The writing is intolerable, and not because of the content (as my site often is), but because you can't hardly stand to read the bizarre style in which she writes (and believe me, I use the word "style" in the loosest possible sense).

Here is an excerpt from just yesterday, and it's reflective of the style all over the site. Is she trying to write a series of (poorly done) Haikus, or what?

when joy and i
alluded to bill oreillys
sex scandal
on the view

we were told the following day
that we couldn’t bring it up anymore
or else bill o
would “go after” all the hosts of the view

hmmmmmmm

i saw his friday rosie spin
on you tube
where he edited my statements
to make it seem
as he wanted

like 1984
molding the facts
2 suit the needs
of big brother rupert

...

question authority
america
b4 its too late
spin spin spin

Maybe it's just me (I am the only one writing this after all), but that is plain awful.

Penn & Teller on Wal-Mart Bashers

This is an absolutely brilliant episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit, in which they expose the stupidity that is Walmart Hatred (TM).


Online Videos by Veoh.com

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I wish this were an April Fool's joke.

Amy has has to put up with my complaints for years that there is not enough history taught in school. I know I'm not alone where my experience in high school history classes consisted of a couple of decent teachers and a whole lot of sports coaches who could have cared less. Luckily, one of the best teachers I ever had at any level taught history in 7th and 8th grade and gave me the appreciation for history I have today. Thank you Mr. V.

But enough nostalgia. Amy just passed this headline along to me:

"Teachers Drop Holocaust, Crusades From History Lessons to Avoid Offending Children"

Teachers are dropping controversial subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from history lessons because they do not want to offend children from certain races or religions, a report claims.

A lack of factual knowledge among some teachers, particularly in primary schools, is also leading to “shallow” lessons on emotive and difficult subjects, according to the study by the Historical Association.

Allllllllrighty then. The reason not to teach these subjects are (1) some might find it offensive, and (2) a lack of knowledge by the teachers.

History is offensive? It's a factual account of the past, not some kind of personal attack. Bad things happened, often for very bad reasons: learn from them--THAT'S THE POINT! You don't study history because you have a fascination with memorizing dates (but don't tell that to the football coach). You study history to learn about the people, their motives, what you can learn from them, and, how it affected others, and how it affects you today.

And a "lack of knowledge among some teachers"? Of the holocaust and the crusades? We're not talking the finer points of modern computer network architecture here, or some other topic where the data changes at light speed... we're talking *history* here, people -- READ A BOOK FOR GODS SAKE!

I mean, seriously, how can this be true? What subjects are being taught instead, at the sacrifice of history? Is it too much to ask that a middle school teacher have at least a middle school understanding of the holocaust? Really?

I know this is yet another of "old man Ready's" rants about stuff that irritates me, but come on, this is just insane.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rosie O'Donnel is a North Korean plant.

So I just saw a clip of Rosie, who, today on The View, spouted off that the seizure of British sailors by Iran was actually a setup, carried out by the British navy itself. This is all a ruse to get the U.S. to invade Iran by the summer, she claims.

Right. The British are sacrificing their own people so that the U.S. can invade Iran. And Tony Blair is in-line to be the next CEO of Halliburton, I suppose?

Unfortunately, the clip isn't on YouTube yet, otherwise I'd have linked it. But lo and behold, you can read it yourself on Rosie's own blog. (is this really her blog? it reads like it was written by a 10 year old punk kid... hmmm...)

In the same report, they quoted Rosie as stating that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the US government itself, in order for us to invade Iraq.

And so, that leads me to a single conclusion. Rose O'Donnell is working for the North Korean government, spreading anti-US propaganda in support of Her Dear Leader.

What a crack-pot.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The UN is run by idiots, and I have proof

Human Rights watchdog group, UN Watch, gave a statement to the human rights commission, which I've linked below. The transcript is below that.

But the statement isn't why I'm making a post here. It's the *response* by the Human Rights Council President, Luis Alfonso de Alba. In short, rather than address anything in the statement made, he proclaims the comments to be made in inappropriate language and any future such comments would be stricken from the official record.

Now, read the statement (and response) for yourself. From what President de Alba said, you would think that they guy went on some kind of shouting rant calling them all three-headed venomous beasts! Instead, the statement is, I believe, to-the-point, effectively conveys the opinion of the spokesman, and raises serious points. If this is the kind of thing that is deemed rude and unfit for the official records, then the U.N. is really showing what a joke it's become.

Even if you disagree with every word in their statement, you can't honestly say that this is the type of statement that should be ignored and removed from the records, can you?

(link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhWgZu6tcZU)


Statement delivered by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch

Mr. President,

Six decades ago, in the aftermath of the Nazi horrors, Eleanor Roosevelt, Réné Cassin and other eminent figures gathered here, on the banks of Lake Geneva, to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. They created the Commission on Human Rights. Today, we ask: What has become of their noble dream?

In this session we see the answer. Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the Council pronounced, and what has it decided?

Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.

One might say, in Harry Truman’s words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.

But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.

It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements—and there will be three more this session—Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world—millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries—continue to go ignored.

