Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TSA administrative searches

Does the TSA's authority derive from the Frank v. Maryland decision?  The basis for this was that the benefit to society outweighs one idividual's right to privacy. 

There must be more law than this because the TSA does not search only one individual and in Frank v. Maryland, the government (health department) had some suspicion that they would find something (rats).  The TSA corrolary in this case should be if the health department exhaustively searched and x-rayed everyone's home for all infestations and arrested people for illegal activities or possesions they happen to notice.Yeah, the TSA may find contraband but almost all of what is deemed contraband is not dangerous and does not indicate a desire to hijack an airplane.  TSA's abbreviated list.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Backscatter more a threat to safety than terrorism

This is about the best point I've seen about the recent TSA "nude-o-scope" and "crotch grabbing" ('scuse the expressions) debacle.  Thanks, Boarding Area:

Still, Bruce Schneier points out that even though backscatter x-ray machines are expected to increase change of death by only 16 ten millionths of one percent, that’s still more than the risk of death from terrorism. And he points to Nate Silver on inconveniences of air travel pushing people to driving which is far more dangerous, and statistically attributes the equivalent of four full 737s a year in additional traffic deaths.

I could go on and on how awful this all is.  But, let me just say this:

. Remember how gradually the Jews lost their rights in Nazi Germany.
. Contrary to TSA's attitude, airline travel is a right, not merely a privilege, in the sense that we are free to associate and conduct commerce (with airlines, et al) and have freedom of movement (travel).

Sunday, September 19, 2010


My current favorite flavor of Linux:  Puppy Linux
booting off a USB stick.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unconventional Marriages

OK, so really I have two points to make. Keeping it short. I don't have a problem with people who want to live together and if they belong to a church that is willing to bless or sanctify their relationship then that is totally up to them  But, you have to realize two things:

1. Today's same-sex marriage controversy isn't about who can be together and who can't. These people are already together. And do they think they need their relationship condoned by some government agency? No, I don't think so. It is about government benefits.  Here's a list the Government Accounting Office (GAO) made up to give "a sense of the kinds of federal laws in which marital status is a factor." What is the point of all of this? Governments have been encouraging and subsidizing marriage for decades. Why? Some of it is tradition, some is religious, some of it is simply doing favors for constituents.

2. Same-gender marriage is just the start.  Other committed relationships are still not recognized by the government and I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be.  For example, why is "two" a special number?  Shouldn't a marriage of three people be recognized by the government? How about one? A single person cannot share in the benefits of marriage--why not? Does there have to be sex involved at all? I can see where an entire congregation or commune of people might enter into a marriage if it means they get more food stamps.

That being said, the government should not be in the marriage business. All the special laws, regulations and exceptions made for married people should be scrapped. There may be an argument to subsidize the raising of children, but that should be a wholly different matter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BP Oil Spill extent

Another good analysis of the oil spill to supplement my earlier post on the subject comes from Discover Magazine: The BP Oil Plume.  I love it when folks have their BS detectors running.
...the total volume of the leak was estimated to be 780,000 cubic meters of oil.

If we were to take this volume and spread it out in a layer 1 millimeter thick, it would cover an area of 780 million square meters, which is a square about 28 kilometers on a side.
Yes, it's a lot of oil.  But the Gulf of Mexico is a very large area.  Check out their photo depiction that shows the amount of oil spilled as compared to the Pentagon.   Those that call it a "Manhattan-sized" spill should probably mean as large as a building on Manhattan.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tri-cycle bomber in China kills 7

Tri-cycle bomber in China kills 7. What is going on with all these bombings? This another one of those things in this world that I just don't understand.  Lack of respect for human life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Interest rates too low?

The Secrets of the Federal ReserveInteresting discussion of how these extremely low interest rates do not encourage banks to lend.

Low interest rates mean "easy money". With easy money no one has an incentive to economize....

Yet, banks aren't lending except for high collateral positions...and why is this? The answer is simple, as Robert Higgs said, "regime uncertainty".
This is a bit contrary to the fact that most profit these days has been the result of increased productivity a.k.a. economizing a.k.a. laying off, closing factories, offshoring work, etc.  This only works in the short term.  Eventually, you need to put Employees First.  :)

Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down

Dr. Laura Schlessinger & the "N" Word

From Dr. Laura's (Schlessinger) radio show, yesterday, regarding the use of the word "nigger":

Stop Whining, Start Living
Caller:It’s OK to say that word?
Dr. Laura:It depends how it’s said.
Caller:Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
Dr. Laura:It’s — it depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK.
Caller:But you’re not black. They’re not black. My husband is white.
Dr. Laura:Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.

Can't handle the truth? On NPR, John Ridly said it was OK for blacks to use the word "nigger" because of a "history" of slavery & Jim Crow. Huh?

