Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here is an incredibly stupid article

The Red-Star Tribune puts out an article noting (correctly) that bicylist injuries and deaths are up sharply due to high gas prices. Well, maybe, maybe not?

Maybe not? Absolutely. You see, here in Minnesota, we have a neat phenomenon called "winter" that tends to put the kibosh on cycling from about, well, now until May. So the cycling injuries we have now are...more or less...pretty close to what we'll see in December. So yes, injuries are up, but...we're not really on a pace for 115 of them. Probably about 95 in Minneapolis proper, but it's....really within ordinary bounds.

It gets worse. The article cites an emergency room doctor telling about how dangerous cycling is. Well, yes, if somebody's Taurus ran me over, I'd probably be injured worse than the driver. That said, if statistics be trusted, this same doctor probably treats fifty to one hundred victims of auto accidents for every victim of a bicycle accident. And he's warning about cyclists?

If you work the numbers, injury and death rates for cyclists are....surprise....about the same as they are for automobile drivers. Although there is a big weight difference, there is a significant safety advantage to going more slowly and being able to see and hear everything around you.

Maybe one of these days, they'll teach "math" to journalists and emergency room physicians. I won't be holding my breath, though.

Update: A second look at the second page of the article indicates that 47 of the incidents in Minneapolis are hit & run. This would seem to indicate that, contrary to the claims of many drivers, a great portion of the fault lies with...those on four wheels.

Happy (late) Birthday, Professor Mises!

I've just learned from a comment at SCSU Scholars that the rejection of the bailout boondoggle came, appropriately, on the birthday of Ludwig von Mises.

As we contemplate the likely effects of government intervention into any number of industries, we need to remember one of Mises' chief accomplishments; the clarification of the principle that due to the absence of the economic indicator called "price," socialism would always fail to solve the problems of economic calculation, for which price is the dominant variable.

If you're not clear on this, take a look at what's happening in Atlanta, where laws against price gouging (as well as EPA regulations too, I'd bet) have prevented gasoline producers from profitably marketing their products. Or take a look at store shelves in Hugo Chavez' Venezuela, or try to get an affordable apartment in New York City, or....

I told you so!

Earlier, I revealed my hunch that Hillary Clinton was in reality none other than AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson. Now, a follow-up; the band has dates scheduled in Pig's Eye for November 23 and January 19. It is the band's first tour since 2001.

Coincidence that this tour coincides with the (at least temporary) end of Mrs. Clinton's political aspirations? I think not.

I also think that if Obama wins, they'll be turning the amps up all the way to eleven in honor of the nominee for "Highway to ....".

(disclaimer: for the humor impaired, this is called a "joke". I would never seriously accuse a fine, upstanding heavy metal vocalist of being a Senator from New York!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Now tell me again....

....why it is that merchant ships go through pirate-infested waters unarmed? Yes, I realize that significant amounts of artillery on a ship today would qualify it as a man-o-war, but is it really unthinkable to allow, say, the crews of, say, a Ukrainian ship carrying 20 tanks and an unspecified amount of ammunition, to have a few .50 Brownings mounted on deck to suggest to pirates that they might do well to look elsewhere for amusement?

(or any cruise ship, or any ship carrying flammable items, or.....)

When life and death are a matter of seconds, the Navy and Coast Guard are only hours away. It's time to let merchant crews defend themselves if they so choose.

This is why it's important...

....that mother's milk be used for its intended purpose. Evidently in China, companies making baby formula have mixed melamine with their product. Evidently there is a long tradition in China of adulterating baby formula to increase profits. Earlier generations used rice powder, now they're using melamine.

Yeah, the first question that comes to mind for me is "what kind of sicko poisons infants' food for profit?" That noted, I've never had to wonder about the purity of what my children got from my wife when they were young, and if someone put rice powder, plaster, or melamine in a can of Enfamil instead of powdered milk, I'd never know the difference until someone got sick.

Come to think of it, that's a decent argument for eating unprocessed foods in general, isn't it?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Global warming update!

Congressman Alcee Hastings said this about Governor Palin:

Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through.

(emphasis mine)

Evidently, due to global warming, it's so cold in Alaska that even the moose are wearing parkas and coveralls during the moose season. Exactly how cold? Well, here's a hint; moose season in Alaska is in September. Imagine what those beasts wear come January.