So yes, this Council is doing something. And the Middle East dictators who orchestrate this campaign will tell you it is a very good thing. That they seek to protect human rights, Palestinian rights.

So too, the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims.

But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?

Let us consider the past few months. More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is three times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions in July and November. Yet the champions of Palestinian rights—Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard—they say nothing. Little 3-year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered in their car by Prime Minister Haniyeh’s troops. Why has this Council chosen silence?

Because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the dictators who run this Council couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.

They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.

You ask: What has become of the founders’ dream? With terrible lies, it is being turned into a nightmare.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Response delivered by Luis Alfonso de Alba, President of the UN Human Rights Council

For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement.

I shall point out to the distinguished representative of the organization that just spoke, the distinguished representative of United Nations Watch, if you'd kindly listen to me. I am sorry that I'm not in a position to thank you for your statement. I should mention that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council.

The way in which members of this Council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible. In the memory of the persons that you referred to, founders of the Human Rights Commission, and for the good of human rights, I would urge you in any future statements to observe some minimum proper conduct and language.

Otherwise, any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Entrepreneur Boot Camp

For those of you that check this out regularly (or should I say, both of you... haha), you know that I sometimes spout off stuff that hasn't really been though through, or in some cases (yes, I'll admit it), I take a bit of an extreme position just to have the chance to toss the ideas around.

However, this post is not one of my usual manifestos of things that tick me off. This post is actually about something I participated in that I thought was really good.

Today, the Indiana Economic Development Council held it's first ever "Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for College Students" - and I was asked to participate on a panel and in some smaller discussions. As it turns out (and I didn't realize this until today), this is actually an implementation of an idea I tossed out back in October, when I was invited to a dinner hosted by the Governor, where 25 entrepreneurs from Indiana met with Gov. Daniels to brainstorm on things the state could do to foster entrepreneurship.


Little did I know, that they were actually listening to what I was saying. Maybe I should have just suggested that the state give me $25 million to start a few companies with... LOL.

Anyway, lo and behold, the event was here, and wow, it really turned out to be something. There were about 500 college students there, all voluntary, who were legitimately (to my surprise) interested in started real companies, and learning what they could about doing so.

I wish something like this existed when I was in school. Around 50 entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and others, were in attendance to participate with the students and help them learn what this hair-brained lifestyle was all about.

I speak at these things a few times a year - in fact I'm off to Purdue tomorrow to do something similar - but the genuine enthusiasm of the students really made this one worthwhile. The change in attitude around starting companies right out of school has really been dramatic around here. I can't imaging even 1/5 of the turnout when Scott, Eno and I were drawing up those first business plans while still in school.

I even learned from some of the students that Rose-Hulman has an entrepreneurship club now. I think Scott and I would have been the only members back when we were there. LOL.

I even got the change to make a fool of myself on TV, as one of the local stations, WRTV 6, was there and interviewed me for a spot on the evening news. Thankfully, they didn't make me sound as they certainly could have. LOL. If I can find the clip online, I'll link to it later, but my 10 seconds of wisdom went something like "these kids need to jump in with both feet and start a company right now!"

Anyway, it was really cool, and I hope the event and others like it continue in the future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Supreme Court Hears Freedom of Speech Case

Another trip on a plane, another opportunity to ramble on about something and post it to my blog. Today’s episode of Incoherent Thoughts from Jeff’s Head is on the topic of free speech, inspired by a case currently being heard by the Supreme Court. I’d give more specifics, but there’s no internet access on the plane, and as ridiculous as that may seem in 2008, it’s still the cold hard truth.

The premise of the case goes like this: Prior to the last Olympics, the Olympic torch runner was scheduled to run through some town in Alaska. In order to give students the opportunity to witness this event first hand, the local high school canceled school for the day so the students, if they wanted to, could partake in watching the parade. This isn’t any different than if school is let out in Indianapolis so people can go to the Colts’ victory parade.

One such student (I’ll call him Jack since I don’t have access to the ‘net right now) was at the parade. As the torchbearer strode past (how’s that for some masterful literary writing), Jack unfurled a large paper sign he had made which read, nice and big for everyone to see: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”

At this point, a teacher of the school, who happened to be standing right across the street, came across the street, tore the sign in half, and promptly suspended Jack for 5 days.

Shortly after, Jack protested the suspension on the basis of First Amendment rights, and was then suspended for an additional 5 days. For the record, the school claims that the original suspension was for 10 days, although the witnesses seemed to support the 5 day number Jack alleged.

Jack was not at school at the time, he was standing on a public sidewalk holding up a sign, and a government employee, acting on behalf of the government, tore the sign down and enacted punishment. And, not that it really matters but it does help make a point, Jack was 18 at the time.

There are numerous stupidities at work here. First, if you can’t figure out that the phrase “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” is a nonsensical prank staged by the goofball 18-year-old Jack as a joke, then you are an idiot. He was trying to get something offensive and funny on TV, and then joke with his friends about his accolades. Stupid? Yes. And I’m sure it’s not the only stupid thing done by an 18-year-old in Alaska that year.

