Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kenosha, WI to Implement Public Panopticon?


Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey is requesting $500,000 in public funding to obtain and install up to 28 public cameras to be placed in "high crime" areas.

Twenty-eight cameras will be considered Wednesday by the City Council as part of the 2009-13 Capital Improvement Plan. Police are requesting $500,000, spread over 2009-10, to buy cameras.

While some are concerned the plan moves into “Big Brother”-like intrusion, Police Chief John Morrissey disagreed, noting the well-marked cameras will be in public areas.

“If you’re in a public place ... I’m all for it,” Morrissey said. “If I’m doing something wrong, then shame on me. But if something happens to me, I hope there’s something out there that will assist the police in figuring out what happened to me, or anybody else. I don’t have any problem with them as long as they’re in public places.”

Many aldermen agree.

Of course many alderman agree, I know these people. These are the guys that got a 2500 foot mandatory distance on sex offenders from schools, and other places that might have children, officially keeping them from within city boundaries completely. These are the guys that wanted a public smoking ban including in bars and homes. Now they want to make sure they can "check up" on us to make sure we aren't doing anything wrong.

Though locations are still being determined, Morrissey said he would like permanent cameras at some troublesome spots — such as the downtown bus transfer station — while the other cameras will be movable.

My poor ass uses that bus station all the time to get to class and back home or use the gym, or whatever else. Never have I seen criminal activity. The notion that it is a dangerous place in need of monitoring is absolutely false and ludicrous.

Exhibit A

Terry Rose, a county supervisor and local attorney, believes the plan amounts to government spying.

[...]

“This concept of ‘Big Brother is watching’ is something that every generation has fought to oppose, and we need to oppose it as well,” Rose said. “That type of concept smacks too much of the authoritarian, totalitarian way of thinking as opposed to what we cherish. Every time constitutional rights are deprived of people or limited, we give up a certain part of our American heritage, and I’m not willing to do that.”

[...]

“One can always use the argument, ‘If people are complying with the law, they have nothing to worry about,’” Rose said. “But as we’ve learned in the last eight years, people’s rights can be shortchanged by a theory that is in the best interest of the general public.”

Ditto.

Morrissey said the cameras could help investigate allegations of officer abuse.

“If this suspect comes in and tells me the cops beat me, well guess what? I’m watching the whole thing here,” Morrissey said. “There’s benefits to that too. It’s not just the public that’s under eye; my cops are under eye.”

Because, you know, the cops won't know where the cameras are, so they can't just go to another location to do the beating. Besides, I doubt that suspect's safety is the first thing on their minds.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minimum Wage, Unemployment, Inflation

...are all going up today. The sad thing is that it is all accepted with warm cheers and fanfare. Hooray for the nanny state, right?

The increase, from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour, is the second of three annual increases required by a 2007 law. Next year's boost will bring the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour.

Workers like Walter Jasper, who earns minimum wage at a car wash in Nashville, Tenn., are happy to take the raise, but will still struggle with the higher gas and food prices hammering Americans.

But the problem with minimum wage laws is well documented. They are a price floor on wages. That is, they set a minimum level of value for employment. Every time minimum wage goes up, an unskilled workers are boxed out of jobs. What do we hope to achieve by keeping the unskilled and the poor from working in entry level jobs? Instead, laws like this end up favoring those who are skilled or have experience. At the same time, minimum wage laws actually cut the number of jobs available, since it is harder for companies to pay for labor, i.e., they are forced by law to hire people who are overpriced for certain jobs. Thus, they combine jobs, or add on to responsibilities by cutting staff, to more closely reflect wage levels (That or they higher illegal immigrants).

Then comes the inflation. No matter what, the economy has to deal with an artificial increase in the value of labor. Companies pay more for labor and may raise prices (even if by a modest amount). However, at the same time workers who are on the receiving end of minimum wage increases have more money to spend on goods, thus increasing demand, and also driving up prices (again, even if by a modest amount). Sometimes, the inflationary effect is almost completely undetectable at the micro level. However, when one pans out, one sees that inflationary effects costs the macro economy billions. With inflation an already pressing concern, I would say now is not a good time to throw more straws on the camel's back.

David Heath, owner of Tiki Tan in College Station, Texas, said the increase will force him to raise prices for his monthly tanning services by about 12 percent. Tiki Tan had been paying its employees $6 per hour.

"There just isn't any room for profit, and so this is why prices will have to go up," he said, citing the wage increase and higher fuel costs. "I have to recoup those costs."

The increase in the minimum wage could push food prices even higher by rising the pay for agricultural workers, said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. economist at consulting firm Global Insight
Eh, who needs food anyways right?
But he said he did not expect the change to have a major impact on the economy because recent increases in productivity, which enables companies to produce more with fewer workers, are keeping labor costs in check.
Still think minimum wage laws help the poor and unskilled?
When the minimum rises again next year, catching up with more states, more than 5 million workers will get a raise, said Lisa Lynch, dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fannie and Freddie: What to do?

The New Yorker has a great post explaining a brief history of the mortgage giants:
When do the words “not guaranteed” actually mean “guaranteed”? Whenever the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are involved. The two companies have long been required to tell investors that their securities are not guaranteed by the federal government. But in the financial markets everyone has always assumed that this demurral was just window-dressing, and everyone, it turns out, was right. Last week, when fears of a possible collapse of the two companies threatened to spark a major financial crisis, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve quickly came up with a rescue package. What had been an implicit guarantee became an explicit one.
However, I disagree with the author's conclusions:
Whatever their sins, Fannie and Freddie clearly couldn’t be allowed to fail, but that’s no argument for letting them go on as they are. Either they should be forced to make it as private companies or they should be nationalized. Given that their business depends on the promise of government assistance and that their current state remains woeful (despite an upturn in their fortunes late last week), nationalization seems more sensible. If Fannie and Freddie are going to run up a tab and stick taxpayers with the bill, why should shareholders profit?
No, why should taxpayers be stuck with the bill in the first place? James Suroweiki makes the assumption that profiting shareholders are the bane of the financial markets, even though earlier in the article he clearly shows that in a free and private market, Freddie and Fannie would not have gotten away with these shenanigans:
Because everyone assumed that the government would make good on Fannie’s and Freddie’s debts, they could borrow money more cheaply than their competitors. They used this cheap debt to increase the number of mortgages they bought. Had Fannie and Freddie been ordinary private companies, there would have been a natural check: companies with more debt are usually seen as riskier, and that makes shareholders and bondholders less willing to invest in them.
Freddie and Fannie had been able to lend outrageous quantities of low rate mortgages, on very very very little capital. Why? Because though they were "privatized," they still were largely attached to the government--that is, they knew they could get away with it, and so did their investors, thus did they invest such a large amount in these banks.