Of course, this might just be the bigoted ramblings of a brain impaired Democrat from Florida, but I tend to prefer the other explanation. Take a drive, save a moose from freezing to death.


List of 200 economists, heavily laden with guys from George Mason and Chicago, opposing the bailout. Even better, I don't see any names from the U. of Michigan, historically one of the bastions of Keynesianism and the disciples of Galbraith.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to get a great bicycle for less

I saw an article yesterday about the demise of the "touring" bike, and it suggests to me a great way to get an excellent bike for less. You see, about 25 to 30 years back, a lot of people bought wonderful touring bikes during the Carter oil shock, and due to the collapse of oil prices from the Reagan administration until a few years back, they've been mostly sitting in the garages of their owners. Now those owners are retiring and dying off, and those high quality bikes are waiting for you to find them in garage sales.

Now don't "bite" if it's a Huffy, Free Spirit, or other "off" brand, but you will from time to time find good Fujis, Schwinns, Peugeots, and so on. You can have them quite rideable for the price of new tires and inner tubes, and they're built a little bit heavier to carry loads and absorb the shocks of the roads. Just the thing for commuting, leisure riding, and...well...touring.

Yes, that would mean I'm coming to the conclusion that a 29 year old Schwinn LaTour III is the perfect bike for me. Yes, if I spent a few thousand dollars, I could reduce the weight of my ride by ten or 15 pounds. But ya know, if I spent a little more time on the bike I have, I could also reduce the weight on my ride by 10 to 15 pounds. Or 30.

Government and the housing crisis

Ann Coulter writes a great column about how our government made sure that unqualified borrowers got a lot of mortgages back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Apparently, the Fed, along with the Treasury during the Clinton administration, insisted that "income sources" such as welfare payments and unemployment benefits be counted as income for the purposes of qualifying for a loan.

And we wonder why a lot of these loans are being defaulted upon. May I suggest that we roll back these unsound lending practices BEFORE we bail out Wall Street?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PETA has just proven....

....that virtually nobody in their organization has ever, thank God, become a parent. How so?

They've written a letter to Ben & Jerry's advocating that the premium (and more than a bit loony) ice cream maker use human milk instead of cow's milk to make their product. Of course, anyone who has ever watched the wonder of a mother feeding her baby knows that it would take a little bit more than $4/gallon to get a woman to become a human Holstein.

Also proving that their vegan diets have damaged brain capacity, and that they are not parents, is this; PETA claims that cows are "forcibly impregnated" every nine months, and that all bulls born to dairy cows are used for veal. If any PETA nutcases are out there, reality is that a cow can give milk for up to six years without being bred again, a cow in heat actually tends to welcome the services of the bull, and I have personally purchased meat from a holstein steer.

Please, PETA types; put away the pleather, put on some comfortable (leather) shoes, and get some Vitamin B12 in your diet. I promise you; it will help your brain recover.

H/T a bunch of people.

More on the bailout

One of the most persistent myths of the Great Depression is that from 1929 to 1932, Hoover did little to remedy the situation. In reality, Hoover was nearly the equal of Roosevelt in terms of government intervention, pursuing a relentlessly inflationary monetary policy and did much to prevent companies from adjusting to the new reality. In doing so, he likely turned what should have been a short recession into a decade long depression. Here is Murray Rothbard's account. A long read, but well worth it.

And the significance to today is clear; we have a major shock to banking and investment firms, and the Fed and our government are once again pursuing relentless intervention in the economy and a relentlessly inflationary monetary policy. No, I'm not predicting another Depression, but I am suggesting that what's being planned could do far more harm than good.

And what to do? Again, this empire works on debt.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

About that bailout, er, those bailouts

I've been puzzling over why we're bailing out companies like Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, AIG, and Freddie Mac, and why we're apparently going to be on the hook for $700 billion more. Here are a couple of articles about it from a decidedly non-interventionist point of view.

More or less, the argument is this; banks and investment firms are often highly leveraged--remember those "reserve ratios" you may have learned about in the history of the Depression? That's what we have here; borrowers with 5% equity in their homes and marginal income are bailing on their mortgages when they realize they owe more than the property is worth, and the payments are more than they can pay. Banks, in turn, find that they need to write off bad debts--and this means that deposits are imperiled.