Second, why the teacher ever thought this was okay is beyond me, but, even after it happened, an evening of sleep and a reflection on the events they should have told the administration that the right thing to do was to revoke the punishment, apologize to Jack, and call it a day. From what I’ve read of the case, I don’t get any impression that Jack was searching for some kind of free-speech lawsuit, and I have to believe that would have satisfied everyone. Instead, the administration allegedly doubled the punishment after Jack protested the suspension.

Third, how is it possible that this case has made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court? Believe it or not, Jack lost the first lawsuit. Then, he won the appeal. So now, it’s all the way to the Supreme Court in what is reported to be the first freedom of speech case heard by the court in 20 years.

Which brings me to the fourth stupidity: how is it that in an era of political correctness and people getting all bent out of shape because they were ‘offended’ by someone’s words, that this is the first freedom of speech case heard in 20 years? You’d think these things would happen all the time… unless, of course, the lower courts were vigorously defending the freedom of speech instead. But, based on this case, it appears that they are not.

I don’t see how the case could be more black and white. If this had happened at school, or even during a school function, there is some legal precedent that limits the free speech of students. You can argue if that precedent is legit or not, but it does exist and would make the case less clear-cut. This was not a school event, school was not in session, and Jack attended the torch running of his own freewill.

If this were a private school, then there would also be no real problem, other than you can’t go around ripping down a sign someone is holding as they stand in the street. But, it would be within the rights of the school to suspend Jack if that's what they wanted to do. If Jack’s parents want to take away his car and ground him for a month, that’s fine too. If his employer wants to fire him, that’s also fine (Jack might win a wrongful termination suit, but they could still fire him, the issue at hand would be very different). If someone wanted to hold up a sign that said “Jack is an a-hole poopy-head” or “I’m with stupid”, that would be within their rights as well.

But, what *IS* plain-as-day, is that no action can be taken by the government to limit the free speech of citizen, unless the government action is undertaken to protect the rights of another citizen. I hope you don’t need me to tell you, but the Constitution does not give you the right not-to-be-offended by someone’s sign, speech, or poor personal hygiene.

Sadly, this brings up the fifth, not yet realized, potential stupidity of the whole thing. The speculation is that Jack will win the case, but that the rationale given by the Supreme Court go something like this: “Bongs can be used for things other than illegal drug use, such as tobacco use. Therefore, the phrase ‘Bong Hits for Jesus’ does not inherently promote or condone the use of illegal drugs, and as such, the speech was not within the jurisdiction of the school.”

Now, I don’t know if that’s how this thing is going to flush out or not, but to me, the ruling should go something like this: “A citizen, functioning in public, has the inalienable right to free speech, and, as Jack’s sign did not infringe upon the rights of any other citizen, the government has no right to take action against Jack regardless of the underlying meaning of the sign.”

If it’s any less direct than that, then I believe the Court will have failed miserably in a case which even the most junior student of the Bill of Rights can figure out in about 3 seconds. The fact that Jack’s speech (if you were to believe that he was somehow actually promoting drug use in the name of Jesus Christ) is offensive to a lot of people and is against the anti-drug policy of the government institution in question, is PRECISELY the reason it is protected under the First Amendment.

The founding fathers did not come up with the Bill of Rights and free speech to protect the future of child pornographers or some other nonsense. Freedom of speech is all about making political statements, moral statements, or other such statements without the risk of the government shackling you up, tossing you on a train, and moving you to a Siberian labor camp. It’s there so your government can’t arrest a professor for posting an anti-government editorial on his blog, as just happened yesterday in China. It’s there so that young master Jack can make a fool of himself on TV, and we can all point and laugh at his foolishness, or maybe get so offended that we organize an anti-bong hits march (complete with awareness ribbon), all the while calling Jack a (pun intended) jackass.

In a similar case that I just read about in a local Silicon Valley paper, a woman is being fined $50 a day by the city government because she has painted a sign on her roof that contains “messages from God”. It sounds like she may well be out of her gourd, but at least she knows what her rights are, and so, while paying the fine, she has filed a federal lawsuit against the city for infringing on her rights.

And she should win, hands down. Neighbors are offended and annoyed, so they complained, and the city now claims that the sign is in violation of the local signing ordinances. However, those ordinances are there to restrict commerce (which, with limits, is within the jurisdiction of government), so that Wal-Mart can’t make a 3000 foot-wide sign and flashes all night and talks to you as you sleep. The ordinances are not there so that the local government can infringe upon your personal rights as they are trying to do in this case.

There was a similar case in my hometown of Griffith a number of years back, when a guy painted “If you want to get rich, then be a lying, thieving, politician” in huge letters on the side of his garage that faced the main street through town. Griffith played the same violation-of-the-signage-ordinance card on him. As I recall, It went all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court, and the guy won (as you would expect, or maybe not, if you don’t understand how this all is supposed to work). He then added “The town hall clowns lost, I won” to the top of his sign. LOL.

So good for that bitter old man. And, hopefully, good for woman who receives messages from God, and for crazy Jack, the pot-smoking evangelical Christian kid from Alaska.