Could it be that Freddie and Fannie's distortion of the market prompted other banks to follow suit? Possibly. In any case, the banks knew that they were taking a huge risk, but they also knew that the government would most likely bail them out--a hunch that has thus far proven accurate. However, Suroweicki sees the problem in a different light:
...had Fannie and Freddie been government agencies, budget constraints would likely have limited the scope of their lending. Since neither the market nor the state checked their growth, they were able to swell extravagantly
...Right. Lord knows the government constrains its own budget...since when? More likely instead, the government would further tax the nation to subsidize further irresponsible loans to irresponsible people. At the same time, it would still be probable that other banks would follow suit to keep business going--that is, to be able to compete with Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, other banks may be prompted to make, oh I don't know, adjustable rate mortgages and other irresponsible loans?
They constructed a giant pyramid of debt on a very small base of capital (eighty-one billion dollars, by the most recent publicly available figures), and by May, 2008, either owned or guaranteed more than five trillion dollars in mortgages.
If a bailout were the case, as has been suggested in some circles, guess who would foot the bill?

They say Americans are addicted to oil. I say we are addicted to debt. We depend on banks to give us money that doesn't exist to buy things we don't need (and probably can't afford). Banks depend on us to build their capital by paying on our debts, and depositing money, so that they can create more debt, in a never ending cycle of debt accumulation and usury. Meanwhile, both of us are dependent upon a nanny state government to prop up the whole charade.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WAAAAAY too busy as of late

Forgive my abhorrent lack of posts to date...it is summer: a time of relaxation and vacation for many university students. Unfortunately, I am not one of them, as I am taking summer courses as well as working and trying to function as Legislative Affairs Director of PSGA in between. Also, the current state of politics has me fairly....discombobulated. Thusly, my posts will be few and far between. Please be patient.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What a surprise :P

What is your political ideology?
Your Result: Libertarian

This quiz has defined you as a Libertarian. Keep in mind, this ideology can be applied to the right or left in the social sense. You believe in a minimal role of the government in solving problems and believe that the "Free market" can handle almost all economic situations.

Conservative
Liberal
Social Democrat
Fascist/Radical Right
Communist/Radical Left
What is your political ideology?
Make Your Own Quiz


Thanks to Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway

Monday, June 16, 2008

OH HELL NO: A New Manhattan Project?

It's not what it seems to be (at least at first glance), but it sure is one bad name for a program dedicated to energy independence:

H.R. 6260, The New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence

H.R. 6260 would ensure the energy independence of the United States by promoting research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of technologies through a system of grants and prizes on the scale of the original Manhattan Project.
I don't know about you, but when they say, "Manhattan Project," I think:

Call me crazy, but probably not the smartest PR move.

H.R. 6257: Assault Ban Reauthorization (bleh)

And it goes on. I'm sure more and more weapons are going to be added to this list, possibly until we get to the point that SPORKS are banned.

To be sure, this is not just a reauthorization. It includes further stipulations on weapons the American people are too EVIL to use:

    (a) RESTRICTION- Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding after subsection (u) the following:
    `(v)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon.
[...]
    (b) DEFINITION OF SEMIAUTOMATIC ASSAULT WEAPON- Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding after paragraph (29) the following:
    `(30) The term `semiautomatic assault weapon' means--
      `(A) any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as--
        `(i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);
        `(ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;
        `(iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);
        `(iv) Colt AR-15;
        `(v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;
        `(vi) SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, and M-12;
        `(vii) Steyr AUG;
        `(viii) INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and
        `(ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;
      `(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of--
        `(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
        `(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
        `(iii) a bayonet mount;
        `(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
        `(v) a grenade launcher;
      `(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of--
        `(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip;
        `(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
        `(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned;
        `(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and
        `(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and
      `(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of--
        `(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
        `(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
        `(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds; and
        `(iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine.'.
I'm sure further gun bans will make us safer. Just ask Washington D.C. how it's been for them since their COMPLETE ban in 1976:

John Stossel has his way with the myths about Gun Control and Crime:

My solution for the United Council Budget

Although it would work beyond the magnitude of my estimates, I know it will probably not be accepted due to the overwhelming power of the status quo as well as the centralized decision-making structure known as the Board of Directors who, for the most part, choose their own pay and benefits.

Not on my watch. Here is my proposal to fix the 60,000 dollars of debt that the United Council Budget contains:

Line 65 (Medical Reimbursement) 4000

Line 66 (Loan Reimbursement) 19200

Line 71 (Cell Phones) 5500

Line 76 Cut the Lease, Buy a copier

Line 77 Why are we paying 1200 for a computer?

Programming: Cut conferences, focus more on GA’s and Lobbying

Combine LGBT Q, Multicultural, and Women’s Issues

Separate Women’s and Environmental Issues

Estimated Benefits

  • Salaries: approximately 28,000 for Environmental Issues, approximately 28,000 for Equity and Diversity (combination LGBTQ, Multicultural, and Women’s Issues). Cost: approximately 56,000 dollars.

56,000 – 28,504.80 – 28,248 – 27, 580 = 56,000 – 84,332 = -28, 332

  • Health benefits: cost is 247.08 per month, per employee. Total is minus one employee (7), therefore: 27,765.56/8 = 3470.70.

27,765.56 – 3470.70 = 24,294.86; Total savings – 3470.70

  • Medical reimbursement: 500 per staff, therefore savings – 500.
  • Student Loan reimbursement: not enough information to calculate. Potential savings: 2,400.
  • Miscellaneous other savings: hard to calculate; would include board travel, per diems, supplies, other travel expenditures and registration fees. No estimate made.

TOTAL SAVINGS: 34,702.70

TOTAL SAVINGS WITH APPROVED REMOVAL OF LINES 65, 66: 31,802.70

Total Proposed Budgetary Savings: 60502.70

Let it also be strongly recommended to take another look at combining or eliminating some conferences, with more focus on legislative and lobbying affairs along a broad spectrum. Currently, a disproportional amount of time is spent looking at a variety of specific issues outside of relevant and tangible fronts in higher education today. Let it be recognized that focusing more on the lobbying and Shared Governance aspects of United Council would be more likely to produce a functional and effective student activist/lobbyist population, which would ultimately yield more favorable and numerous results.

Money saved would be on travel, costs of literature and advertisements, per diem, hotels, etc.


