Thursday, September 29, 2005

 

Tom Delay's World

Tom Delay, just moments ago on Hannity's radio show:

"I believe I'm one of the first Americans ever to be punished [based only] on an accusation."

Tom - what reality are you living in? The majority of the people that just heard you make that statement are likely employeed in a "at will" situation, and thus would find themselves suspended, demoted, or outright fired if indicted for a felony. Your situation is little different. If I came into work tomorrow after getting indicted, I doubt that it'd be a normal day at the office.

You violated your own party's rules by getting indicted, you unprincipled fuck - you live with the consequences. While you're sitting there and sweating over your future, perhaps it'd be a good moment to reflect back upon the "contract" that helped your party win a majority.

Monday, September 26, 2005

 

Airbus Front Gear Has History Of Failure

At least seven A320 aircraft have experienced front gear problems that resulted in the wheels locked sideways. The manufacturer claims that this isn't that many when one considers that there's 2500 of the aircraft in existance, but that's a failure rate of nearly 0.3%! It's a testament to the gear's strength that it doesn't break off in such conditions, but one has to wonder if this can be counted on in every occurence. Better to fix the problem, I would think.

 

Second Chance Accused Of Cover-up

While at the gym, I caught a segment on NBC Nightly News about an alledged cover-up at northern Michigan's Second Chance, concerning their recall of defective Zylon-based ballistic armor (AKA "bulletproof vests").

There's little question that the recalled vests have problems, supposedly due to either to excessive residual acid levels in the Zylon fiber used in their construction (Second Chance's claim), or known problems with the fiber when used in hot sweaty environments (the fiber manufacturer's claim). The most recent news surrounds the question of a possible cover-up by Second Chance, and whether that delay (if it occurred) led to the loss of life. At least two officers have died while wearing the suspect vests (one of which who was hit 13 times).

If indeed there was a delayed response, it certainly sucks for those involved. Today's legal atmosphere unfortunately does not encourage doing "the right thing", and the company had to file for bankruptcy protection anyways. Responding earlier would have probably just accelerated the process, and whether it would have saved lives is questionable since many officers were forced to continue wearing the vests anyways. Companies operating under bankruptcy protection are not the best place to look for corrective actions to a problem.

I'm still not willing to vilify the company, though, considering its long history of saving lifes (nearly 1000 to date), and owner Richard Davis' trademark demonstration of confidence in his product. The man has been shot perhaps hundreds of times while wearing his product, which to me does not sound like the mark of someone who's trying to run a scam. And the move from Kevlar to Zylon was to improve comfort, which meant that more officers would wear the vests and thus benefit from its protection. It's also interesting to note that Second Chance was the first vest manufacturer to recall its Zylon-based product.

How the rest of this story turns out is for the courts to decide based on what the fiber manufacturer knew, when it knew it, and when that information was communicated to Second Chance, but in all likelihood the end result will be to deprive wearers of the latest-and-greatest protection. It also shows the difficulty a small company faces when tackling a complex product, and the larger problems that arise when said company has little or no leverage with a supplier that is much larger in financial size.

 

More On The Tillman Tragedy

Wow. What a fuckin' shame. Shit happens in war, but cover-ups aren't mandatory.

And, yea, I have to admit that I find it fascinating that he opposed the Iraq war, even after giving up his football career to enlist for the Afghanistan war.

 

Michigan's "Stand Your Ground" Bill

This strikes me as a particularly good thing for the law-abiding residents of Michigan:

This bill would do basically three things:

One: It establishes, in law, the presumption that a criminal who forcibly enters or intrudes into your home or occupied vehicle is there to cause death or great bodily harm, therefore a person may use any manner of force, including deadly force, against that person.

Two: It removes the "duty to retreat" if you are attacked in any place you have a right to be. You no longer have to turn your back on a criminal and try to run when attacked. Instead, you may stand your ground and fight back, meeting force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to yourself or others.

Three: It provides that persons using force authorized by law shall not be prosecuted for using such force.

It also prohibits criminals and their families from suing victims for injuring or killing the criminals who have attacked them.

In short, it gives rights back to law-abiding people and forces judges and prosecutors who are prone to coddling criminals to instead focus on protecting victims.

I'll be writing my local reps to encourage that they vote for this bill.

 

The NRA Rediscovers Its Purpose In Life

I don't think I've been too kind to the NRA in, oh, the last decade or so, but the gun confiscation in New Orleans seems to have provided the NRA with a renewed sense of purpose. It sounds as if they've been successful at stopping the gun grab there; now it remains to be seen if they can take an active approach and secure post-disaster self-defense rights nationwide.