As it turns out, our friend Jack is now studying in China, where I hope he doesn’t get any hair-brained ideas about freedom of speech, lest he find out that a 5 day suspension isn’t the kind of punishment the Communist regime had in mind. :)

A link to a news article about the case is here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I hate communists.

So I'm sitting here after a good St. Paddy's day watching the local news in Chicago. One of the segments had a few shots of an anti-war protest that took place today in Washington D.C. As they pan to the parade itself, what do I spot but a bunch of people holding up Che Guevara banners.

Excuse me? What is with the rampant anti-capitalism, anti-individualism, pro-communism component of the anti-war movement?

If you don't know who Che Guevara was, you might recognize this photo as appearing on various pieces of communist propaganda and the t-shirts of economically-ignorant individuals. Che was a marxist revolutionary who participated in Castro's communist overthrow in Cuba, later headed to various other countries to help lead more communist revolutions, was captured by U.S. & Bolivian special forces, and executed.

For some reason, this militant revolutionary is now an icon for the anti-war movement. The only thing dumber than communism as an economic system is an anti-war protester idolizing a militant revolutionary. Just how ignorant can you be?

What is with all this anti-capitalist/pro-communist crap over the last 5-10 years anyway? Are people really that stupid?

Friday, March 16, 2007

And away we go!

I got my first flight of the year in this week while we had our first 70+ degree weather of the year. The snow drift in front of the hangar finally melted. Unfortunately, high winds were forecast (and did arrive), so I only got an hour of flying in before putting the plane away. At least I got some practice in.

I also did a quick addition to see how much flying I got in last year:

2005: 65.7 hours
2006: 48.6 hours

Considering the amount of time the plane was down for maintenance last year, that's not to bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

But we just wanted to help the poor and helpless...

Next time some politician is blathering on (lying) about how program X helps the poor and helpless, keep this statistic in mind:

Call it welfare, income redistribution, subsidies, or whatever: 85% of this money gets paid out with no regard to the financial situation of the recipient.

The largest programs by far are age-based (Medicare and Social Security). Followed by occupation-based (veterans, farmers), followed by other special interest groups (race-based). Your financial status has no bearing on your eligibility for most "social" programs.


--

PS: props to Hawkins for letting me steal his earlier blog post on the swindle.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Global Warming Swindle

This is brilliant. At least I know I'm not the only one to interpret the global warming data in, as it seems, exactly the way I did. For those (ridiculous) schools that are showing the Inconvenient Truth movie as part of a class, it would be appropriate to show this as well. Watch, learn, enjoy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What you really need to know about minimum wage:

(editors note: No, I didn't spend all morning typing this. I wrote this while on a plane from California to Minnesota, and only being able to use one hand was a blessing because it killed more boredom time on the plane.)

I thought I’d take a minute to share some realizations I had about minimum wage legislation after reading through and digesting some material about the subject. And, since I’m trapped in the world’s smallest airline seat, that of a 757-200 featuring a configuration that could only comfortably seat an army of toddlers, writing this will give me something to do for awhile and distract myself from the pain that is my back and legs right now.

First, let me give you my prior position up to this point: for one, raising the minimum wage doesn’t do anything to actually help the people that are making the minimum wage. If you run a business that employs such workers, when you have to pay them more that money has to come from someplace. Perhaps you’re going to let some employees go. Perhaps you’re going to rely on alternatives like automation or outsourcing. Perhaps you will change your raw materials to use cheaper goods, although this will reduce the quality of your own end product. Or, most likely, you are going to simply pass the added cost along to your customers in the form of a higher price.

Some people might incorrectly think that the business can simply lower it’s profit margin and pay for the added labor cost that way, but this will only work in the absence of free-market competition. If the business in question were making above normal profits, new competitors will always crop up to take a piece of that action, unless there is some force, normally government regulation, that prevents that from happening. Besides this being fundamental economic theory, I know this actually happens, because I’m one of those crazy entrepreneurs that starts those businesses. (by the way, if you have identified a market in which companies are making unreasonable profits and in which there isn’t some stupid anti-competitive legislation blocking entrance into that market, please let me know. I’ll be all over it.).

Ok, so that said, now think about the industries where people actually make minimum wage. The things that obviously pop to mind are jobs in food service, hospitality, and perhaps the very lowest, unskilled manufacturing and service jobs. Of course, if you’re making minimum wage, you may very well depend on the fact that you can get a double-cheeseburger at McDonald’s for 99 cents. By raising the minimum wage, it’s that very cheeseburger that’s going to cost more, and so the net result to you personally is going to buying-power neutral: you make a little more money, and your basic goods and services cost a little more. You also run the risk of making the companies less competitive globally, because your labor costs more than that overseas, but I discount this argument to a great extent, because, while accurate, the fact is that the minimum wage jobs are generally not making a significant contribution to the labor pool of international companies. McDonald’s is not grilling burgers in Detroit and selling them in Mumbai, so it doesn’t play much of a role.