But wait. We have FDIC, right? It's taken care of, right?

Nope. Remember that various companies, chief among them Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are in the business of buying those loans from banks, sometimes selling them to others. They're doing it on credit, too. Yes, we have people going into debt to buy debt--and then more of them going in debt to buy derivative investments on that debt. Evidently there are over $250 trillion worth of them.

So as this collapses, there are any number of institutions that will take it on the chin, ranging from your bank account, to your bank, to the big financial institutions on Wall Street. Stocks fall greatly, as do your mutual funds, and God help you if you need a new mortgage.

Sounds pretty bad, right? So here's the plan; the Treasury buys those bad debts and derivatives to take them off the books of banks and investment houses and make them solvent. A certain portion of those bad debts will be written off by the Treasury, and a certain amount will be recovered. The total cost might be far less than $700 billion if the economy recovers.

Now, the cost; we've taken up to $700 billion in money out of private hands, money that otherwise would have been available for private investment. The net result?

Stock markets decline, so do your mutual funds, credit will still be tight, and as an added bonus, the guys who caused the problem get off scot-free. What to do?

Remember that your bank can't sell a debt it doesn't own, and the investment firm can't make derivatives of assets that don't exist. Get yourself to Dave Ramsey's site and get started (if you haven't already) on his baby steps to financial freedom, and encourage your friends to do the same. The payoff is huge--eliminating debt is like getting a 10% to 40% raise in income for most people.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to deal with the coming financial crisis

One of the very interesting things about the whole financial debacle right now is that those at the head of many of the big investment firms are Democrats. This comes as something of a surprise to me, as I'd think that those who ought to lead big, free market firms ought to be those who, you know, believe in free markets.

Of course, the solution to my confusion comes when I realize that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and many companies linked to them, are not primarily free market entities, but are rather highly dependent upon government action. Who better than an advocate of governmental growth to lead them, then?

So what we have here is more or less, IMO, is you and I (with little influence in Washington) being subjected to a $700 billion debacle. What do we do about it?

Let's remember Romans 13, especially verse 8. "Owe no man anything"; think about it. All of the entities involved in this financial boondoggle owe their impact to debt.

Let's imagine the Fed's power if you remember "pay cash or drive trash." Let's imagine where Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be if homeowners decided to pay off their mortgages instead of upgrading to the new McMansion we know we can't really afford. Let's imagine AIG as people realize that, with adequate investments and plunging mortgage balances, they don't need as much life insurance as they thought they did.

Remember that liberty didn't start in Philadelphia, or Runnymede, Athens, or Jerusalem, or even with Moses in Egypt. It starts as we learn God's word and apply it in our lives.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to go bankrupt

I had been curious about how companies like Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch (Pierce, Fenner, and Smith) had gone from seemingly sound to bankrupt so quickly. Well, it turns out that the magic that takes men from millionaires to paupers is not limited to Wall Street; you can do it too in a few easy steps. Here you go:

1. Whatever you do, do all of your business on credit. If your bank asks for 10% equity, offer 5%. Leverage everything to the max--a minimum reserve ratio is your maximum.

Good, you've got yourself in a very vulnerable position. What next?

2. Make sure that your actual assets are risky, very volatile investments. No "widows and orphans" stocks, bonds, and investments for you. Don't pay overly close attention to the balance sheets, either.

3. Add a mild downturn to your core business, and watch the magic of bankruptcy unfold before your eyes.

4. Bonus points are awarded for perjury, embezzlement, and interactions with Casa Nostra. Double bonus if you get the Fed to bail you out. Keep in mind that you can only do this if your foolishness costs others billions, though.

There you go. You're ready to try your hand at bankruptcy.

Of course, if you'd prefer NOT to live on ramen and be buried in a pauper's grave, you can go visit Dave Ramsey or Crown Financial . I'm sure you'll agree, however, that saving is for sissies.

Where hybrids would make sense

You know, if you actually developed a motor that would give adequate torque for over 100,000 miles, and used a few of 'em to eliminate the need for the transmission, differentials, and drive shaft, I think that you might have an excellent way of propelling a 4 wheel drive pickup or large SUV.