 

Economy May Have Been Slowing Down Even Before Hurricanes

August indicators seem to show that the US economy was slowing down even before Hurricane Katrina hit, although you can just about take it to the bank that if things slide in the next few months, this fact will be long-forgotten.

September is shaping up to be a terrible month for auto sales; it should be interesting to see if that ends up being a broader indicator of market performance.

 

Next, Sharks With Frickin' Laser Beams

If this is true, then it has to qualify as the most bizarre story to come out of the hurricane madness of the last three weeks:

Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

[SNIP]

The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned until US navy scientists had examined them.

Sheridan is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins were not the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a sound in Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters devastated New Orleans.

I would normally be tempted to blow this off, but it is the military we're talking about.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

 

Getting Old Sucks

NIN recently had to stop a show due to their drummer suffering from... chest pains?!? That's not very rock-and-roll. That is, in fact, downright middled-aged.

The next thing we know, NIN will stop singing about the pain of living and instead will muse about the slight discomfort of yearly bloodwork.

Monday, September 19, 2005

 

Why My Wife Rules

Because she sent me a cool article on Byzantine errors in X-by-wire systems.

What I don't get is the requirement for having 3n+1 separate entities for true redundancy, where n is the number of possible failed entities. It seems like 2n+1 would be sufficient, and indeed, this is what I've seen in throttle-by-wire systems when redundancy (rather than just fault detection) is required. A few of us kicked this around at work and came to the same conclusion. Is it just the desire to have a supermajority of entities working properly in a mission-critical role? I'm OK with that philosophy.

UPDATE: Ah. The problem assumes that a particular defective entity doesn't always transmit the same incorrect message to all of the other entities; that is, it may "lie" to some but not all. That's why at least 2/3rds + 1 of the entities need to be functioning properly.

 

A Study In Contrasts

This is how a pragmatic conservative reacts to criticism of Bush. This is how a wingnut reacts. Can you spot the difference? Ignoring history doesn't help someone's case, either.

And, FYI - Clinton was, and still is, a wanker. But that does not mean that we can blame him for the fact that Bush has performed exceedingly poorly as a president and as a leader, and invoking the unholy names of Bill and Hillary is not going to fix the problem anytime in the next 2 1/2 years. Every once in a while, you gotta look at your man and say, "Ya, he's really pissing it away right now". Some folks just can't reach that level of intellectual honesty, and thus will never be able to offer any solutions for addressing the problems.

 

Mortgaging The Future, Continued

Fareed Zarkaria, otherwise known as one of the few sane reporters on Earth, weighs in with his opinion on federal spending in the wake of Katrina:

The worse things get, the more frivolous our response. President Bush explains that he will spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the Gulf Coast without raising any new revenues. Republican leader Tom DeLay declines any spending cuts because "there is no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

This would be funny if it weren't so depressing. What is happening in Washington today is business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe. The scariest part is that we've been here before. After 9/11 we have created a new government agency, massively increased domestic spending and fought two wars. And the president did all this without rolling back any of his tax cuts—in fact, he expanded them—and refused to veto a single congressional spending bill. This was possible because Bush inherited a huge budget surplus in 2000. But that's all gone. The cupboard is now bare.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm no fan of increased taxes. But put simply, spending must not exceed expenditures, at least not for any length of time. Something has to give - either revenue grows, or spending drops. But that sort of logic seems lost in Washington, which is tragic because not even a decade ago, Congress demonstrated an ability to keep spending under control.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

 

I Prefer My Selective Memory, Thank You

Go here, and punch your year of graduation into the search box on the upper left-hand side. The first result should be a Top 100 list of songs that year. I'd thought that 1994 was a high point of music, but damn, there's a lot of shitty songs on that list. Personally, I think the list might be a bit knackered - there's no Green Day, Soundgarden, or Stone Temple Pilots, and '94 was a big year for those bands (among many others). And if you hit the list for '92, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is only #32.

HT: Matthew Yglesias

Friday, September 16, 2005

 

Tom Delay, Idiot

OK, so there's this quip:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget . . . Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

Which Billmon counters with this graph:Or we can look at it this way:
If this is really the best we can do, we're totally fucked. Since we're running a large deficit at this spending level, then the only thing to do would be to raise taxes, or hold spending constant until economic growth provides enough income at current taxation levels. What are the odds of one or both of those happening? Pretty damn low, I'd dare say.

I feel truely sorry for whatever generation ends up with the debt that's being passed down due to our politician's inability to figure out how to balance expenditures against income. And I'm truly pissed at our citizens, who continue to vote for said politicians.

 

Can Someone Get This Man An ESD Smock?

Yikes:

An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked,
leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building.