In general, so long as minimum wage is kept low enough to only effect the small pool of workers that it does, my opinion is that, while more or less stupid, it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, this often comes up during election years and this year was no exception. I had been lumping minimum wage discussion as an attempt at simple voter-pandering for votes: “elect me and I’ll make sure you get more money!” But it was always curious to me why they’d make such a big deal out of it, when really not that many people make minimum wage. The census statistics show that about 2.5% of wage earners make minimum wage, but the vast majority of these are in an industry where they are really working for tips, and as a result make much more than minimum wage (by the way, it may surprise you to know that airport skycaps, the guys that take your bag, move it 2 feet to a conveyor belt, and expect a tip, average over $100,000 a year in income at busy airports. And I’m sure they’re accurately reporting all those dollar bills on their tax filings…).

How many people actually make minimum wage, without tips? 0.33% of workers. Not exactly a large voting block.

But, at last, I had the ah-ha moment where I realized that all this claptrap about minimum wage wasn’t about that little handful of people, struggling to live off of such meager wages. Nope, not at all. That is just posturing to make you feel sad for those folks and support the position of increasing minimum wage, despite the fact that basic economics says it won’t help them.

Here’s the real reason those politicians made such a big deal about it: a significant number of union jobs are tied to the prevailing minimum wage rate.

Unions. A large and powerful voting block. That’s why it’s such a big deal, and this is a way to get higher wages for union employees, not because of their work for the companies they labor for, but because of propagandist tactics making you feel sorry for the 0.33% of people that make minimum wage.

So, if an apprentice in the local union gets 2x minimum wage, then you’ve just increased his salary. Same for the guy that makes minimum wage plus $25 an hour. And right up on the chain the wage increases go.

And that WILL make the companies those employees work for less competitive, because, while McDonald’s does not make burgers locally and sell them overseas, Boeing does indeed make airplanes locally and sell them overseas, and you’ve just driven up the cost of their airplanes while Airbus can keep making them outside the reach of American minimum wage laws. And that does hurt the company, the economy, and overall, the United States.

Of course, this isn’t the only issue you need to look at when casting your vote,. I can think of one state election this past year where the two candidates differed on the issue, but I would have (if it was my district), voted for the guy that wanted to raise minimum wage, even with this new knowledge, because the guy that didn’t want to raise minimum wage was a crazy right-wing religious nutjob who might well stomp all over your rights for his moral superiority. However, I think it’s important to understand that the ramifications of increasing minimum wage are much different that the stories about Jennifer, single mother of three who makes minimum wage, would lead you to believe.

And perhaps just as important, ask yourself whether your congressman should really be involved in setting the wages of pipe fitters or autoworkers, or if thats something that should really be up to the employers and their employees.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Snap, Crackle, Pop

And I'm not talking organic rice krispies here!

Today I went in for my 2 week follow-up x-rays, and, despite my careful efforts to keep my hand protected, the bones slipped apart again. In fact, they looked worse than they did in the first x-ray.

So, what that means is that the doc got to resent (i.e. re-break) my bone again. This time, he numbed it up (which worked great) for the manipulation. The second x-ray showed that everything was perfectly lined up again and this time they splinted it at a much greater curvature than the first time. Basically it's at the same curve that you'd have if you were making the "OK" sign with your ring finger and thumb. This also means it's going to be much more in the way - nice.

By the time I was getting in the car to drive home, the nerve block was wearing off and - yowza - this thing smarts. To put it in perspective, when I first broke it, they gave me a prescription of Vicodin for the pain, and I only took one tablet on the very first night right before bed. Now, I'm on my forth tablet of the evening.

And Vicodin sucks. I'm sure it affects different people slightly differently, but for me, I'm not sure how much pain it's taking away (but I'm not about to run a personal experiment since it is helping some), and it makes me feel like I've just woken up from a NyQuil induced sleep. So now my finger hurts and I feel like I'm got some kind of unpleasant hazy hangover going on. Oh yes, sign me up for more.

So I go back in one week. If it slips again, it's time for surgery to put a pin in it. Fantastic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No hand fracture, no worries, god bless global capitalism

I called the orthopedist this morning and found that he was in surgery. So, I left a message with his staff about the xray discovery. They asked if the Dr. had a copy of the xray, and I said I didn't think so because I carried the xrays in myself. However, I said I had scanned in the xrays and could email them in. She just giggled -- you know the "I don't know what in the heck you are talking about" giggle.

Anyway, I left the message and then spent 15 minutes or so trying to determine the format of the email addresses at OrthoIndy so I could email the xray anyway. I took my best guess and sent it off.

At lunch, I got a call back from the nurse who said the Dr. had received my email and reviewed the xray again (imagine that! email! hilarious!). He thought it was probably a vein, but that it might be a hairline fracture. If it was bothering me I could buddy-tape the two fingers together, but unless it got really bothersome, not to worry about it.

After some more discussion at home, I thought that it was probably worth trying to get one more opinion on the xray, rather than risk a long term injury over my laziness to do so. I happened to find JustAnswer.com, which is a website for posting medical questions and having them answered by doctors from around the world (ie. India).