When asked the same question that Dr. Laura was asked by a listener, Ridley responds that it's OK for black people to use the word because of the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws.

Know anyone that has been in slavery? Can President Obama use the word "nigger"? Not by this criteria since his ancestors weren't here for any of that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Viaduct lies

Excuse me if I veer into Seattle politics a bit.

Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle
Advert: The Alaskan Way Viaduct

According to the the Stranger, The State Is Lying About the Tunnel.  All this fuss about whether or not the City of Seattle will be on the hook for all cost overruns for the project to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct with an under-downtown tunnel--all this fuss may be for naught.  It seems, not that many contractors want to bid the job anyway.
One of the four groups expected to bid on the contract to build the tunnel dropped out in March. Then, on July 12, the city got word that one of the three remaining teams seeking to win the contract to build the tunnel had stopped work on its bid. The team's lead member, Kiewit Corporation, said the state's contract was "not compatible" with its business model.
If the bids are too high, no one know what will happen. Apparently, the State did not make this information public until months after they knew about it and not until asked by the press.  That may or may not be a big deal, but as I always say, when you deceive me, you have have to earn the trust back.

Though the project has been voted down, the newly elected mayor of Seattle is against it and it is still being pursued, this is just a fact of life in Seattle where the saying is, "How many times do we have to vote against it before they just go ahead and do it anyway?"  Now, folks are trying to get another vote this Fall.

Citizens of Seattle will have pay for a project we don't want, suffer through the construction, lose the breathtaking view of the Puget Sound we have now as we drive along the current highway, end up with no more traffic lanes and have to pay a toll to use the new tunnel.  On the bright side, the folks that own property along the current road will make out like bandits.

Alaskan Way Viaduct: Phase III-B preliminary seismic retrofit plan and cost estimate
Preliminary plan and profile of Alaskan Way Viaduct Battery St. to 1st Ave. S. two-deck design, six traffic lanes
[Report in support of a petition to use the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Battery Street Tunnel, and Aurora Avenue as a truck route for the transportation of flammable liquids]
Capital improvement needs for roadway structures: A preliminary report to the Seattle City Council
Seismic vulnerability of the Alaskan Way Viaduct: SED typical unit
Geotechnical report, Alaskan Way Viaduct: Phase III seismic vulnerability study, SR 99, MS-2494
Alaskan Way Viaduct Park: Proposal for site development analysis and design

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fatwa on Suicide Bombings & Terrorism

I have never understood anything that happens in the Middle East. For as long as I can remember there has been problems with Israel, Egypt, Syria, "Palestine", Lebanon. I could never grok why. For that matter, Ireland. A friend of mine tells be that it is all about religion and, in the case of the Middle East, the turmoil dates back to the to the assassination of Ali (in 661 AD!) and the Crusades. Incredible. I think that since I do not live history or religion this probably explains much of my ignorance. Car bombs and IEDs are driving me nuts.  It seems like the terrorists' justification for killing innocent people on purpose is that we kill innocent people by accident.

As someone who has lived on both sides of the current "Islamist" vs. the West turmoil, Maajid Nawaz believes that those that believe as the terrorists are, in fact, misinformed. Misinformed regarding our history, our motives and our character. We in the West are demonized by them and logic and commonsense need not be applied. Mr. Nawaz, however, believes that many of these people are reasonable and can be convinced. Very noble and a I refer the dear reader to the Quilliam Foundation.

There are others, as well:
Sheikh Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, a widely recognized and respected authority on Islamic jurisprudence, will issue a comprehensive fatwa prohibiting terrorism and suicide bombing at a press conference in Westminster, central London. - March 2, 2010, Jerusalem Post
Commendable. It gives me some hope. Please, check out the information on the fatwa here and here.

This, however, will bring you down: Suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003 and this is only Iraq.
At Introduction to Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good news on bailouts

"The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes there will be no more taxpayer funded bailouts. Period." - President Barack Obama, July 21, 2010, on the occasion of signing the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill into law

Oh, wait, we tax payers haven't funded the bails out yet. The Chinese funded it, didn't they?  Or whoever buys all those T-Bills. See here

"Treasury will have authority to issue up to $700 billion of Treasury securities to finance the purchase of troubled assets."

This was back in 2008 when all we were bailing out were troubled "assets".  But, we spent this money on other things, didn't we?

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Are hybrid crosses between bonobos and humans possible?  According to an NPR story (which is actually a plug for a novel, Lucy by Laurence Gonzales) such a thing might be feasible in the near future and, in fact, has been outlawed in Arizona. This doesn't seem to be part on the online Arizona statutes, yet, but it was part of SB1307, signed into law on May 7, 2010:

B.  A person shall not intentionally or knowingly:
1.  Create or attempt to create a human-animal hybrid.
2.  Transfer or attempt to transfer a human embryo into a nonhuman womb.
3.  Transfer or attempt to transfer a nonhuman embryo into a human womb.
4.  Transport or receive for any purpose a human‑animal hybrid.
...yada yada...

