Tuesday, May 16, 2006

48 million don't buckle up

This statistic just does not make sense to me, 48 million Americans that don't buckle up. I understand the statistic, just not the lack of thinking that goes with it. I suppose these people give the same tired old reasons for not wearing them: they are uncomfortable, what if I get in a crash and the car catches fire and I have to get out, etc.

None of them make any sense whatsoever. I regularly read the Missouri State Highway Patrol's crash reports, and it seems that the majority of fatalities from auto accidents are not wearing seat belts. How much intellingence does it take to decide your life is worth wearing a seat belt.

I just don't get it.

Click the link for a story by AP via Yahoo:


Awesome video

You have to check this video out (at the link below). This is a great clip of a pimp getting pissed at a guy that tells him to quit beating on his prostitutes. The guy happens to be a karate instructor, the pimp tries to fight him and gets his ass kicked with one punch. Its awesome, you have to see it. I think this is the video my younger brother was telling me about a while back.


News of the stupid

You would think by now the word would be out that if you have a page on myspace.com, that you should probably avoid doing anything illegal on there since anyone can read your page (unless you have it as a private page). Apparently, not everyone got the word. Check out the link below for a story about a high school kid who got busted because there is a picture of him on his myspace page smoking a bong. Another example of PFD! When the cops questioned him about this, they also searched his locker and his home, and guess what? They also found a stash of drugs, drug paraphenalia and bombmaking stuff! Can you say "Someone is going to prison?"

Here is the link:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another example of a lack of government oversight

If you don't live in Iowa then you probably have not heard about this story, but since I used to be a resident of the Des Moines area, you might want to check this out. A big scandal has broken out in Des Moines with the revelation that the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, an agency that has the mission of job training, paid enormous salaries and bonuses to three of its senior executives. As outrageous as the salaries and bonuses are, along with the fact that money that could be uses for job training is instead being fleeced to those 3 geniuses, its even more outrageous to me that the board which okayed the compensation apparently did not realize that a problem existed until someone inside the agency blew the whistle. The story linked below talks about the whole issue, including the director acting like her compensation was not out of line or undeserved. Nothing like a dedictated public servant. Of course this is even more of a scandal because the head of the board overseeing this program is none other than good ol' Archie Brooks, a city council member in Des Moines. Coincidentally, his daughter works for the agency, along with his brother in law and step daughter. Oh, by the way, the woman in question that until a few days ago ran this agency, Ramona Cunningham? Yeah, she used to date ol Arch. Way to go Arch. I remember when I lived in the area I thought Archie was kind of sleazy, glad to see that he has done nothing to change my opinion of him.

The best part of this whole ordeal, besides the fact that many people who could really benefit from job training may not get it now because this money has been wasted, is that the state may have to repay a good chunk of this money to the federal government.

I also liked the quote from Cunningham who basically seemed to have the attitude, according to the article from the Des Moines Register linked below, that since many audits didn't catch this problem that it must not be a problem then. Hmmm, sounds like something Archie would say.



The 9-11 Death Toll continues to climb

Maybe the saddest thing about the 9-11 disaster is all of the people who have died, and those who will continue to die in the coming months and years, from exposure to toxic contaminants from the World Trade Center site. The link below from AP via Yahoo tells the story of a NYPD detective in his 30's who just died from exposure to contaminants while doing cleanup work at the site. Its pretty sad, the guy leaves a wife and kids behind, and he was just there trying to help out. Thinking of all the times you saw fireman, police officers and just plain civilians working without protective gear at the site, it makes you wonder how many more deaths will come.

At the time of the disaster, I don't think anyone anticipated all of these problems for those who helped with the cleanup. Maybe the authorities should have done a better job of providing protective gear at the scene, especially days and weeks afterwards. No one expects that they should have had gear there that day, but in a week they should have been able to do so. You also wonder how many of these brave people were offered protective gear such as masks and respirators but turned them down, of course not knowing the potentially life threatening risks that they were taking.

Read about it here:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sorry dude, you may not be able to buy yourself a gun at Walmart any more.

