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:

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.