So, that cannot legally be bred (created?) in Arizona.  But once created, perhaps elsewhere, then what?

This brings a whole lot of interesting questions.  Questions familiar to those suggested by slavery and same-sex marriage. 

If a hybrid is a person in California, are they a person in Arizona?  Can they vote?  Can they be bought and sold?

If you cannot tell that a hybrid is a hybrid, how can you know if they are not human?  Especially if they are third generation or later?  A DNA test may not reveal it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Did nature clean up most of the Exxon Valdez oil spill?

Thanks, Cecil.  I don't care what Rush Limbaugh says, you're my hero.

See here:

... Do oil spills mostly go away on their own? Yes. Does that mean we’re better off leaving them alone? Of course not. Nobody doubts we need to plug leaks and contain spillage, and I’m persuaded bioremediation helps at least sometimes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Rep. Barton (R. Texas) retracts his statement but really, isn't it a shakedown?  I would feel better if BP decided who to compensate themselves and any disagreement handled by the courts.  Instead we are going to have an "independent" panel make the decisions.

What Mr. Barton retracted:
I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown, with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, that's got no legal standing, and which sets, I think, a terrible precedent for the future.
So I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anybody else. But I apologize.

Read more:

I agree.  It is a "terrible precedent"."

Trend of Gulf Oil-Spill Estimates

Monday, June 14, 2010

killing schoolgirls

According to CNN International, girls are poisoned in Afghanistan because they go to school.
Kabul, Afghanistan -- About 60 schoolgirls in Afghanistan's Balkh province appear to have been poisoned and required hospitalization, the Ministry of Health said Sunday.
I will never understand this sort of thing.  I can understand, perhaps, being offended for religious reasons, by the education of women, but I cannot understand how that same religion can condone murder as retribution for the offense.  Or using deadly violence against innocent people as a form of political statement.


It's all fine and good to blame BP for the Gulf oil spill.  They are taking responsibility, so why not let them do their best to clean up the mess and pay the valid claims?  No, we have to meddle and coerce them not to pay their shareholders their dividend even though BP claims to have enough money anyway:
The company’s $10.5 billion annual dividend has become a point of contention as President Obama has said BP should not be paying stockholders when fishermen, oil workers and small-business owners are saying they cannot get the company to pay their loss claims from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (NYT, June 14, 2010)
And the company, Transocean LTD (RIG),  that was operating the drilling rig? We'll see.

BP Gulf of Mexico Response page.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gaza blockade violence premeditated? Turkey complicit?

Seems like a cynical attempt to stir up some sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza.  According to the Jerusalem Post (
'Marmara' captain: I opposed violence
Report:Crew tried to stop IHH activists' violence before raid.
The captain of the Mavi Marmara  tried to convince dozens of IHH activists not to engage in violent clashes with the IDF two hours prior to the commando's boarding of the ship, reported Army Radio on Friday.

The Gaza flotilla ship's captain, Mehmet Tubal, said while being investigated in Israel that he and other members of the Mavi Marmara's staff did all they could to prevent the activists from confronting soldiers, even throwing some of the IHH member's metal pipes and chains overboard.

Another senior member of the ship's staff said that 40 IHH activists took control of the Mavi Marmara and dictated the rest of the passengers' movements.

The occurrence of violence aboard the Mavi Marmara may have been predetermined by the IHH 's purchase of the ship along with possible tacit approval from the Turkish government.

"[The] IHH acquired the Mavi Marmara ship from the AKP-run municipality of Istanbul. It is not conceivable that the IHH’s Gaza operation could have been carried out absent high-level government sanction," wrote Svante Cornell, a Swedish security expert who specializes in Eurasia, in an article published on Monday.

A journalist on-board the Mavi Marmara, described as having good links with the heads of the Turkish government and Bulent Yildirim, head of the IHH, had stated, "The flotilla was organized with the support of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Erdogan gave the instructions for it to set sail. That was despite the fact that everyone knew it would never reach its destination," according to the report.

The IHH  calls itself a "relief organization".  (--> wikipedia)  But that doesn't mean they are peaceful, it seems:
Representatives of Freedom Flotilla organizers stated that they will continue with their actions until Israel frees embargo-stricken people of Palestine.
Do I trust the Jersulem Post?

More on this here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

a frightening milestone

"...our national debt ($12.7 trillion today) is on track to exceed the size of our entire economy (about $15 trillion) in just two more years." -- Rep. John Boehner of Ohio in the Des Moines Register, March 24, 2010.