You only pay if you are satisfied with the answer, and it's $15 bucks. Within 10 minutes I had two doctors answer my question, and they both took the time to read through my blog as well as the info I submitted on the site. Here's what I got back:

In my opinion there is a single fracture in distal part of middle phalanx of ring finger of left hand. The other shadow which you are questioning is actually an artifact & not a fracture.

and this as well:
I agree with Dr. Munjal that it does not look like a fracture. It is rather the superimposition of one structure on another. I have an additional suggestion for you that would provide even MORE evidence that is based on my knowledge of American medicine and ER care. I looked at your blog and found that the X-ray was done in the Emergency Department of a hospital. At this point that means that THREE MDs have read this X-ray.
1) the emergency physician
2)the radiologist (X-ray reading specialist MD who would read it the next day) AND
3) your orthopedist.
Simply go to the hospital and ask for the "Official" X ray report from the radiologist. You are entitled to it. If he or she also read it OFFICIALLY as normal you have THREE MD's who have read it as "normal". That would put it totally to rest; they can't ALL be wrong!
So there you go. And let me point out that it wasn't a long wait in the bowels of socialized medicine program that helped me out, but instead it was a non-insurance based, global capitalist website that got me what I needed, in under 10 minutes, for $15 bucks. God Bless Capitalism. Boo-yah.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

hand fracture or no?

Well, I just did some digging and found a "standard" hand xray for comparison. Maybe my suspected second fracture is just where other bones connect and it's no big deal. I'll probably call anyway, but here are the two images for you to comment on. My hand is on the left, standard hand on the right.

Xrays and stuff you don't want your doctor to say

You know you're in trouble when your doctor says "Ok, now I'm going to have to hurt you, hold tight..." ouch. As you might have guessed, thats when he reset my finger, and no, it wasn't very pleasant.

Here are my xrays before they fixed it. I'm in a new splint now, and he estimates 5 weeks to heal, with a new xray at 2 weeks to see how it's doing.

In this first xray, you can see pretty clearly that my finger is broken just behind the first joint. After the adjustment, this was all lined up again.

Ok, so I *thought* that was the more disturbing image.... that was until I started messing with the contrast and exposure in order to make these easier to see. Here is the second image:


Ok, so all I was going to show here was that if you look at the longest finger, you can count the three joints. If you look at the ring finger there, you can see between the first and second joint there is a nice horizontal line that looks kinda like an extra joint. Thats the fracture.

However, when I dimmed the exposure and cranked up the contrast, I made what appears to be a disturbing discovery. Look at the bottom between the two fingers I just mentioned. I'm no xray technician, but I would say that is pretty clearly a sizable crack right down the middle on the palm of my hand. To my knowledge, no one even looked at my hand as the focus was just on this finger. The emergency room report doesn't say anything about my hand at all, and so the orthopedist didn't even look at it to my knowledge. Something tells me that I need to give the orthopedist a call tomorrow morning and email him my enhanced image. I hope I'm wrong, but that doesn't look right to me.

More to come...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh, snap! (literally)

Only I could manage to break a bone while at my soccer game, but not while playing soccer. Last night, after playing the first half in goal and stating the second half as midfield, I subbed out to catch my breath. A minute or so later, the ball flew out of bounds through a hole in the netting that surrounds the field (this place isn't the best maintained, as this story will show), an bounded down the hallway toward the emergency exit.

Not wanting the game to get slowed up too much, I jumped up and ran down the hallway to get it. Well, this hallway doesn't have any lights on so it was pretty dark, especially given that my eyes were adjusted to the field lights... Anyway, the ball stopped in the corner by the alarm-door, and as I tried to slow down to pick it up, much to my surprise I discovered that there was a leak in the roof back there, and with all the snow we had it was leaking pretty fiercely. I'm sure you can see where this is going but, let me spell it out mathematically for you:

linoleum floor + giant puddle of water + darkness + flat soled indoor soccer shoes + being in a hurry + 32 years old + a few extra pounds around the midsection = bad news
I hardly even remember trying to stop. I remember thinking "ok, I'll pick the ball up and Johnny will be back at the bench. I'll just turn and throw it back to him so that...." WHOOSH! Both feet and most of my rear end were airborne and higher than my head, I was staring up and the ceiling, and BAM! On my back. "Man that hurts... must get ball... must get ball."

So I popped up, thew the ball back to the bench, and realized that my left ring finger was in considerable pain. It started swelling up immediately and I could feel it pushing on my wedding ring. After a minute or two of gathering myself, I headed over to the snack counter and got some ice. 10 minutes of holding my hand over my head inside the ice bag and considerable pulling later, I got the ring off, thankfully.

I was able to move my finger mostly, and it looked straight, so I figured this was just the latest in a fairly colorful history of bad finger jams (much to my mother's chagrin, I was goalie in soccer, catcher in baseball, an have really poor basketball handling skills...). Once I got the ring off it wasn't hurting nearly as bad so I subbed back in for the last 5 minutes (not as goalkeeper, mind you). I figured in a week or two it'd be fine again ("just rub some dirt on it!").

One of the guys invited me out for a beer afterwards, so I took him up on that. I kept my finger on ice the whole time and really, it felt stiff but only a bit sore and not too bad. After a beer I headed home and told Amy the story, etc. By the time I settled in for bed, it was pushing 11pm or so which was about 2 1/2 hours from when I fell.