Of course, you'd still have a problem with the fact that you'd be replacing a $2000 transmission with about $10000 worth of electrical gear and such, but it would still make more sense than where they're using them now. And you'd still have to convince the managers to actually make a motor capable of propelling a vehicle that far, and....

Well, never mind.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

But what if you need a half ton pickup?

Ford has announced that its newest F150 will be capable of carrying over 3000 pounds and towing over five tons. Now pardon me, but not too long ago, this was what a one ton pickup was capable of doing.

Seems to me that there is a nice big space in the market open for a vehicle that gets over 20mpg (the new Ford will get 18mpg, same as my 1997 GMC) and has springs suitable for about half a ton of cargo. If the name weren't already taken, we could call it the F150. Don't ya think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a place for a high mileage vehicle that can carry a bit of cargo these days that isn't a minivan?

Save the environment with a plug in hybrid?

Nope. I just compared the carbon dioxide for charging a battery up to 16kW-H, and that for burning 1.3 gallons of gasoline.

Gasoline: about 12kG of carbon dioxide produced, low sulfur.

Plug in hybrid: about 15kG of carbon dioxide from burning high sulfur coal.

This doesn't count the environmental cost of finding, mining, and refining the lithium for the batteries, by the way. Nickel is also not the world's cleanest battery material--it's naturally found in combination with sulfur, which must be removed unless one really desires the area to be bathed in sulfuric acid. (see Brantford, Ontario for examples)

Yet another triumph of peer reviewed science

Yesterday's Pioneer Press noted that farmers pay more for health insurance than other people. Conspicuously absent from the analysis is the fact that the average age of farmers is in the fifties, and farmers tend to have bigger families than the rest of us. Nah, we can't consider the possibility that age and family size have something to do with this. There is the possibility of a new state or federal program to "help" to be had here--can't bother with the facts!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the Chevy Volt

Well, evidently GM has brought out a hybrid car that will work pretty much like a diesel-electric locomotive. A gasoline engine drives a generator, batteries drive a motor. The Volt is a fairly typical compact car otherwise, and should retail for somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Let's see what happens if it indeed eliminates the cost of gasoline for a driver who commutes 10,000 miles or so per year--250 days of work times a 40 mile round trip commute, and let's compare it with the Cobalt, built on the same platform.

Pricing for the Cobalt starts at about $15,000, and its real world mileage is probably about 30mpg. The 300 gallons you'd put in it each year would set you back about $1200. The electricity to charge it? Battery capacity is 16kW-H, so you're going to spend about $400/year in juice to charge it.

The flip side? Well, you've just paid double or more for your car, and hence the annual cost of owning a hybrid is about $2000 to $3000 over that for the Cobalt--10% depreciation and 5% interest on $15000-$20,000 excess cost. One could theoretically break even if the price of gasoline got to $10-15/gallon, but remember that the price of electricity will increase as well because all that coal is brought to market by diesel powered locomotives.

So if you've got an extra $10-15k in your bank account that you want to use to help the environment, may I suggest a new bike?

I don't get it

I'm reading that if the bailout of AIG had occurred on Saturday, it would have been for $20 billion, but today, it's $85 billion. I'm also reading that instead of collateral, the Fed is taking ownership of 80% of the company and firing all of the chief executives, and this over a crisis of liquidity, not actual bankruptcy.

And I'm told that the big issue with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is that they're buying all of these mortgages without really looking at whether they're to a creditworthy borrower, and that when those went south, so did they.

You know, I'm just sure of two things here. First of all, I'm glad it's the insurance company, and not Answers in Genesis, in trouble, and second, I think that a lot of financial instruments are getting too complicated to keep accountability in place. Maybe it's time to return to what the Scriptures say about the dangers of debt, and of wearing oneself out to get rich.

A joke making the rounds in SE Michigan

H/T SayAnythingBlog.

There was a big traffic jam in central Detroit, and a motorist opened his window and asked what was going on. A police officer informed him that former Mayor Kilpatrick had been kidnapped by terrorists, and if they didn't get $10 million, they'd soak him in gasoline and set him on fire. "I'm taking donations," said the officer.

"Oh my gosh!" said the driver. "What's the average donation? I'd love to help!"

"About a gallon," replied the officer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gianna Jessen for Congress!

No, she's not running. No, I don't even know where she lives, who she'd be running against, or whether she'd even want the job.

I do know, however, that she's got an incredible story, and she tells it well with a lot of grace. Check it out for yourself. There is a wonderful short bio, and on the lower right, there is a video with Hannity and Colmes.

Another triumph of peer reviewed science and journalism!

Check this out. Apparently, the Journal of the American Medical Association has published a study linking a chemical found in plastic bottles with obesity and diabetes--that evidently ignores the fact that the biggest contributor to adult onset diabetes, and one of the big contributors to obesity, is the amount of refined sugars found in a person's diet.

No, we can't blame the quart of Mountain Dew for someone's gut and diabetes. We gotta blame the bottle it came in. If anyone wonders why I'm starting to ignore peer reviewed research, this would be a great reason why. H/T Sayanythingblog.

On library censorship

Evidently, the GOP vice presidential nominee is in some trouble because she evidently was involved in library censorship. Except for the little fact, of course, that she didn't do anything of the sort.

But let's imagine that there was indeed something in the Wasilla Public Libraries that was, at least in the mind of Wasilla residents, objectionable. Do sensible people truly believe that these taxpayers ought to be on the hook for putting filth into their own communities? Do we really believe that the mayor and the city council--or the taxpayers--have no right to critique what kind of literature is to be found in their local libraries?

It is as if librarians and the ACLU truly believe that the 1st Amendment somehow protects not only the freedom of the press, but also requires towns and cities to pay taxes to put anything and everything into their library if the librarian says so. Judith Reisman puts it well; this dustup is not about liberty or democracy, but rather about the desire of unaccountable elites to control the flow of information.

Monday, September 15, 2008

End times thoughts

I finished reading the book of Daniel last weekend, and one striking thing is his description of repeated wars between the "king of the north" and the "king of the south." As far as I know, the king of the north could be said to refer to leaders in Russia or Turkey, and a king of the south could refer to leaders in Arabia or possibly somewhere in Africa, and they'd be fighting wars centered around Jerusalem.

Now I realize that not all of my readers are dispensationalists like myself, but bear with me here a minute. If indeed Daniel refers to future events (I can't point to past events that Daniel could have been pointing to), then the events of which he writes require a king of massive power in Arabia or Africa that has not yet arisen. There is some "geopolitics" to come, I would think.

Moreover, what we have here is kings from two of the world's great oil producing regions waging repeated wars in possibly the third great oil producing region of the world. Put gently, the end times are not going to be a good time if you need to buy gas to get to work.

I'd recommend getting a good bicycle, or getting saved, or both.

Joe Biden's tax returns

...reveal, as do those of Barack Obama, someone who isn't terribly generous in charity, who hasn't paid off his mortgage after 35 years of great income in D.C., and who has no dividend income or any significant income outside of his salaries as a legislator, teacher, and writer.

Sound like the guy you want to have a heartbeat away from a three trillion dollar budget--or helping to write them in the Senate, for that matter? Me either. Next up; Sarah Palin.

Lehmann Bros, Merrill Lynch, etc..

I wasn't surprised when newer financial institutions that specialized in sub-prime and other riskier loans started running into trouble as interest rates climbed. However, now apparently the older institutions, like Merill Lynch (founded in 1914), are starting to fall by the wayside. I had thought that the "institutional knowledge" required to keep a company going for nearly a century would be quite valuable in weathering the storms of the economy, but apparently whatever memory this company had of the Depression and half a dozen subsequent recessions, it wasn't enough.

It would be interesting to see exactly what thinking preceded this firm's disastrous move into subprime markets, and hopefully exactly that becomes required reading for business and finance professionals in the future.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fun News Friday Haikus, or "Friday FAILs."

A mugger attacks
karate champion in
Italy. Two kicks.

Burglar beats on door
at one a.m. in Palm Beach.
Owner shows him gun.

Fire lane tends to flood.
Cars are damaged. What to do?
Label as "Flood zone."