Walmart has just announced that they will no longer sell guns in some of their stores, up to third of them will no longer carry them according to an article on Yahoo from AP (click the link below to read it). The discount store chain only sells shotguns and rifles, not handguns, but still a little surprised that such a blue collar store would quit selling them. This may be part of their efforts to go more upscale.

Read about it here:

This will make you say "What the F*&k?"

File this under hard to believe, but a DEA agent who shot himself in the foot during a training class, is now suing the DEA because the incident was videotaped and the tape is now on the internet. I have actually seen the tape, I will add a link to the video once I find it. You can read the story from Yahoo at the link below. Basically the guy is saying the video made him a laughingstock, which he basically is now. I guess that happens when you are that stupid heh?


Friday, March 24, 2006

More eminent domain hysteria

Here is more hysteria about eminent domain, this time in Iowa. It appears that the Iowa Legislature is on its way to making it much tougher for cities in that state to use eminent domain to condemn private property. I don't disagree with tightening the laws up where it is needed, and this is a state and local, not a federal, government matter, so at least the state level is the right place to go for this. But as you read in this article, it might do as much harm as it prevents.

You can read the article at the link below from the Des Moines Register for more information:

I would suggest some kind of oversight board at the regional or state level to oversee the eminent domain process. That would remove any chance of local politics playing a part in making a wrong decision and a city or county unjustly using eminent domain to take private property. There are times where eminent domain should be used, and has been used with great success. It is a useful tool for governments to use to stimulate growth and reduce decay. It would be a shame to not let them use it anymore.

More wisdom from Kansas

Just when you think Kansas could not get any dumber, something happens to change that. To review, we already have the state board of education deciding whether scientific theories are valid, soon you will be able to pack heat in Kansas (how will they be able to drive with one hand on the bible and the other on their Smith and Wesson remains to be seen ), and now kids will have to get their parents permission to "opt in" for sex education classes at school. That is awesome! Bible thumpers rule!

This may be the dumbest damn thing I have heard in all of my life. For a state that is trying to do everything it can to stop abortions (led by chief zealot Phil Kline, the state AG), now you want to try and prevent sex education from happening? Maybe to top that they can pull a Missouri and reduce or elimiate funding for contraception for low income women! I could understand an "opt-out" program, but an "opt in". Sounds like the genius Board of Ed figured they could not ban it outright but that this would be the next best thing.

So lets review here. Led by the party that has a main goal of wiping out abortion, they are going to make it harder for kids to openly learn about sex, harder to get birth control for those kids that are going to have sex (Yes, even in Kansas, teenagers will have sex) and harder to get an abortion if they get pregnant. Apparently these morons can't make that connection that if abortion is still legal, then they are going to actually increase the number of them that take place by their stupidity. If abortion is outlawed, want to take bets if you will see an increase in gov't funding in Kansas to cover adoptions of these children born from these pregnancies? Don't bet the farm on that one. Don't get me wrong, it would be nice if there were no abortions. But the best way to prevent them is not by making it illegal, but rather preventing the pregnancy in the first place. Yes, abstinence programs are a start, but they only work if you follow them all the time, and face it, not all teenagers are going to find that program works. If you rely on just abstinence and religion dominated sex ed (basically saying don't do it), then you will almost certainly fail.

The smart way is to have a good, open, sex ed program, but lets face it, that is not going to happen in Kansas. I have heard the arguments, but come on, I can't think of one kid who had not thought of having sex until they had a sex ed class. We need to be smart here, but I doubt it will happen. Way to go Kansas!

Here is an article about sex ed in Kansas from the KC Star:

Is Ala Carte Cable really the answer?

There has been much talk about ala carte cable lately. If you are not familiar with the concept, it means that instead of the current system of only being able to buy cable tv in packages (how it is currently), you would be able to pick just the channels that you want, theoretically lowering your cable bill. You can check out the article from Yahoo at the link below for even more info, but a couple of key points that you need to consider in this issue. On paper at least, the ala carte theory does make sense. However, it ignores some realities. Ala carte cable would give you more choices, but the number of available channels would almost certainly drop, and the price per channel would be higher than it is now under the current system. Say what??