That should do it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

UW Tuition to Rise 5.5%, Largely in Response to Initiatives Supported by United Council

Like I said before, The United Council of UW Students has a terrible problem (called Liberalism) in which they continue to recklessly demand funds from the state for higher education, whether they be loans, grants, remissions, or other initiatives ("Civil Rights" and Green initiatives for example). United Council rarely does their own economic impact study, nor do they care about where that money comes from, as long as they get it.

Well, now it's come to bite them in the ass:

Students who are resident undergraduates at four-year schools in the University of Wisconsin System would pay 5.5% more for their tuition this fall - in part to subsidize tuition for veterans, who can go to public colleges here for free under state law.
Unfortunately, this bites the rest of us in the ass too. While I am all for cutting the costs of education for veterans, is it absolutely necessary to provide 100% remission? Was 50% not generous enough, especially once considering other benefits such as the G.I. Bill, Chapter 31 program, and other programs specifically for veterans in higher education?

Throw this on top of substantially decreased state revenue and a running deficit, as well as an already over burdened UW System and what did you expect to happen?

The United Council of UW Students supports the GI Bill but doesn't think the money for it should be from on other students' backs, said Patrick O'Connell, the group's spokesman.

That's the same way UW-Milwaukee student and Iraq war veteran Anthony DeWees feels.

"I just don't think it's right that the state has decided not to fulfill its promise to veterans and has passed the buck on to students," said DeWees, who receives the tuition benefit.

Just like tuition shouldn't be from the back of students? Not surprising, coming from a group that uses the premise "Education is a Right" as their bedrock philosophy.

Secondly, just what promise is he talking about? I don't ever remember the state making any promise for education for veteran's, short of the original 50% remission program. And what does that have to do with increasing tuition? Tuition is a huge component of system revenue. When you increase burdens on the system, the system will require more money. Easiest and most rational way? Tuition.

Chew on that for next time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

United Council General Assembly

I was in Waukegan this weekend for a General Assembly for the United Council of UW Students, a 501 C3 organization comprised of students of member UW campuses who come together to propose legislative as well as other initiatives in the interests of UW students (theoretically), as well as support or condemn actions or current initiatives of the Board of Regents, Wisconsin Legislature, etc. It's basically a large lobbying group.

My committee (Legislative Affairs) was relatively uneventful, and whereas I couldn't get the time of day to propose my initiative, I went back to the hotel to draft my own resolution for the following day's General Assembly. I lobbied other delegates, some more successfully than others, while still others went on tangental tyraids against capitalism blah blah blah. While I was able to gather some support, including one fellow Libertarian (in an organization of hardcore liberals and socialists) I knew the resolution was DOA. However, we had the largest delegation, and might have had some swing (which we did).

Long story short, the intiative failed, but not before I got some good words in, swung some potential votes, and utilized some good parliamentary procedure. From there on in our delegation was generally quiet on most initiatives, trying to gain some leverage over the upcoming budget (I will cover that one later). We ended up adjourning four and a half hours later than expected (budgets are like that), if not for the sole reason of incoming tornados, a problem we had faced both on our way to and from the GA. Indeed, a good portion of our travel time was through tornado sirens.

It was postponed for further research (even though there was plenty), until the next GA, which means we can count on the resolution being on the agenda. This is fine with us, because the intention was primarily to force them to acknowledge our initiative, and then swing the meeting with parliamentary procedure since we were the largest delegation, and necessary for qourum. Our delegation is currently working primarily with Milwaukee, but there are other key delegations we have on our side, more than we expected or could have asked for.

The hardest part of the whole thing was trying to explain to people who are accustomed to demanding government money (without regard to how its going to be paid for) for school, how creating a strong bedrock for economic development and growth is essential to supporting the very programs (and University System) they talk of. The well is already drying up, where do they think this money is going to come from? Also, the more pressure put on the system by increasing subsidized grants and scholarships as well as tuition remissions, the higher the very cost they are fighting will go.

I will have pictures, potentially video up possibly late tonight/tomorrow. Class + work = busy summer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Over: Obama Defeats the Clinton Machine



Clinton is in New York right now giving a campaign speech; I'm waiting for her concession any minute now.

[UPDATE]

8:50pm Clinton says she won't make a decision tonight, you have to go to her website and tell her what to do...?

8:54pm Speech is over...I'm pretty disappointed.

What the hell is she getting at? She has to know it's over, short of the HRC Machine paying delegates to switch (I wouldn't put it past the Clintons) she doesn't stand any chance. He has surpassed the amount of necessary delegates. McCain is already jumping on Obama:

"He is an impressive man who makes a great first impression," McCain said. "But he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters, to bring real change to Washington. I have."

In a speech intended to mark the start of the general election, the Republican defended himself against Obama's frequent claim that McCain is "running for President Bush's third term" because McCain supports the Iraq war and wants to extend the president's tax cuts.


[UPDATE]

9:10pm Obama is about to give his speech in St. Paul.
9: 13pm Obama talking up "change" again. Oh, "hopes" and "dreams" as well.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Mars Pheonix to Land Today at North Pole


Watch it stream live today, directions here

The last attempt to land on Mars in 1999 went terribly, in fact, a good majority of missions have gone wrong due to difficulty landing on the damn thing (and thus the name "seven minutes of terror").

The Pheonix will be searching the North Pole for traces of organic compounds, the building blocks of life, in ice. More information here.

And the official site for the project is here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Libertarian Debate

Watching it right now. Can someone tell me how Gravel is a Libertarian? Check it out now on Cspan.

[UPDATE]

Live Blogging going on at the Liberty Papers

Hillary Clinton Speculates About an Obama Assassination

...and uses it as a reason she is staying in the race.


I'm getting sick and tired of hearing jokes, speculations, and allusions about Senator Obama and any potential assassinations. It would probably be a good idea for him to confront this kind of talk formally.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

U.S. Cannot Discharge Homosexuals?

From the AP:

SEATTLE (AP) -- The military cannot automatically discharge people because they're gay, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in the case of a decorated flight nurse who sued the Air Force over her dismissal.

This, following what happened in California, should give the LGBT(QISA) community a victory, as well as the sense that tides may be changing in their favor. The newest movement in civil rights issues may have struck two major victories in one week! However, the "Don't ask don't tell" policy may have a chance to stick, if and only if:

The three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not strike down the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But they reinstated Maj. Margaret Witt's lawsuit, saying the Air Force must prove that her dismissal furthered the military's goals of troop readiness and unit cohesion.

[...]