Amusing (at least to me) voting story

Took the whole family to vote Tuesday night, and the election judge was very kind to give an "I voted" sticker to each of my children. At which, of course, the SNAG in me could not resist joking "wow, with all of these ineligible voters around me wearing 'I voted' stickers, I feel like I'm back home in Chicago."

Now I know what you're thinking; thankfully, my children are still alive and well. Thanks for asking!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Campaigning for a Darwin Award

Evidently, two young men from Texas, upset that police had confiscated their homemade riot gear while they were on their way to try a "heckler's veto" at the GOP Convention, decided that the best way to "get back" would be to make and use some Molotov cocktails.

Now thankfully, they're apparently not skilled at making explosives, and hence they just got their materials at the drug store--flammable, but you're not going to make a bomb that way. However, given that the police don't know this when you're throwing it, I dare suggest that these guys are very lucky that they've earned prosecution and not a Darwin Award. (never mind the fact that transporting such a device puts the bearer at risk whenever anyone lights up a cigarette)

Take a look at the reaction of the defense lawyer and one of their fathers as well--evidently they're at risk for psychosis sometime soon--arguing that these punks are, despite deploying weapons that can result in severe burns or worse--not violent people. It is as if some of these guys are trying to prove that those in the radical left are not always sentient beings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Here's a shocker

Researchers in Spain have discovered that those who smoke marijuana, a mild hallucinogen, are more likely to develop psychosis. Given that hallucinogens work by severing a mental contact with reality, more or less the definition of "psychosis," this is about as surprising as finding out that the Pope is, indeed, Catholic, and that new members of Baptist churches are often exceedingly wet.

And if you write "Spain" too quickly, it can come out as "Spam." But that's another story. H/T SayAnythingBlog.

A happy day

Upon riding in to work this morning, the balance of "money saved by riding my bike" finally exceeded the "cost of maintaining the family's bikes." While I'm not exactly at the point of going for my eighth Tour de France win, I'm kinda proud of this.

So yes, "Bike" Bubba refers to the fact that I like to ride quite a bit. The Bubba? Longer story.

About a decade ago, my boss got word that someone in Boulder (where else?) thought he was god, and called himself "Cy Baba." Being the sensitive new age guys we were, all the guys in the group took a name involving "Baba." The boss was "Cy Baba," another guy (who knew Hindi) was "Ik Baba," another was "Do Baba," and the guy who rode his bike to work became "Bike Baba."

Of course, being the SNAGs we were, we couldn't let the mockery stop with just that, and hence "Baba" was "Southernized" (improved IMO) to Bubba. It got worse; when the company was bought out by a Japanese company, everyone became "Bubba-san." So if you meet someone who greets another person with "Konichi-wa, Bubba-san," chances are he might have worked with me.

Don't hold it against him. :^)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A moment of difficulty with Romans 13

How, exactly, do we come to the defense of the police officers who did this? About a dozen officers around a single young lady who is offering no resistance, but simply refusing to move at their command, and they repeatedly douse her with sprays and club her with their bicycles.

Did none of these guys have a pair of handcuffs and the ability to put them on her?

Or, alternatively, take a look at the officers, specifically the belts. Look how loaded they are--gun, taser, pepper spray, tear gas, walkie-talkie, billy club, cuffs, and so on. Add the bike, and you'll quickly find that as soon as you grapple with anyone, that person will likely have hold of one of those tools.

Maybe it's time to cut down the number of tools on that belt so that officers in riot control can actually deal with rioters.

Some random news items

Kentucky Fried Chicken is taking steps to ensure the security of its secret recipe. That's good news--we wouldn't want anyone else making that junk and inflicting it on an unsuspecting public. Popeye's, anyone?

Cities are trying and failing to generate "small town charm." If you want a hint why, visit the article and take a look at the picture. Sorry, putting up a building that resembles any other office building in a parklike setting will not help your city get small town charm. For the genre-challenged, that's called "yet another nondescript office building like you see in 10000 other suburban settings." If you want "small town charm," try "adequate on street parking, lighting, and sidewalks." It's a lot cheaper, and a lot more effective.