Well... I took another glance at the finger and now it had turned considerably more purple and the swelling was, shall we say, unevenly spread on the finger. Yadda yadda yadda, better get an x-ray of that thing, and off to the emergency room, since all the immediate care places were closed at that point on a Sunday.

A nurse, doctor, and an xray technician later, I have a nice clean horizontal fracture straight across my ring finger about a quarter inch below the first joint, with a little twisting of the fractured piece to boot. Temporary splint and make an appointment to see the orthopedist after they open in the morning.

I'll post an update tomorrow as well as an image of the xrays if I can figure out how to do that as well.

Be cautious, however, because by reading this blog post, The Curse of Dairmuid Zoolander O'Dowd may set upon you next. It can apparently travel vast distances over the internet, including crossing large ocean bodies, as it was only two days ago that I read how Dairmuid (in Ireland) broke his finger in a rugby match, and then it struck me.

Consider yourself warned!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

[disclaimer: it's late, and I've not reread this at all before posting it. there are likely grammatical errors and such in there. you'll have to deal with that.]

After spending the last several days working on the inconvenient truth that is taxes, I decided to watch Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming. As most of you know, I spent a whole lot of time digging through a whole lot of research over the last several weeks, and I’ve taken a good week off from reading it to give it some time to digest. I felt that I had a good scientific basis to work from when watching the movie, and as much as I didn’t want to give Al Gore any money by watching the movie, I wanted to see what all the talk was about.

Let me start by giving a few overall impressions.First, as you might expect, the movie is well done. It's not the greatest thing I've ever seen, but it's as interesting to watch as a good episode of Nova or a documentary on Discovery Channel. It’s not as though it’s made in some blatant Michael Moore propaganda method, and Al Gore does not come across as some kind of crazed lunatic or anything like that.

Second, I was surprised at the overall lack of real scientific content there was in the film. While I didn’t time it, I’d guess that well over half the film, perhaps as much as 3/4ths is spent on non-science issues: Al Gore’s home farm, his sister with lung cancer, anecdotes about this glacier here, or a woman’s house on the permafrost. Yes, these things are meant to be emotionally moving, and if I were making a movie like this, I would use the same sorts of tactics. However, there was a *lot* of that in the movie… a lot. It’s the amount that surprised me, no the mere presence of such emotional angles.

Finally, the movie, and presumably Al Gore’s underlying presentation, simply makes the assumption that, given a chart on CO2 levels and a chart of temperature levels, that I’m going to buy into the human CO2 production causes global warming concept. That is intended to happen in the first 10 min or so of the movie. After that, it’s all about what will happen when the temperatures rise, and providing evidence (much of it anecdotal), that temperatures are rising and that all these bad things are starting to happen.

I’ve already discussed what I found in researching the correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures—that being that historically it’s temperature that moves first, not CO2 levels. Because of that historical relationship, there isn’t overwhelming scientific reason to believe that if CO2 levels move first, temperature will follow. It could happen, as I’ve said before, but jumping to that conclusion and then basing billions of dollars on what will happen if you are right is not a prudent thing to do. Spending some time and money proving, or disproving, your assumption would be the appropriate next step.

There are a number of things in the film that I could debate and discuss. For example, Mr. Gore says 40% of the worlds population depends on the Himalayan glaciers for fresh water, and that they are receding—but then I’ve read reports that only 0.5% of the glaciers in the Himalayas are even being studied. He claims that global species are being lost at a rate “1000 times greater than the natural background rate,” and some casual internet searching suggests that this is a whole other pandora’s box to explore, but the founder of Greenpeace thinks quite differently as commented in the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode Hawkins sent the link to. I don’t’ know who’s right, but everyone that talks about it, much like global warming, seems to throw information around without the facts they are pulling from. He talks about the importance of Antarctic ice and how it’s melting into the ocean, but just yesterday I read a report that says Antarctic temperatures are disagreeing with global warming models.

But all that, while it might be interesting to research and find out what is solid and what is a stretch, is beside the point. The point is that a clear scientific link between human CO2 production and global warming isn’t made in the movie. It’s assumed. And really, that’s a well known (and effective) way to get people to believe you. Right in the beginning of the movie, Al Gore says something like “I know you’re all aware of how greenhouse gasses warm that atmosphere, so we won’t spend much time on that,” --which is something right out of the debating class 101 handbook: establish your basis as indisputable common knowledge and build from there. No one, after all, wants to feel like they’re the only ones that weren’t aware of this alleged “common knowledge.”

To quote from the link I just gave:
In the 1990's scientists started to question the greenhouse effect theory, because of major uncertainties in the data sets and model outcomes. They protested the basis of the theory, which was data of global annual mean temperatures. They believed that the measurements were not carried out correctly and that data from oceans was missing. Cooling trends were not explained by the global warming data and satellites showed completely different temperature records from the initial ones. The idea began to grow that global warming models had overestimated the warming trend of the past 100 years. This caused the IPCC to review their initial data on global warming, but this did not make them reconsider whether the trend actually exists. We now know that 1998 was globally the warmest year on record, followed by 2002, 2003, 2001 and 1997. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990.
What Mr. Gore completely avoids stating is that the Greenhouse Effect is, in fact, a theory. It is not a proven fact. Certainly there is evidence to support the theory, and it’s hard to imagine that it doesn’t play at least some role in the global temperature, but how much of a role, if any, is an open question. Ignoring this and passing the greenhouse/co2 theory off as hard-proven fact is grossly misleading, and is the basis for the entire movie.