Under Wednesday's ruling, military officials "need to prove that having this particular gay person in the unit really hurts morale, and the only way to improve morale is to discharge this person," said Aaron Caplan, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state who worked on the case.
My bet is that they can't. I think that the era of institutionalized homophobia may be coming to an end. While we may still have a conservative leaning Supreme Court, I think that this issue is becoming more "gay-friendly." While it would be better to face these issues after the elections this fall, it seems that we are moving towards a more accepting (albeit reluctantly) outlook on LGBT issues in our nation.

From the 9th Court of Appeals:

"When the government attempts to intrude upon the personal and private lives of homosexuals, the government must advance an important governmental interest ... and the intrusion must be necessary to further that interest," wrote Judge Ronald M. Gould.

One of the judges, William C. Canby Jr., issued a partial dissent, saying that the ruling didn't go far enough. He argued that the Air Force should have to show that the policy itself "is necessary to serve a compelling governmental interest and that it sweeps no more broadly than necessary."
In other words, the right to privacy (the same right invoked in Roe v. Wade) is used as a buffer against governmental discrimination. However, unlike Roe v. Wade, I think there is a case here, since no one else's rights are involved. Therefore, the military has the burden of proof to show that being "gay" is a detriment to the military forces (which both I, and the courts I believe deny).

Could this be the beginning of the end for the movement? For sure this was a serious victory at the least.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Poor Are Getting Poorer? Maybe Not.


If only I had a nickel for every time I heard someone decry the situation of inequality today: "The rich get richer while the poor only get poorer!" But then, I would be the rich, and then I would be the bad guy.

I've always had a problem with this common complaint, and I have attempted to justify my positions. However, I am no economist, and thus my opinions are not made with the sharpest of prose.

I did get lucky though, to stumble upon a New York Times blog by Steven Levitt:

When people talk about inequality, they tend to focus exclusively on the income part of the equation. According to all our measures, the gap in income between the rich and the poor has been growing. What Broda and Romalis quite convincingly demonstrate, however, is that the prices of goods that poor people tend to consume have fallen sharply relative to the prices of goods that rich people consume. Consequently, when you measure the true buying power of the rich and the poor, inequality grew only one-third as fast as economists previously thought it did — or maybe didn’t grow at all.

Why did the prices of the things poor people buy fall relative to the stuff rich people buy? Lefties aren’t going to like the answers one bit: globalization and Wal-Mart!

[...]

Not only are Wal-Mart’s prices lower, but its entry also induces competitors to lower prices. The impact is much larger on the poor than the rich, both because the poor are more likely to shop at Wal-Mart and because they spend more of their income on food.
Here is a link to the study.

This is not meant to be a complete defense of those who make millions or perhaps billions of dollars a year (although I see no harm in it). I mean to show that the rich ARE getting richer, but not at the expense of the poor or middle class; instead the opposite is true: what benefits the rich in the end is directly tied to how they benefit all others. In other words, capitalism continues to be to the benefit of most (if not all) individuals, whether it is overtly evidential or not.

Of course, I do have a better grasp of freedom and economics than most people, so when I saw the comments to the article I had to cringe:

At what point does Wal-Mart stop having the incentive to keep their prices low. If they become a towns only grocer they have complete price control and can at some future point raise prices artificially high.

— Posted by Billy

Actually Billy, their prices are that way for a reason: it makes them more money than it would if they raised it to a point at which fewer people could buy their goods. What would be the point in that?

Food prices are going up rapidly, correct? So this gap in equality will start to show up pretty damn soon, I would imagine.

— Posted by Grant

This is tied to gas prices, Grant, yet the general trend HAS been downward. Also, who do you think uses more gas? Poor or rich?

I believe that there’s a point missing. In principle, of course, you’re right in saying that the real income matters. What is missing though, is the fact that people who reside at the lower end of the income distribution would probably like to change their consumption patterns but aren’t capable of doing so.

— Posted by J0k3r

I hope you're joking, Jok3r; if not, then I call bullshit. What makes you think that someone cannot change their consumption patterns? In fact, many people are able to become rich because they don't spend their money as frivolously as many poor people (including me), and invest or save it intelligently until they are comfortable enough to be able to spend more on superior goods.

There are many more comments that I do not have the energy to comment on.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

McCain Looks to the Future in New Campaign Commercial: 2013

30,000 Burmese Children May Starve; UN Envoy Pleads Junta

30,000 children may starve in the crisis following Cyclone Nargis as Myanmar's Junta continues to create roadblocks to foreign aid and relief.

Save the Children said that under-fives living in the Irrawaddy delta were already "acutely malnourished" when the cyclone hit on May 2 and it believed some children in the stricken areas of Burma may now be dying from lack of food.

The foreign office minister Lord Malloch-Brown today criticised the "man-made bottlenecks" that were causing the crisis and preventing help from getting to the cyclone victims.

The delta is also a major rice producer for the region, a place previously undernourished and poor, yet so very important to the Burmese economy and food supply. Flood rains pelted the area the other day, worsening conditions, and many may only have a couple of days to live if conditions and aid proliferation do not improve. Things have gotten so bad the some are considering forced delivery of aid as conditions lay grounds for charges of crimes against humanity:

Yesterday, Gordon Brown said forced airdrops of aid were being considered, but noted that charities warned they could be "counter-productive".

"We rule nothing out and the reason we rule nothing out is that we want to get the aid directly to the people," he told the BBC's World Service.

[...]

The French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Maurice Ripert, warned that the junta's refusal to allow delivery of the supplies "could lead to a true crime against humanity".

All of this as a UN envoy traveled to Myanmar today to monitor current humanitarian conditions and plead for the Junta to allow foreign aid in, as the death toll climbs to 78,000. The Junta claim that they have all the aid that is needed.
The junta says it has completed relief operations and now will turn to reconstruction. It has barred foreign aid experts, including the U.N.'s international staff, from traveling to the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta.
Meanwhile, the Junta explained their reasoning for barring foreign aid and officials from entering the country:

On Sunday, the regime accused foreign news organizations of falsely reporting that the government was refusing or hindering international relief aid.

"Some foreign news agencies broadcast false information and thus some international and regional organizations are assuming that the government has been rejecting and preventing aid for storm victims," a government statement said. "Those who have been to Myanmar understand the actual fact."

And yet you wont let them in! Ok, you won't allow foreign media in because they falsely report, and yet you also say that only those that travel there can know the truth...? I smell Bullshit. Whats the real reason?
The military junta's xenophobia stems from the fear that allowing foreign aid workers to mingle with ordinary people will embolden them to rebel against 46 years of authoritarian rule.
And yet letting them starve to death is really going to embolden their support of the Junta?

