Friday, April 22, 2011


"With people starving in many countries, wheat doesn't belong in our gas tanks."

Speed Cameras are an area of particular interest to me, so this story caught my eye immediately. A Maryland business had several of his trucks nailed by speed cameras, so he took the evidence, worked out the math, and showed that these vehicles were not, in fact, speeding and got the tickets overturned. This has gotten the interest of a lot of other people; we already know that red light cameras are often a bit shady, its time these speed cameras got a closer look as well.

American Digest has put my stuff in his sidebar several times, and its time for some linkback action. There is a hilarious picture there of men working:

They're putting up barriers to stop people parking there, but how are they gonna get that truck out?

MSN has good news! You should love $5 a gallon gas! Here are the reasons why they think so:
  • Fewer people will die on the road!
  • Demand for economical cars will grow!
  • Airline prices will go up, thus shortening security lines at the airport!
  • Less pollution from cars!
  • This might pressure the government to open up more drilling!
  • People will exercise more!
  • Wars will get too expensive to wage!
  • Local businesses will do better because it costs too much to drive to Wal*Mart!
  • We'll starve oil despots out of their power by driving less!
Without going into too much detail, imagine how happy you should be when prices push past six dollars a gallon which some people believe will happen by August. And anyone who thinks President "gas prices should be higher" Obama will open up more drilling or that people will fight fewer wars when a critical resource becomes scarce is a fool, indeed. And "Doublepeace" who wrote this clearly is just such a fool.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to rise, and as a result so does the price of everything else, particularly food. Economists are concerned that we're reaching a tipping point where we slide into recession again, but I suspect we already have. The growth last quarter was barely over 1% (yes, they had to adjust it down, again) and inflation has started up. President Obama's response to this? Blame speculators, as the Streetwise Professor notes. Now, I'm no fan of speculators, but these people are not the cause of gas prices rising. They're gambling that based on the current situation and future pressures, gas prices will go up, and are spending based on that. They are reacting to the market, not driving it. But hey, he's faced with a choice between "my policies are driving gas prices up" and "those evil wall street fat cats are driving prices up," and the truth is always going to lose in a fight like that.

Endangered species is a touchy issue, some consider it an absurd imposition of government power and others believe that all creatures should be protected, so the government isn't going far enough. The Fish and Wildlife Administration under President Obama has been inundated with requests for creatures to be added to the list of endangered species, presumably by people who figure they have an ally who'll agree with their wishes. However according to Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy President Obama is apparently looking at ways of limiting the number of requests they handle each year to give the agency more time and money to act on enforcement instead.

Wesboro Baptist Church members went to Brandon Mississippi to protest at a fallen warrior's funeral, but this time they met up with a bunch of good old boys. Here's the story, courtesy Fox Nation:
A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.
And that's the South I know and love but leftists are clueless about.

Lightning in a Bottle is a documentary of a blues concert, showcasing the history of blues and the musicians that presented it. Between the footage were short interviews and one of them really hit me. It was an older lady, I think Ruth Brown, said that she thought there were so many male blues stars was because men can't express their emotions and sorrows the way women can. She said that men could express their emotion and misery and sadness in masculine, strong way with the blues. I like that thought a lot - men do things differently than women, on average, and what works well for women won't necessarily for men and vice versa. Women cry and talk through their troubles. Men sing the blues.

President Obama's National Labor Review Board, headed by a former union boss, is looking to punish Boeing for trying to move its 787 production to South Carolina. The NLRB says this is unlawful because Boeing is only doing so to avoid strikes and union activity. I'm not exactly clear on the law but it seems doubtful that it is illegal for a company to build a production facility where unions cannot strike. The NLRB calls this "retaliating" and "discriminating" against unions, but I call it good business sense. The decision seems to be based on the idea that unions have the "right" to strike under labor law, but that doesn't mean businesses do not have the right to try to avoid strikes.

Germany pushed hard for biofuels, mandating Ethanol, subsidizing its production, and offering deals to gas companies to develop and add the fuel to their pumps. The only problem? Germans don't care for the stuff. Dietmar Hawranek and Alexander Neubacher report at Der Spiegel:
German motorists are to blame for the commercial failure of the supposed green gasoline. The first attempt by politicians to foist a product that is both expensive and environmentally questionable on consumers has failed. German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, who had earlier argued in favor of the fuel, is now as embarrassed as the petroleum industry and the auto industry.

"Consumers have made up their minds," says Volker Kauder, chairman of the parliamentary group of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
As an added bonus, German gas companies are raising prices on fuel to pay for the shift to and back from ethanol production.