St. Paul merchants discover that the promised $148 million windfall for the city from the GOP convention didn't exactly pan out as expected. As if most of us (especially the anti-GOP demonstrators) have a budget exceeding $750 per day for a four day convention. Duh. Hopefully voters remember this boondoggle at election time, as the "thinking" of civic boosters isn't exactly up to snuff.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Very Interesting....

Read this carefully. No, not the "eat less meat" part. Ignore that for a minute, and take a look at the professional credentials of the chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri. You would expect that such an elite position would be filled by an eminent climatologist with numerous citations in the literature, right?

Nope. He's an economist. While graduate level training is not always necessary to contribute in a certain area, the fact that the post is filled by an economist who wishes to reshape the world's economy ought to give us pause.

More reasons I'm not terribly fond of public transit

Evidently, transit officials in Berlin are having trouble finding a fragrance that will "cover up" all of the smells one encounters on public transit. Now thankfully when I was in Berlin, the subways weren't terribly bad, but this difficulty does illustrate two basic problems with any public transit system.

First of all, the system belongs to everyone, and hence doesn't belong to anyone. As a result, people do things on the S-Bahn that they'd never do in their own cars--or at least you're sharing accomidations with those who are willing to trash their own cars.

Second, the real way to remove smells from any room is not with fragrances, but rather with adequate ventilation and cleaning--which apparently the S-Bahn isn't getting these days. (when I was there, of course, it wasn't taking on passengers when its route went through East Berlin, which may have something to do with it) The very search for a fragrant solution may indicate that those in charge are having trouble figuring out the real way to control smells.

Friday, September 05, 2008

National Healthcare at work

The Northern Muckraker brought this one to me; a man suffering from excessive earwax in northern Ireland has been forced to call a good number of clinics to find one that is willing to clean out his ears--while, of course, he can hardly hear the voice on the telephone. The alternative was to be half-deaf for over three months while a specialist would look in his ear and say "aye, there's wax in there," or to pay about $300 for a private doctor to take a look, and more for the wax to be removed.

This is quite a damning indictment of socialized medicine, IMO, as it deals with what is supposed to be the strength of that system; rapid, affordable access to a general practicioner to basic procedures. Even with all of his work, he's going to wait a week to get his ears cleaned out.

Here, you'd generally get your ear cleaned out within hours by your family physician. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and this is a brilliant example of that fact.

Dr. MIriam Grossman on Bristol Palin

Here. Now typically, in our culture, we hear a lot about how early marriage is a recipe for heartbreak. Dr. Grossman counters that the real issue that most young ladies have to face is the trouble they encounter due to the "hook-up" culture, and that a huge blessing for Bristol Palin and her soon to be husband will be the avoidance of the same. You can endure a lot of Ramen meals (with mooseburger I'd presume) if you're not hurting inside from the flings you didn't have after the parties you didn't attend.

I'll be waiting, but not holding my breath, for the "comprehensive" sex ed crowd to start including this in course syllabi.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Keep Pedaling!

Thanks to Pentamom's husband (Pentadad?), Mitch, a host of others, and myself reducing oil consumption by riding their bikes to work (OK, and other factors, too), market prices for crude oil are getting below $110.

You know, I bet if some more of you out there join us, we might be able to nudge it below $100. As if they were reading my mind, my favorite bike store is now having their year end clearance sale. Fork over some of that money you were planning to spend on Lipitor, Avapro, and other drugs to deal with heart disease, and get started curing your ticker on a sweet new ride.

Added benefits include sending less money to Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, losing that paunch and being able to fit in your old clothes, less wear and tear on your car and on the roads, less congestion, less pollution, and finally peace and quiet to think or pray on your way to work or play.

Oh, one more thing; a wonderful, big appetite from all that exercise will help you appreciate great food even more.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I'm so proud of my daughter!

Tropical Storm Hanna threatens Florida.

OK, they misspelled her name, but it's still pretty cool. :^)

Thoughts on politics

For whatever reason, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate triggered something in me; five children, one of them an infant, and she's going to be running around the country to campaign for Vice President?

Not that the male candidates get off scot-free here, either; they're all leaving wife & children at home while they fly around the country. What kind of leader is it whose wife or husband doesn't mind the fact that he's gone all the time? Even when I agree with someone 95% of the time on the issues (as is the case for me with Gov. Palin), this gives me pause.