UC Berkely Students Protest at Graduation


50 or so students decided to make a statement at the graduation ceremony of their fellow students, asking their administration to fire Prof. John Yoo for his support of the Bush Administration's torture policies.

"We want to see him fired and disbarred for being a war criminal," said Anne Weills, an Oakland attorney who said she was with the National Lawyers Guild, one of the groups that protested. "Academic freedom stops when you intend to harm or injure somebody."

Yoo, a tenured constitutional law professor at Boalt Hall, took a leave of absence from 2001 to 2003 to work for the U.S. Department of Justice. During that time, he wrote what critics call the "torture memos," which protesters say outlined the legal basis for the use of torture at the Abu Ghraib (Iraq) and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) military prisons.

The students, dressed as Guantanamo Detainees and sitting in makeshift cages, called Yoo a war-criminal and called for him to be disbarred, fired, and tried.

Yoo drafted an August 2002 memo, signed by his boss, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, providing the legal basis to justify torture in interrogating terrorism suspects. Among other things, Yoo argued that habeas corpus and other legal protections don't apply to CIA detainees because Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are not on U.S. soil.

While I would disagree with Yoo substantially, I don't think it was prudent to make such an elaborate protest (even flying a plane with an anti-Yoo banner overhead) while my fellow students are trying to celebrate the culmination of four (or more) years of hard work and dedication. For some, this could be one of the happiest days of their life. I guess it doesn't surprise me though, we've seen actions like this from many fringe liberal crazies, as well as the nuts religious right (Westboro Baptists anyone?). It would be insane to fire him from the job, much less disbar or indite him just because of his political views.

William Upshaw of Oakland, who was at the event to see his wife graduate, was unhappy with the hoopla outside the theater.

"It's interesting, but unexpected," he said as he filed past the protest, carrying a bouquet for his wife, "and, actually, I don't think it's appropriate."

No shit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

12,000 Dead in China Today


As a result of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake:


The Chinese people have become panicked over a powerful earthquake that claimed about 10,000 lives and trapped untold numbers under debris in central China on Monday. First our hearts go out to the families of the victims. And we hope that those trapped in the rubble will be rescued as soon as possible. The quake reminds us that humans are vulnerable to the "rage of nature.''
As of right now, 12,000 dead and counting:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Too Funny Not to Post

Every now and then I can't help but take time off from serious news to showcase something funny. Yes, believe it or not, I have a sense of humor. Anyways, whilst traversing the internets I came across a gem called Horribleville, and decided to rummage.

So I bring to you from the Archives of Horribleville:




She Just Doesn't Give Up

Yep. And now that Obama is in the lead with Superdelegates as well, she's toast. The media has even started calling en masse for her to call it quits before she becomes even more of a joke. Just check out the new SNL clip (priceless).

Obama did just what he needed to do today: Pretend Hillary does not exist.
There’s something missing from the Barack Obama campaign this weekend: virtually all mention of his primary opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton. In speeches and in brief press conferences, Senator Obama has been pounding away on the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, often using the identical rhetoric that was served up against Mrs. Clinton just days ago.

8 Reasons Why My Generation is Dumb...

From Boston.com:
Take a look at eight reasons the Emory University English professor gives to ''not trust anyone under 30'' -- see which you think is the best. Disagree, or have your own spin?
Their reasons are as follows:
  1. They make excellent "Jaywalking'' targets
  2. 2. They don't read books -- and don't want to, either
  3. They can't spell
  4. They get ridiculed for original thought, good writing
  5. Grand Theft Auto IV, etc.
  6. They don't store the information
  7. Because their teachers don't tell them so
  8. Because they're young
They also introduced a poll to see what readers thought was the biggest reason:

What reason makes the most sense for "The Dumbest Generation?"

2. Books? No thanks!
26.6%
7. Easy teachers, parents
19.9%
4. Clear thought ridiculed by peers
13.3%
8. Just age
12.4%
6. Don't retain information (who needs to?)
10.4%
3. Can't spell
6.7%
1. "Jaywalking'' gaps in knowledge
6.2%
5. Grand Theft Auto, etc.
4.6%
Total votes: 21783

I voted for "Books" and it appears a plurality of readers would agree. With 21783 votes, its doubtful that the margin of error is too large to overturn that.

However, I would not be so quick as to say our generation is dumb in the first place. I believe that we may be lazy, but I have also heard that Intelligence quotients have been rising over the years. I think it is easy to point out the failures of the young, especially if older people are alienated by the increasingly fast pace at which culture is reinventing itself (mostly attributable to increases in the speed and efficiency of communication mediums). While I can agree to a point that people my age do not read as much or know as much as older folks (hell, I read more than most people, but I still wish I read more), I have doubts as to how "dumb" we are.

Also, if there is a decrease in the level of intelligence in our age, why not look to the institution of public education? God knows that this institution sucks too, and continues to degenerate.

I guess I will just have to read the book. That is of course, unless I'm too lazy, haha.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hezbollah Gunmen Take Over Parts of Lebanese Capitol

The new fighting threatens to re-engulf the nation in civil war:
Hizbollah swept through major areas of Beirut in an overnight push that resulted in the deaths of 11 and forced Lebanese MPs out of the capital.


[...]

But the army has largely avoided getting involved in the street battles, preferring to remain above the political fray for fear of being dragged into the conflict. The institution could break up on sectarian lines if it takes on the powerful Hizbollah, which survived a war with Israel in 2006.
As if the Shiite terrorist group wasn't bad enough, it appears they're getting help from a neighboring terror sponsor:
Dozens of fighters from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a Hizbollah ally, also appeared in the streets off Hamra, some masked and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
As time has shown, a conflict anywhere in the Middle East involves all Arabs, particularly when it breaks down to Pro-West/Anti-West lines. As the Arab world looks for some sort of resolution, Bush rattles sabers:

“Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere," U.S. President George W. Bush said in a speech in the United Arab Emirates in January. "So the United States is strengthening our longstanding security commitments with our friends in the Gulf and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late.”

In the same speech, Bush also accused Iran of exporting terror. He did not have to specify for his audience the destinations. Washington has often charged Iran and Syria with helping to arm the Lebanese Shi’ite Hizballah and of using it to destabilize the Western-leaning government in Beirut.

Fortunately, some countries are calling for an Arab meeting to discuss the situation, although I have some doubts as to how effective they will be.

Egypt and Jordan voiced support for an Arab meeting.

"Egypt and other Arab countries are very concerned by the actions of Hezbollah in Lebanon," an Egyptian diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"A party backed by Iran cannot be allowed to take control of the running of Lebanon.

"The situation today in Lebanon is 10 times worse than it was yesterday and we are very concerned at what is happening, because that means that Iran wants to control the country."