Last week two events took place. First, President Obama gave a tepid speech on the deficit in which he vaguely hinted at the beginnings of an intent to have a plan, mostly "tax more and spend more," and S&P issued its report on US assents, downgrading the debt rating of the United States. It turns out, according to Jake Tapper at ABC that the president asked S&P to hold off on its rating until after his speech, which they did. However, the speech apparently did not impress the rating company, and they noted that the US is in even worse shape than ever. The officials were, according to sources "dismayed" at the speech and congress' pathetic cuts.

Leftists hate the Koch Brothers. This isn't a hate born of reason or some heinous deeds, its more an Emmanuel Goldstein sort of hate where they're told to hate these brothers by their commissars (Soros, Media Matters, Daily Kos, et al), and so they scream and gnash their teeth whenever these two are brought up. The Koch boys are billionaires who have been spending their money promoting mostly libertarian ideas and politicians in the same way that leftist billionaires have been with leftist ideas and politicians for decades. However, when the right does this, they're the epitome of evil, or so leftists are told and so they obey.

An example of this mindless hate is the recent death threats and union protests held outside Koch Brothers in Iowa. Lynn Hicks writes at the Des Moines Register:
A case of mistaken identity has entangled a small family-owned Des Moines company in union protests and led to a death threat.

Angry callers are mistaking Koch Brothers, a Des Moines office supply firm, with the brothers who own Koch Industries, the global energy conglomerate. Billionaires Charles and David Koch have fought Wisconsin unions, financed the tea party and opposed climate change rules.

Dutch Koch, president of the Des Moines company, wants everyone to know he’s not one of those Koch brothers, and he’s not politically active.
Well the name is the same and who cares, that's all they're told to hate anyway.

Ricochet had some fun recently giggling at NYT columnist Thomas Friedman's 1998 column on Rob Long notes that Friedman declared Amazon doomed because anyone can buy wholesale and sell it online, even cheaper than Amazon, so this whole internet store thing is a net loser anyway. Long points out:
Look, the point isn't that Friedman made a stupid prediction. We all make stupid predictions. The point is that we have a pundit class that's uniquely unqualified to pronounce on business, and business opportunities, and yet arrogantly and pompously does so anyway.
That's something that happens a lot in the press; reporters and columnists pontificating arrogantly on things they barely understand. Yet at Powerline, John has an even more telling point from the Friedman column:
...there is a delicious irony in the fact that there is indeed one industry with respect to which Friedman's dire prediction came true: Friedman's own industry, journalism. It turns out that amateurs, many of whom have far more expertise with respect to business, politics, the arts--you name it--than Tom Friedman and other pundits with newspaper columns can, almost for free, turn out exactly the same product that Friedman does. Only better.
And that's a fact, jack. It takes training to understand economics and business, it takes experience and practical work to know how this stuff works, but writing columns? Even I can do that.

Obama's Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has a cunning plan. Peter Kirsanow reports at National Review:
I2P2 would require employers to identify and correct all safety and health hazards in the workplace — even those not covered by a specific OSHA standard — and establish hazard-training, accident-investigation, and hazard-correction procedures for each facility. I2P2 would apply to all employers, including those not in hazardous industries.
Businesses estimate the average cost would be around $3,000 per employee, per year. As a commenter notes, OSHA already can use the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act to cite employers for an "unsafe" workplace--even if the employer complies with every safety and health standard. This just gives them more tools to nail a company with.

After 9/11, the US government and media went out of their way to avoid being mean to Muslims - exactly the intent of the terrorists - because they were terrified someone might think they are racist. One such effort was the US State Department trying to work closer with CAIR, the Muslim activist group in the US which has repeatedly been shown to have terrorist ties. Patrick Poole writes in Pajamas Media that one of the tricks CAIR would use is to "help" the State Department by identifying key informants and people helping them as terrorists, thus shutting them off as informants and instead turning them into suspects. This had a triple effect of also making people less likely to help the State Department and giving CAIR basis to complain about mistreatment of Muslims.

In fact, one insider in the Justice Department claims that there has been no single case in whci CAIR assisted them in catching any terrorists or stopping any terrorist act. The outreach continues.