Hyperbole?  Not according to  

[Rep. Boehner's] assertion that "our national debt ... is on track to exceed the size of our entire economy ... in just two more years" is on target, according to the president's own Office of Management and Budget. So we rate his statement True.
 Relevant? I guess that's up to us to decide.

fishy oil

Alternative medicine doctors have been promoting, if not hawking, the consumption of fish oil for health for years & years.  One I've listened to is Dr. Ronald Hoffman on whose web site a search will reveal dozens of references to fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, dating back more than a decade.  Now, (finally?) there is an FDA approved Omega-3 acid product, LOVAZA.  Is it different than other fish oil you can buy?  They think so.  Because it's blessed by the FDA and has a high EPA & DHA content.  Their website says the FDA approved dosage is 4 grams/day or about 1860 mg EPA and 1500 DHA.  You'd have to take 14 of the other pills to get that dose.  I love those sorts of arguments.  Actually the fish oil pills I usually buy are 450 mg and 340 mg DHA so they are pretty comparable.  But not blessed by the government.

And not as pricey?  One analysis calculates LOVAZA to cost about $3300 per year instead about $150 per year for a Costco brand.  Thanks FDA. Thanks GlaxoSmithKline.

dire or not, who knows?

I suppose the Turks (and Hamas) need to try to justify trying to break through the Israeli blockade.
Critics of the blockade claim the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. But Ambassador Oren said Israel is allowing 100 to 120 trucks to cross the border daily into Gaza and he said there is no shortage of food or medicine.
from CNN International Edition

Are naval blockades legal?

Israel has had a long standing naval blockade along the coast of Gaza to ensure the Hamas there do not import arms that they would use against Israel.  Is this legit?  There seems to be popular uproar, especially when Israel enforced the blockade on May 31st with a senseless raid.

Was our blockade of Cuba in 1962 legit?

I might as well simply quote the wikipedia article:
According to the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, a blockade is a legal method of warfare at sea, but is governed by rules. The blockading nation must publish a list of contraband. The manual describes what can never be contraband. Outside this list, the blockading nation is free to select anything as contraband. The blockading nation typically establish a blockaded area of water, but any ship can be inspected as soon as it is established that it is attempting to break the blockade. This inspection can occur inside the blockaded area or in international waters, but never inside the territorial waters of a neutral nation. A neutral ship must obey a request to stop for inspection from the blockading nation. If the situation so demands, the blockading nation can request that the ship divert to a known place or harbour for inspection. If the ship does not stop, then the ship is subject to capture. If people aboard the ship are resisting capture, they can be attacked. It is still not allowed to sink the ship, unless provision is made for rescueing the crew. Leaving the crew in liferafts / lifeboats does not constitue rescue. If a neutral ship is captured, any member of the crew, resisting capture can be treated as prisoners-of-war, while the remainder of the crew should be released. A neutral nation may choose to send a convoy accompanied by warships. The warship can provide guarantees that the convoy does not contain contraband. in which case, the blockading nation does not have any right of inspection.
Seems like they are legit, at least as far as International Law is concerned.

BTW, did you see the video?  Who is beating whom?

Bbls of Awl (Oil)

How much oil is there coming from the broken oil well/pipe in the gulf?

A government panel of scientists released findings on Thursday saying that before the stricken well’s riser pipe was cut on June 3 ... crude oil was being released at a rate of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. That range was a substantial increase from the panel’s previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels daily, which in turn far exceeded the early 5,000-barrel figure that the Coast Guard proposed, and BP eventually deferred to, for weeks after the accident. 
(New York Times,  June 11, 2010) (link to acticle)
OK, estimates are estimates, but to be off by a factor of five or six is very suspicious, wouldn't you say?

Further updates to come?

(bbl = barrel = 31.5 US gallons or approximately 119 Liters)

Cadillac Plans and automobiles

Possible future irony:  Will the Cadillac division of General Motors exist when Cadillac insurance plans begin to be taxed in 2018?

Health Reform and the business

How does health care/insurance reform affect the insurance and health care delivery businesses? Obviate them?

Will the governments (federal & state) have systems in place in time to support these changes?

I need a whole separate page on Health Reform.  Or look at Kaiser Family Foundation


The BP oil spill is a real mess.  It's hard to know what going on in the background.  I hope something is.  There is so much politicking going on and people blaming each other and perhaps not enough invention.  Let's fix it.  Clean it.  Then let's worry about who is at fault.  Or not.  Accidents do happen.  Sometimes I think that if we were hit by a meteor that Rosie O'Donnell would need to find someone to blame.  Who did we blame for Apollo 13?  Well, some blamed N.A.S.A. for launching the thing at 13:13.  Damn numerology!