President Shimon Peres of Israel - whose country fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006 - claimed the violence was fomented by arch foe Iran to further what he said was Tehran's goal to control all the Middle East.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country long dominated its smaller neighbour, said the political crisis there was an "internal matter" and called for it to be resolved through dialogue.

A statement by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he was "profoundly worried" at the fighting and said the rival factions should start a dialogue to overcome their differences.

Jordan also backed the proposal for a foreign ministers meeting in order to "bring to an end the political crisis and restore calm," Foreign Minister Salah Bashir said in a statement to news state agency Petra.

Yemen contacted rival Lebanese factions and regional governments outlining an alternative plan involving mandating Lebanon's army chief Michel Sleiman to chair a dialogue to halt the fighting, the state Saba news agency reported.

Soviets Conjure Up Images of the Motherland, Show Off Weaponry


Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in Wednesday as Russia's new President:
Forced out of the presidency by constitutional term limits, Putin on Wednesday handed off his title to a longtime protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, who in turn nominated his old boss as prime minister.

[...]

Putin's nomination never was in doubt. His party, United Russia, holds more than three-quarters of the Duma seats.

Thursday's debate was the final, theatrical exercise in the long-guaranteed ascension to the job he chose for himself.

Sworn in on Wednesday, appoint Putin on Thursday, and on Friday conjure up memories of Old Motherland in the international community:



Russia celebrated Victory Day today with a show of military might not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The annual parade marks the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, and remembers almost 27 million Soviets who perished in World War II. Russia has not displayed heavy weaponry at the parade in Red Square since 1990.

[...]

It was Putin who, before stepping down as president, ordered generals to revive the Soviet-era tradition of driving tanks, howitzers and missile launchers through Red Square on May 9.
Video:



Myanmar Junta Seizes Foreign Aid, UN to Halt Shipments

The United Nations World Food Program, one agency that finally was approved to distribute foreign aid in Myanmar, had shipments seized by the Junta today.

"All of the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated," U.N. World Food Program spokesman Risley said.

"For the time being, we have no choice but to end further efforts to bring critical needed food aid into Myanmar at this time," he said.

The Junta told the U.N. that it wants supplies, not people, sent to the country.
Myanmar deported a search and rescue team and reporters who arrived on a May 7 flight from Qatar because it expected the plane to carry only emergency aid, not workers, AFP cited the Foreign Ministry as saying.
Perhaps the Junta is embarrassed that they cannot effectively govern?
Myanmar will distribute international supplies itself and ``is not ready to receive search and rescue teams as well as media teams from foreign countries,'' Agence France-Presse cited the government as saying today.
Yep, I thought so.

Myanmar has been under international sanctions since the military rejected the results of elections in 1990, won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

The junta plans to press ahead with a referendum tomorrow for a new constitution before elections in 2010. The ballot will be delayed until May 24 in the worst-affected areas.

All the more reason for them not to involve the international community.

Now, normally I completely respect the sovereignty of a nation-state, and I generally do not endorse meddling in their affairs. However, when an illegitimate government cannot provide for it's people, and a humanitarian crises of this proportion emerges, it is no longer meddling, it's a damn tragedy. The world must step in the help the 1.5 million in need of aid before the situation deteriorates, and if the Junta had decency (they wouldn't be a Junta then, would they?) they would suspend the referendum Saturday.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

100,000 Dead and Counting; The Junta Place Elections Before Foreign Aid


The Cyclone that hit Myanmar last week has killed more than first suspected, and I expect more to come as the ruling Junta blocks the United States and other nations from sending foriegn aid and providing airlifts:

YANGON (Reuters) - Desperate survivors cried out for aid on Thursday nearly a week after Cyclone Nargis killed up to 100,000 people, as pressure piled up on Myanmar to throw its doors open to an international relief operation.
The United Nations was able to get in after some delays, but the overt distrust between Junta generals and the U.S. may further prolong aid efforts. Apparently however, the U.S. is not the only country having problems:
The WFP's Risley said aid agencies normally expect to fly in experts and supplies within 48 hours of a disaster, but nearly a week after this cyclone, few international groups have been able to send reinforcements into Myanmar.
The Junta continues to under-exaggerate the loss of life as well.

State media had reported a death toll of 22,980 with 42,119 missing as of Tuesday, but diplomats and disaster experts said the real figure is likely to be much higher.

"The information that we're receiving indicates that there may well be over 100,000 deaths in the delta area," said Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Myanmar.

Whether this is the work of incompetent dictators, or a function of an overinflated ego being faced with its own ineptitude and inadequacy, I cannot say. Probably both, I presume, and I don't know how long it will be before the Burmese people take matters into their own hands. However, some think that the Junta is dropping the ball on foreign aid in order to juggle the referendum coming up this Saturday.

BANGKOK - Disregarding the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar's military rulers are bent on holding a constitutional referendum on Saturday, said to be designed to enhance the junta's grip over the country.

"The relief efforts are being hampered by the junta's obsession with getting the referendum vote over and done with," a Western diplomat based in the former capital Yangon told Inter Press Service (IPS) on condition of anonymity.

[...]

"The government's attitude is that the referendum is the top priority and the cyclone is an inconvenience; we believe any government's priority should be the humanitarian response rather than the referendum," the diplomat said.
And why is that? With the international eye upon them, the Junta want to move quick before their "democracy" game is exposed for the fraud it really is. Most voters have absolutely no clue as to what they are voting on:
Burma News International (BNI) - an umbrella group of more than 10 publications and agencies - which interviewed more than 2,000 voters across the county, before the cyclone struck, produced startling results.

BNI secretary Mu Hlaing Theint told IPS that a two-page questionnaire, to ensure statistical consistency, was used to compile the results from telephone and face-to-face interviews.

Almost seven out of 10 interviewed said they had no idea what was in the constitution. One in four voters had still to make up their minds which way they would vote. So, despite the regime's intensive propaganda campaign there remains a significant number of undecided voters.
Don't worry about the opposition though:
There is no doubt though that the real vote is not going to be announced - it has been rigged from the start. The junta has carried out a concerted campaign of harassing and intimidating voters. "The police called on our family last week and told us we had to vote 'Yes' or we'd go to jail for three years," a middle-aged mother in Yangon said over phone, on condition of anonymity.
In true Junta fashion, they have made sure that the voters don't know what they're voting on, by keeping it available only to those few who actually have money in a country where many live on as little as $2 a day, by overwhelming the public with state-run newspaper propaganda, and by using threat and coercion to drive away those who oppose the Junta's draft constitution, which in the end will change only one thing: it will make permanent and "legitimate" what has been forcibly institutionalized for too long in Burma.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Obama: “Why can’t I just eat my waffle?”