Let me explain. Many cable channels out there today are supported by other channels from the same company. I don't have exact figures on which channels, but there are quite a few channels that are only offered with other channels from the same company. The way this works is that (and this is just a hypothetical example) in order to carry ESPN, Disney might require a cable company to also carry the Disney Channel, or a similar channel. Or they will give them a much better price if they carry some of the companies weaker sister channels. The reason for this is that the second channel that is basically piggybacked with the popular channel might not survive on its own. Under an ala carte system, many of these second tier channels would likely disappear, meaning fewer choices. In order to recoup their money, the company that owns the stronger channel is going to try and raise prices to make up for the lost profits. If the channel is popular enough, people might pay more to keep it. As this runs prices on the popular channels up, you might end up paying more than you do know.

Don't get me wrong, I would like to pay less for cable tv as well, but the solution to high cable rates is probably not ala carte programming, but rather, competition between providers. In a sense, current cable prices is similar to how options are prices on many cars today, you don't always pick single options, but rather a package of options for a higher price. In many cases, some of these options are only available as part of a package. Phone service is often priced the same way. In regards to competition, I can give you a real world example from a community I lived in a few years back. That city had signed a non-exclusive franchise agreement with the local cable company. This cable company was the predominant cable company in most of the state, basically being a former part of a very large cable provider. This provider was not that great in terms of price, and the service in this area was terrible. Many areas did not even have digital cable, and some also had a very limited selection of channels. Would ala carte cable have helped here? It might have made it cheaper, although it would not have let to more channels being available, in fact it probably would have meant fewer channels being available. It would not have done a damn thing to fix the problem of poor service.

So what did fix the problem? The city I lived in, by virtue of having granted a non exclusive cable franchise to this cable company, had another company start offering cable tv. This other company was the local telephone company, and their new system was first rate. Their signal was all digital, and prices were decent, and being local meant great service in this case. One particular Saturday I had a problem not long after they installed my service, and someone showed up at my door to fix it in about 15 minutes. That is almost in heard of in this day and age. To say the least, when the telephone company started offering cable tv in this city, the response was overwhelming to say the least. There was almost a one month wait to get the service installed because demand was that great. The other cable service had to upgrade their service just to have a chance to stay competitive.

So the moral to the story here is that ala carte cable is no silver bullet that will kill the vampire that is high cable prices. It might make prices lower, but it might not. It almost certainly will reduce your programming choices in the process. Competition from another company will lower prices and maybe even increase your programming choices. Is government regulation the answer? Before you answer that, tell me what area with government regulation has really been an improvement compared to before them getting involved. Yeah, I thought so.

Here are the links, I added one to USA Today as well since they had a good story on cable pricing:

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Website of the week, Feb. week 1

What the hell, I might as well be ahead for a change. I got this link from the yahoo (AP) story about the feds going after search engine records and Google fighting them on it. Its a good site about privacy information. Has some good stuff on it, and with new privacy issues being raised virtually every day (a big recent one concerned cell phone records), this issue will only get more important.

Check it out here:

Is Big Brother Watching? Should we be worried?

In a move that is troubling to privacy advocates (and to myself as well) the US Justice Dept. has subpoenaed search records from all of the major internet search engines (Google, Yahoo,MSN,AOL). Supposedly its looking for information to show that the methods used to prevent children from viewing adult content on the web do not work, probably as a percursor to trying to ban all pornography, nudity, sex. etc. on the web. You know, the ultra conservatives show that these methods don't work, so then they can see we tried that to no avail so lets just ban it all (that is why I sometimes referred to the conservative side of the aisle as ban, censor and prohibit-unless it gets in the way of big companies making money)

Google is fighting the subpoena (way to go Google). From what I have read about the subpoena, it sounds fishy to me.

Couldn't see that coming with the religious wrong in the drivers seat of the Republican party could ya?