HT: Balloon Juice.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

 

My Take On The Roberts Hearings

I was stuck in a car for a large portion of yesterday and the day prior, so I got a healthy dose of the Senate's Roberts confirmation hearings. The following are my thoughts:

1) Those are some smart-sounding mofos - both the Judiciary Committee, and Roberts. I think I occassionally lapse into stereotyping all Congressmen as idiots, which obviously isn't giving them enough credit. They, however, are not smart in the way that would tend towards them surviving for more than, say, 10 minutes in the real world.

2) Sen. Chuck Schumer can be an incredibly smooth talker.

3) Schumer can be incredibly smary and annoying, and is apparently in love with himself.

4) If I were John Roberts, there would have been moments where I would have contemplated bashing Schumer over the head with a microphone. The grilling over the "illegal Amigo" memos would have been one of those moments.

5) Sen. Dianne Feinstein is still obsessed with banning guns, and doing it under the Commerce Clause.

6) Roberts did a lot of dancing around the Commerce Clause questions. At time, I felt that he would lean towards limiting the fed's powers under that clause, which is something I tend to agree with. At other moments, he didn't seem so sure of federalism.

6) The only Senator who seemed to care about Robert's take on the 2nd was Russ Feingold, who made it very clear that he sees the 2nd as an individual right. I don't think I share too many political views with Feingold, but I tend to agree with him on a select few hotbutton issues. Roberts said that the issue was undecided, which is generally encouraging. I'd like to see the court revisit Miller, but that probably doesn't have a snowball's chance.

7) What the heck was up with Sen. Coburn and his weird-out about natural law? I think I missed something there. Between that, the crossword puzzle thing, and his tearful opening statement, this guy isn't doing much to dispell the left's criticism that he's not all there (I think I hopped on that bandwagon after his "lesbian epidemic" comment prior to the election).

Overall, it seems like Roberts isn't that bad of a nominee. I think were I'm going to disagree with him is on privacy (I think he leans towards stating that there is no right to privacy), and on issues of the government's ability to detain citizens without charges being filed. Those are just assumptions, of course, as those issues were not directly answered during the hearing.

Frankly, I can't imagine where anyone will have much of a legit reason to vote against confirming him.

Monday, September 12, 2005

 

Nerd Rock

This one is for Oberon - Death Cab For Cutie gets a nice write-up in Rolling Stone.

 

Football Season Is Over

No, I'm not talking about the Detroit Lions - yet. Instead, it's the title of Hunter S Thompon's suicide note, which apparently will be published soon in Rolling Stone. I normally don't adovcate such practices, but the author would probably want it this way.

 

Gun Confiscation In NO

Someone - apparently the mayor of New Orleans - has authorized confiscation of private firearms, stating that only the police and military can arm themselves. This, of course, is a direct affront to the 2nd Amendment, not to mention Louisiana state law. Will we see any lawsuits from the federal government over the violation of the residents' civil rights? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

 

California Smog... From Wine?

Environmental regulators are going after wineries in California's San Joaquin Valley, as the fermentation process apparently is a source of air pollution. The alcohol that's released into the atmosphere can cause the creation of ozone, which is an pollutant at low altitudes. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has also asked farmers to keep down dust levels during harvest and is exploring ways to control emissions from dairy cows. Uh-huh. I'm not sure what else goes on in this region, but if wineries and farms are the worst problems, then I'd say they're doing pretty good.

 

Tom Delay Finally Meets A Tax He Won't Cut

Apparently, the gas tax is off-limits in Tom Delay's opinion. Curious, but hardly surprising, considering that the gas tax is one of the most regressive taxes in this country.

 

Are The Feds Blocking NO Communications?

It's hard to say. But why wouldn't it surprise me if they were? If nothing else, FEMA is certainly making life difficult for those that use anything but MSIE, but that seems like ordinary incompetence.

 

NO DVD On Hurricane Preparation A Bit Late

Brad DeLong reports that New Orleans was working on an evacuation how-do DVD titled "Your Poor Ass Is On Its Own" or something like that, but it was never completed before hurricane season. How's that for ironic governmental incompetence? They never were able to even complete a video describing how they're not able to help.

Glenn Reynolds takes the Department of Homeland Security to task in his TCS column. I want the $120B or so that's been spent by the DHS back in my pockets, if this is all they've been able to do. I'm absolutely stunned that our local fire department - serving 6,000 people - was able to get $70K for new equipment, but yet somehow DHS money never found its way into the NOPD for a decent radio setup.

The Rude Pundit takes on FEMA, too, but from a slightly different perspective.

I really hope that every single person involved in this mess, from the lowliest employee of NO that was involved in disaster management all the way up to the President, is totally embarassed of this mess. I bet that not a single firing comes out of this whole ordeal, however. Not like the loss of a job would bring back a single dead person or rebuild anyone's home. But hopefully it'd help prevent such a mess from happening again.

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