Margaret Sanger's picture a few weeks back got me a ton of hits, and some commentary that it might be photoshop. I don't honestly know but Sanger and the Klan saw eye to eye, and back then it wasn't considered such a horrible group as it is today (particularly to people like Sanger). Her talking to a Klan group and getting photographed doing so in a newspaper is not exactly inconceivable back then. In any case, Sanger was a big fan of Communist Russia, too. Dan Collins quotes an American Spectator piece at POWIP:
Theoretically, there are no obstacles to birth control in Russia. It is accepted … on the grounds of health and human right…. [W]e could well take example from Russia, where there are no legal restrictions, no religious condemnation, and where birth control instruction is part of the regular welfare service of the government.
All the officials with whom I discussed the matter stated that as soon as the economic and social plans of Soviet Russia are realized, neither abortions nor contraception will be necessary or desired. A functioning Communistic society will assure the happiness of every child, and will assume the full responsibility for its welfare and education.
You have to understand that back before WW2 was over, the left and groups like the Klan, Nazis, and Communists were really chummy. Its only after those days that historians and pundits started to rewrite history to cleanse that uncomfortable association.

This should go without saying, but growing pot indoors with a halide system draws gigantic energy and thus greatly increases one's "carbon footprint," making Gaia cry. Geekologie points to a report which says that indoor pot growing operations are responsible for 1% of the total US energy use per year. Its hard to say how accurate that is, because you'd have to know how many of these operations are in place but that is plausible. Related: I-Pads, Facebook, Twitter, and so on are bad for the environment, too. Hipsters everywhere are totally bummed.

One of the more interesting and difficult parts of the Global Warming essay series I did was working out how much carbon sequestration (how much CO2 plants can eat) the plants of the world are capable of compared to how much CO2 the world is producing, especially humans. It turns out we're not even making a dent in the total, but the numbers I ran apparently were not accurate. Scientists now estimate that trees can sequester double what I understood originally. The Universities of Oregon keep studying this kind of things and keeps finding out bad news for alarmists.

Something that came out during the effort to cut the budget was about the United Nations. The US is the world's biggest donor to the UN, 27% of the entire UN budget, plus rent-free digs at Turtle Bay. It turns out that the US overpaid last year. George Russel writes at Fox News:
The United States, by far the leading contributor to the United Nations, overpaid its share of the U.N. peacekeeping budget for 2010-2011, but budget-cutters in Congress did not learn about the full extent of the credits in the U.S.’s favor until February 2011, during the battle with the Obama administration over 2011 budget cuts, Fox News has learned.
Well it isn't exactly a surprise that UN-loving leftists would shower the place with cash. Ever since the oil-for-food scandal broke, its been down to two mansions a year for UN execs, they need our love.

Meanwhile, Members of the Obama administration are running about claiming that it is the UN which makes America safe, rather than the US which makes the UN exist. The administration official quoted, Susan Rice, is one of the main forces responsible for the US being involved in Libya.

Amazon is working with libraries to make their huge selection of Kindle books available to lend out. How this will work with the authors and royalties I'm not exactly sure. Slashdot does not have much in the way of details, but I'll be watching this closely.

Fracking is the kind of word that makes 6th graders giggle and it is fast becoming as dirty a word as it almost looks like. CSI recently ran an abysmal episode that tried to make natural gas drilling and Fracking the most evil thing ever, sealing the end of my interest in the series. Fracking is the procedure of pumping water and methane gas into natural gas deposits to force it out and harvest the stuff (fracturing, or "fracking"). Like me, New York Times writer Joe Nocera thinks we should be using natural gas a lot more than we are, and he wrote a great piece recently to dispel myths and fears of fracking.

Coldwater Michigan issued a ban on Tea Party signs, declaring them "too controversial" for their town. Coldwater is a fairly conservative area, so this decision is not just unconstitutional but puzzling. No doubt they previously banned anti-Bush and "anti-War" protest signs as well. Sure they did.

And finally, we're all doomed. Sure, we got past April 19, 2011 without Skynet becoming self-aware, but the machinery is still in place. Asher Moses at the Sidney Morning Herald writes:
A team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has developed autonomous quadrocopters (helicopters with four blades) that are able to play ping pong against each other and juggle balls – all without any human intervention.
Mark Brown at Wired writ of another group which used Kinect techology patched on to such a robot so that it could fly around a room safely. Coming soon: Hunter-Killer robots. Some people fear the zombie apocalypse, to me a robot apocalypse is a lot more plausible.

And that's the Word Around the Net for April 22, 2011.


Haven said...

nice blog.Thanks ........

alethiophile said...

Re copters:
Heh. Every time there's any sort of story such as this, there's all kind of mostly-facetious wailing and gnashing of teeth about the dangers of AI a la Terminator or The Matrix. It's kind of a pity really, because all this known-to-be-silly fixation on physics engines diverts attention from the far-more-plausible dangers of real RSI AI, which if carelessly designed could cause much greater problems for humanity by methods likely to be unrelated to hunter-killer bots.