My point being, again, that you can’t just ignore the fact that greenhouse warming is a theory still under debate, and then charge ahead without even alerting the viewer that that is the case, particularly when it’s alleged to have such significant consequences.

He uses statistics to establish consensus, and then consensus to provide credibility for the theory-which-isn’t-called-a-theory. He says that of 900-some-odd scientific papers reviewed, none of them disagreed with the concept of human caused global warming, but I’ve found published papers myself that do just that, and they date back into the 90s, so I’m not sure what the basis there is. In fact, the wikipedia entry on the global warming debate cites “when I checked the same set of abstracts, I discovered that just over a dozen explicitly endorse the ‘consensus,’ while the vast majority of abstracts does not mention anthropogenic [human caused] global warming.”

So the statistic is that zero of 900 said humans weren’t the cause, and so the implication is that 900 said it was. But that’s where statistics can lie. I could use the same body of work and say “Of 900 peer reviewed journal articles about the origins of global warming, only twelve—scarcely more than 1%--advocated humans as the cause of global warming.” Such a statement, while statistically accurate, is completely misleading, and is made in the same way using the same data as Mr. Gore used. The truth is that you’re using a lousy sample set to establish an opinion on either side, but again, this is great stuff for winning a debate. The thought process they want you to follow is:
  • These guys are scientists.They’re smarter than you, and they aren’t fooling around.
  • 900 peer reviewed articles might involved thousands of different scientists! That's a lot!
  • None of them think humans AREN’T the cause of global warming.
  • Only non-scientific morons would think otherwise, given all this evidence.

So that’s all good for winning your high school debate contest, and it’s inevitably going to fool a whole lot of people that either don’t know better or haven’t built up a base of knowledge on the issue, or both. I won’t call it an outright lie, because the idea of the movie is to ‘win the debate,’ and anyone trying to do that will probably use the same sorts of time-proven tactics. But, I am pointing out that these statistics to prove consensus are very misleading when the underlying data is examined.

While I’ve not looked (although I probably will) for websites that have analyzed this movie in great detail, because I’m really not interested in nit-picking the individual statements made in the film. Are sea levels going to rise 20 feet? Is Florida going to disappear under the ocean? Will 40% of the people die from lack of fresh water? I have no idea, and I don’t think it matters at this point in the debate. Anyone that’s making a film which is designed to get a point across will use anecdotes and statistics which support their point of view, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. The problem is that, in this case, the very core of the argument is presented in a casual “hey, you already know this is true, lets move on” sort of way, and I think it’s very misleading—particularly when you and I both know that a whole lot of people are going to take that information at face value, and it will be the only source they ever use for forming an opinion on global warming.

So again, for the umpteenth time, I’m not saying that humans are definitely not causing global warming. I’m not saying that the greenhouse effect is some kind of myth. What I am saying is that we should really try to get some more scientific proof via hypothesis and experimentation before we go dumping all kinds of cash into this. There are plenty of other scientific “theories” that I’m fully on board with, and they’re still theories too. But – if someone were to tell me that evolution proves that humans are on the verge of evolving into mindless beings that will destroy themselves, and that we need to suddenly spend a couple hundred billion dollars to stop it, I’d probably start by reexamining that theory of evolution to be sure that I really understood where things where headed, why, and what I could do about it before I busted out the checkbook and handed over that kind of cash.

There are *plenty* of perfectly good reasons to promote energy efficiency, less dependence on fossil fuels, and the like. For one, I’m not all that keen on coal power, given that, in the US, over 800 tons of uranium is spewed into the atmosphere each year from the burning of coal for power. I also find it pretty darn stupid to be using coal in that way when the energy potential of the uranium burned in doing so is greater than the energy produced by the coal power plant itself!

It may surprise you to find out that in the United States, where every garage is filled with a handful of automobiles, that electricity generation is still far ahead of automobiles as the leading producer of CO2 emissions. If you factor in the rest of the world, the spread would be even greater. Coal and natural gas represent nearly all of the CO2 emissions from electricity generation.

So I have an idea of Mr. Gore’s next move. I call it “A Convenient Solution: Nuclear Power.” The data suggests that choosing nuclear over coal and natural gas for power generation could cut the CO2 emissions of the US by over 50%. And you know what, I’d feel a lot better knowing that theuranium waste is either in a pebble-bed graphite ball, or in a barrel a mile under a mountain, rather than being spewed up into the air for me to breathe in, day in and day out, while I scratch my head wondering how in the world we could cut these pesky CO2 levels!

But, nuclear power continues to fall victim to pressure from environmental groups – probably the same environmental groups that are complaining about CO2 levels.How’s that for an inconvenient truth?