A reporter today was unfortunate enough to get between Barack Obama and his waffle:

SCRANTON, Pa. - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama kicked off a day of campaigning in Pennsylvania by dropping by a Scranton diner for a breakfast of waffles, sausage and orange juice.

But the press corps went hungry — hungry for an answer that is.

The Illinois senator brushed aside a question from one reporter on his reaction to former President Jimmy Carter’s description of a positive meeting with leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.

“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?” Obama replied.

Republicans, long known for their opposition to waffles, jumped at the chance to blame the breakfast food for aiding Obama's evasion of the foreign policy question.

“Today, Obama continued to dodge questions from the media, responding that he just wanted to eat his waffle,” the Republican National Committee said in an email sent to reporters that included press accounts of the waffle incident at the Glider diner.

Student Loans are Beginning to Bounce

SHIT.
Norton thought he was set when he deposited a $16,000 student-loan check to pay for summer classes and the fall semester. But when he started to pay bills for classes, rent, and other expenses last week, his checks bounced.
Jefferson warned us against spending money we don't have. Now, the effects of a debt-based society are beginning to show.
More than 50 firms have abandoned or cut back their federal or private student loan programs this year, unable to raise money in the financial markets. Yesterday, Citigroup, one of the largest private lenders, said it would stop lending at some schools and end its federal loan consolidations.
How this will affect UW-Parkside? Well, considering the fact that 40% of us are in the lowest economic echelons, our students are in trouble. Couple that with an increasing lack of funding for WHEG and Lawton grants, as well as increasing tuition and SEG fees, and you can see that the future is not bright for young people in Southeastern Wisconsin. Time will tell.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Police Punked by Root Beer Pong Party

A Wisconsin high school student who was suspended from a dance team for being in Facebook photos drinking from red plastic cups (apparently all red plastic cups contain alcohol, fun fact), decided to get back at the school by throwing a tongue in cheek root beer kegger:

So Zebro, an 18-year-old senior, devised a plan to show that things are not always as they appear. He bought a quarter-barrel - of root beer - and a tall stack of red cups, and he spread the word that the party was at his house in Kronenwetter, a village just outside Wausau, on a Saturday night this month.

"There were keg stands and root beer pong and all that, so it looked like a real party," he said. The idea was to post photos on the Internet and fool the school, he said.

Police showed up because of a complaint about cars blocking the road, and an officer administered breath tests to 89 teens.

Surely, someone had to be drinking right?
Every kid blew 0.0.

[..]

With each negative breath test, the crowd cheers and shouts out encouragement like, "Good form." One guy flaps his arms as he's blowing into the mouthpiece. Several seconds of the song "I Believe I Can Fly" was edited into the video for that scene, and even the officer can be seen smiling.

[...]

Dustin Zebro admits that no one should assume root beer is always the beverage of choice for these or any other high school seniors. Plenty of underage drinking goes on.

We have a tendency to believe the worst when it comes to kids this age. It's refreshing to be wrong about that sometimes and to find a houseful of soda-chuggers, even if they're doing it ironically. That's easy for me to say, of course, when it wasn't my house packed with 89 teenagers.

Kudos to Dustin for throwing it in the face of the Police and High School for their blatant ageism and profiling. One last point...Zebro admits one should not assume that teens are drinking root beer...but why is it better to assume that teens are drinking alcohol? Sure underage drinking goes on, but so does a lot of soda guzzling, chip munching, pizza partying, and video gaming.

Copy of the video on YouTube:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

1950's PSA: Beware of Homosexuals

Oh.My.God.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Somers Passes Draconian Sex Offender Ordinance

Draconian action, from a municipality in the Kenosha Area, that could have untenable consequences:
SOMERS - Despite assurances from a Department of Corrections official that the department does a good job at supervising sex offenders, the Somers Town Board on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that will restrict where sex offenders can live.

Board members Vern Wienke and Ben Harbach were absent, but with three of the five board members present a quorum was still met.

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders, who did not previously live in the town, from residing within 2,500 feet of schools, churches, parks, trails, day cares, places of worship and wherever children gather. Convicted sexual offenders who previously lived in Somers will be prohibited from living within 500 feet of those places.

Additional requirements include barring convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of each other and requiring offenders to notify the town of their residence.

Under the ordinance, violators - the offenders and those who rent to them - would be fined $500 per day and could face up to 90 days in jail.
Besides the fact that retribution AFTER sentencing is completely unethical and not jurisprudent, this ordinance will do a few things.

1. It will prohibit most sex offenders from locating to Somers from somewhere else (2500 feet is slightly less than 1/2 a mile).
2. It will severely restrict the ability for current residents to live in the city, and could possibly restrict them to areas where residential property is more expensive (500 feet is no insignificant distance).
3. It will either create a complete physical impossibility, or it will extirpate most if not all sex offenders from the town.

Naturally, municipalities in the area will seek to mitigate what they will undoubtedly see as an exodus of pedophiles marching into their schools, churches and homes, to feed on innocent children everywhere. This mitigation will involve the use of similar draconian measures that in the end could prove disastrous for sex offenders as well as every other citizen. We have seen this happen before...
The men have flocked to the Ced-Rel and other rural motels and trailer parks because no one else will, or can, have them. A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center has brought unintended and disturbing consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.

[...]

Of the more than 6,000 people on Iowa's registry of sex offenders, 400 are now listed as "whereabouts unconfirmed" or living in "non-structure locations" (like tents, parking lots or rest areas). Last summer, the number was 140.

[...]

Before September, Sheriff Zeller said, he knew where 90 percent of Linn County's sex offenders were living, and today he knows where slightly more than half live. Just before Christmas, the sheriff said, one man began spending his days inside the sheriff's office because he had no where else to go.
Further evidence:

Federal law requires states to create registries of offenders convicted of sex crimes or offenses against children. And it mandates that local law enforcement agencies provide information to the public about sex offenders living in the community. But Georgia went a lot further and enacted restrictions on where offenders on the registry can live and work.

Suddenly, aging Alzheimer's patients were being evicted from nursing homes that were near playgrounds, and 18-year-old boys who'd had sex with their 15-year-old classmates were ordered out of their family homes because of a neighboring family day care center. People had to quit long-term jobs because their workplace was too close to a church.

[...]

In passing its law, Georgia looked to Iowa, which pioneered blanket residency restrictions in 2002. Today the Iowa County Attorneys Association says, "The research shows that there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children." The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said the number of sex offenders who are unaccounted for has more than doubled since the law went into effect.
With research showing these methods to be ineffective, and with no positive results to be seen, why in the hell do we keep doing this? Why do we continue to undermine civil liberties to enact unconstitutional and unethical ordinances/laws/statutes that have absolutely NO positive effect?

Two reasons that I propose:

1. Society always has its witch to burn.

2. Society votes for politicians who are "tough on crime."

Forget however, the fact that the State Legislature passed a Statute barring municipalities from proposing such an ordinance:
State law prohibits a town from passing such an ordinance, contending that zoning in unincorporated areas must be handled by the county. But town officials say it's not a matter of zoning - it's a matter of health and safety.
Give me a break.

Friday, March 21, 2008

God Hates Wisconsin

As if we hadn't seen enough snow, Winter decided to extend is death grip upon Wisconsin:
Remember that whopper of a storm on Feb. 6 when nearly 12 inches of snow closed the malls, schools and made for treacherous driving?

"This will be something quite similar to that form with what we are seeing right now," meteorologist Tom Zajdel said this morning of the 10 to 15 inches of snowfall predicted for southeast Wisconsin by the National Weather Service.
Godamnit.

The Sad Truth About Relationships

Found here.



Hah.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Global Warming on Hiatus?

Could this be a sign that maybe we don't really understand the phenomenon of Global Warming? Or maybe the whole thing isn't as bad as we originally though:
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

Don't hold your breath, however. Heat has been flowing from the water to the air (aka El Nino). This phenomenon can be the reason why global air temperatures have risen while global sea temperatures have actually dropped by a small degree. The rise in global air temperatures have caused an increase in sea levels, due to the increase in the melting of Antarctic glaciers.

However, the increase in sea level cannot be accounted for with only glacial melting.

"But in fact there's a little bit of a mystery. We can't account for all of the sea level increase we've seen over the last three or four years," he says.

One possibility is that the sea has, in fact, warmed and expanded — and scientists are somehow misinterpreting the data from the diving buoys.

But if the aquatic robots are actually telling the right story, that raises a new question: Where is the extra heat all going?

Time will tell.

One Day, Several Protests


Associated Press - March 19, 2008 11:44 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - San Francisco police have made the first arrests in what is expected to be a busy day of protests in the Bay Area.

A police spokesman doesn't have an exact number, but says a handful of people have been arrested outside of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The protest outside the bank is 1 of several planned throughout the day in the Bay Area.

A rally and march is also planned this evening at San Francisco's Civic Center.

San Francisco police have extra officers on duty, with a spokesman saying officers will work to keep protesters from closing streets and blocking traffic.

A march and protest is also planned outside the Marine recruiting station in Berkeley.

Berkeley police say they'll have 50 to 60 extra officers on duty to help with crowd control.

Protests and candlelight vigil are also planned in San Jose, Palo Alto and Oakland.

The main groups responsible for the protests are ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and DASW (Direct Action to Stop the War), who organized the events on the fifth aniversary of the invasion of Iraq.














click here to learn more



Wow, That Didn't Last Long

Looks like the 3/4 point cut didn't help:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell on Wednesday as investors sold stocks to take profits after Tuesday's Fed-aided rally, while a sharp drop in oil prices drove energy shares lower.

The Standard & Poor's index of materials stocks fell 4.9 percent as persistent worries about a recession and the health of the U.S. economy weighed on commodity prices.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 made its biggest one-day jump in more than five years after the Federal Reserve cut short-term U.S. interest rates by 75 basis points. The Fed's decision, which was expected, brought the benchmark fed funds rate for overnight bank loans down to 2.25 percent from 3.0 percent.

The Fed knew this might happen, so why did they make such an aggressive cut?
"What you're probably seeing right now is simply profit-taking. People have decided that they got what they can out of the Fed meeting and they are now taking some money off the table," said Peter Jankovskis, director of research at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
Business using the Fed? Never would have expected that...

Lhasa Riots on Tape


Tibetans in Lhasa riot, caught on tape by Australian journalist:
Will China be able to save face in time for the Olympics? Or will de facto martial law be imposed like in 1989?

More from the AP:

Beijing has learned a lot about controlling unrest since 1989. While China contained the fallout from crushing Tibet protests that year, its bloody quelling of the democracy demonstrators in central Beijing stigmatized the government and set back the economy for several years.

The government has since poured resources into building up police and paramilitary riot squads. Protests have become commonplace in China in the past decade, by workers laid-off from restructuring, bankrupt state industries and farmers displaced from their land by development. Police have developed a play book for dealing with these incidents - keep the protesters in a confined area, defuse the situation with payoffs or promises, and settle scores later.

Beijing has tried to stanch unrest and buy Tibetans' loyalty in recent years by investing billions of dollars in the region, lavishing spending on infrastructure projects.

Yet the flood of Chinese migrants that money brought and ever tightening restrictions on Buddhist observances left Tibetans feeling marginalized in their homelands. The riot-control plans that have proved so effective elsewhere in China also seemed to fail on March 14, as Tibetans briefly seized parts of Lhasa.

With foreign governments holding off calls for a real boycott and independent media given little access to Tibet, there are worries that China will resort to quick brutal measures, leaving Tibetans more angry and alienated.

"There's a number of people outside in the free world who also believe China's hopes for the Olympics is a window of opportunity. I believe it's a window of opportunity," said Lodi Gyari, an aide to the Dalai Lama who conducted a fitful dialogue with Chinese officials that broke off in 2006. "The Chinese themselves have created this global image. Tibet is precisely the image they wanted to avoid."

And that is the reason why I don't think China will be as violent in their reaction this time around.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meeting David Wilson

No, not me silly.

Meeting David Wilson is a feature length documentary about the enduring legacy of slavery in today’s young black society.

David Wilson, a 28-year-old African-American journalist, journeys into his family’s past to find answers to America’s racial divide. Along the way he meets another David Wilson, the descendant of his family’s slave master. This discovery leads to a momentous encounter between these two men of the same name but whose ancestors were on the opposite sides of freedom. Through DNA testing, David determines his African roots and returns to his native land.

MSNBC TO AIR WORLD PREMIERE OF “MEETING DAVID WILSON,” FRIDAY, APRIL 11 AT 9 P.M. ET
“Today” Correspondent Tiki Barber To Host Documentary
90-Minute Live Conversation About Race Moderated by NBC News’ Brian Williams To Air Immediately Following
Entire Event To Stream Live On MSNBC.COM
Ford Motor Company Is Presenting Sponsor Of Event



This ought to be good.