You can read about it at the link below:

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Some lawsuits make you wonder

I don't won't to appear insensitive, but when I read that a Missouri Court of Appeals had reversed a lower court's decision in a lawsuit about allegedly defective cruise controls in some GM vehicles (and about injuries one person suffered in an accident allegedly caused by this bad cruise control), I was a little skeptical. Not to say that I know for sure that the cruise control was not defective, it may well have been. But normally cruise controls don't work below a certain speed, and they also normally do not give you that fast of acceleration, especially at first. So when I read the story about this case, about how the plantiff said the cruise control caused the car to rapidly travel about 120 feet and hit a tree along the way, severly injuring the woman driving the car, I was a little skeptical. The first thought that went through my mind was that the unfortunate driver had hit the gas instead of the brake pedal, causing the car to accelerate rapidly. Most of these cases about unintended acceleration end up resulting from the driver hitting the gas instead of, or sometimes even along with, the brake. Normally if you have the brake on all the way, it is either difficult or even impossible (depends on the vehicle) for the car to accelerate that fast if your foot has the brake petal fully depressed.

It is sad, without a doubt, but just from what I have seen (and I acknowledge that I certainly do not have all of the facts here, just a general picture of the situation) and heard about this case (and others similar to it), driver error is almost always to blame. Not trying to give anyone a bad name, but it bugs me that a company almost had to pay out huge money for something that may have been the driver's fault.

You can read about the story here, from the Kansas City Star:

Dumbass of the week

You have to love it when not only does someone not fully understand an issue, but they also just act like a complete dumbass trying to make their case. As a result of the US Supreme Court's decision about eminent domain (from the case in Connecticut), Logan Darrow Clements (I will just call him dumbass for the time being) has organized a petition drive to put on the ballot in an upcoming election a "project" that would use eminent domain to seize Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home and land to build this hotel or whatever stupid assed thing this moron is allegedly trying to build. It only took 25 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, and in the unlikely event that genius wins, a legal challenge would pretty much be a certainty.

What I don't get (besides the charade this guy is putting on that just makes him look stupid), is why people still have trouble grasping the court's decision on this matter (from the case of Kelo vs. New London). The court didn't come out and say this was OK, they just upheld the state's right to use eminent domain based on the laws on the books. They also basically said that it was a state, not a federal matter, as they should have decided. States, counties and cities can still pass their own ordiances or laws if they want to restrict how eminent domain is used. This sounds like a good topic for my issues blog when I find the time.

Here is the story from AP via Yahoo if you want to read it:

Good news if you use gift cards

A state judge in Albany, New York recently ruled that according to state law, any proceeds that retailers get from unused gift cards must be turned over to the state as abandoned property after a period of five years from the purchase of the card. According to the article at the link below from BizJournals (the Albany edition), many of those retailers that still have expiration dates on their gift cards may eliminate expiration dates since they will no longer pocket the money from the unused cards. This only applies to New York, but the ramifications will be felt outside of the state in the retail world. I have never been a big fan of expiration dates, and especially do not like those cards that basically charge you a fee for each month that the card is active but not used.

Here is the story:

Oprah does a flip flop

Okay, first Oprah defends beleaguered author Jim Frey, whose book "A Million Little Pieces" was a book club pick by Oprah. She publicly defended him on Larry King Live. But now she has changed her mind, and grilled him on her show recently. Sounds to me like Oprah was pissed that she was made to look bad so she had to do a quick public about face to save face.

All seems pretty damn comical to me. I have never been a big Oprah fan anyway, this just makes me thing "Hypocrite" even more.

You can read about it here (although unless you have been in a coma you almost certainly have heard at least part of this story:


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rough times for the Big 3

What a rough few months for the big 3 auto companies. GM announced a big restructuring, big job cuts and plant closings recently, and on monday ford announced they were taking similiar actions to improve their financial picture. I also have a link below to a story from MSNBC.com on whether or not the Big 3 may soon kill off some of their more redundant brands to save money and reduce duplication. I have said for years that GM could get rid of Oldsmobile (which they did) and probably Buick or Pontiac. They might have more luck if they try to position Pontiac as a more hip car and ditch Buick, which overlaps too much with Cadillac.

They also have to figure out how to compete with the Japanese companies better. Toyota may soon overtake GM as the #1 automaker in the world, a title GM probably thought they would have forever.

Here is the link to the story: