Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Orleans Checklist 

I can never fear that things will go far wrong where common sense has fair play.
--Thomas Jefferson

It seems like everyone involved with Katrina screwed up. As my part of civic participation, I'm providing a checklist of things to remember and do this time around with Gustav:

Nagin: Act like a leader. Man-up, fella. Don't wave your arms around like a helpless little child asking for Nanny to do something. YOU do something. Show some spine.

New Orleans police: The people walking out of stores with baskets full of beer, food, TVs, clothing, etc., are the bad guys. Shoot them.

Here's a picture for future reference.

Oh, and remember the federal lawsuits against you for illegally confiscating guns of law abiding citizens? Let's not have a repeat, OK?

It's really pretty easy to comply with the Constitution. When someone is in their home - and you've verified it IS their home, leave them the fuck alone. They have a RIGHT to stay there and have as many guns, and as much ammo as THEY see fit.

Don't repeat this unsavory act.

Besides, it makes you guys look like big pussies when you you hammer some old lady who is trying to protect her home. LOL! Real tough guys. Bad for the image and all.

New Orleans Welfare 'Lifers': Most people that aren't Welfare Recipients are quite pissed off that you're still milking the Katrina gig. Come on - you're STILL in FEMA trailers. It's been 3 years, almost to the day. Haven't all of the hand-outs and other free shit you've received lifted you from poverty? No? Hmmm? Funny how it NEVER seems to work that way, huh?

I don't think you'll get quite the same amount of sympathy this time around. If you get hammered, it's by your own choice. Although...... Barry O and Johnny Mac will probably work this pretty hard, plus CNN and MSNBC seems to be in a pre-orgasmic trance, looking for anything to preempt coverage of the Republican convention. Oh god! Oh god! Oh god! Oh Guuuuuuussssss.....

Who knows, maybe you can milk this gig as well.

New Orleans Law Abiding Citizens: Get the hell out. New Orleans will still devolve into a BIGGER festering boil on the ass of the South if Gusav hits hard. We all know this. The corrupt police department will still confiscate guns, probably on some trumped-up bull shit charges. Looting will be wide-spread. Nagin will still point fingers and stomp his feet and blame FEMA for being ill-prepared. YOU will take the brunt of the punishment. Why the hell are you still there anyways?

FEMA: I'm still looking for the article or amendment in the Constitution that even allows your agency to exist. You're not about national defense. You're not about commerce. You're not about law-making. You're not about national infrastructure. You're about clean-up. Doesn't that make this a State or Local issue? I'm just checkin'.

OK, is everyone clear on what they're supposed to do and NOT do? It's not really that tough. Well, it shouldn't be.

Bush won't be going to the Republican Convention so he can monitor events as they unfold in New Orleans. Don't they have TV's, radios, telephones and airports in Minnesota?

I'll bet McCain is all broken up over this.... ;-)

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Let The Games Begin 

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.
--Adlai Stevenson

The panic building in the Main Stream Media over Palin as VP is astounding.

Now, I'm here in the Belly Of The Beast, the SF Bay Area. I expect leftist-leaning slants in all of the media. But even this surprised me.

I was listening to the local ABC station. Lead story: Was it about this historic choice of a woman being selected as a VP candidate? Nope. It was a fluff piece about Obama and the crowd at the football stadium.

Next was another piece about Obama and how he was going to buy us out of our oil dependency. Finally, they did a quick blurb that Palin had been chosen.

The bulk of the story was about how she was an unknown. They were doing "Man On The Street" interviews. "Who Is Sarah Palin?" "Where is she from?" "What has she done?"

The koolaid drinkers gleefully played along, with not a single person knowing who she was.

Since they were conducting a civics lesson, perhaps they could have asked what job Biden holds. Where is he from? How about McCain himself. What is his job and where is he from? I'm guessing most would have Obama's book in their man-bag, so asking for his bio would be a waste of time.

The socialists are starting the drum beat about how this is just a blatant attempt to woo women to McCain. Uhm, duh! He's running for president and is trying to appeal to as broad of a political spectrum as possible. How shocking!!

The talking-heads were saying it was an affront to women in general and Republican women specifically. Surely they had a woman with more experience. They then came back and said it wasn't so much that he had chosen a woman, but that he had chosen that woman.

Sounds like they're worried to me.

This choice was the same as the Biden choice being a blatant attempt to bolster Obama's lack of experience in, well, anything other than running for office.

I was listening to The McLaughlin Group this weekend, and the liberal members were doing everything in their power to talk about how Palin has no experience. The conservative members were pointing out that she had 2 years of Executive Office experience, and had actual, tangible results in her short tenure.

The liberals amazingly said that Obama's year and a half of national campaigning for president plus 143 days actually worked as a US Senator, trumped Palin's 2 years of work experience. The conservatives on the panel mentioned that they certainly hope this is the strategy that will be employed Obama during the campaign. They had to attach drool buckets in anticipation.

I like her a lot. She takes no shit, and gets stuff done. She actually does what she says.

I still won't be able to vote for McCain. He's part of the Old Guard, and is too entrenched with special interests and big bucks. His McCain/Fiengold, McCain/Kennedy and all of the other indications of a lack principle just turn my stomach.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Number Ten 

Another bank bit the dust today.
Integrity Bank, Alpharetta, GA was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver.
It was a $1.1 billion asset bank. All of their deposits were assumed by Regions Bank, of Birmingham, Alabama. This one will set us back between $250-$350 million. Remember: That's after they sell all of the bank's assets.

Earlier in the week, the FDIC said it may have to draw on a line of credit from the Treasury Department to "see it through an expected wave of bank failures."

Kinda makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy, huh?

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With Limited Commentary 

It was bound to happen, I suppose...

Found here. Ya know you were thinkin' it...

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The Ultimate Driving Machine 

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.
--Mark Twain

No, not a Beemer.

There has been a lot of discussion in the sites and magazines I've been reading on alternatives to oil as a fuel. A number of blogs have had discussions of Peak Oil. T. Boone Pickens' wind farm idea is getting beat about the head and shoulders.

The debate as to whether we should punch more holes in US soil or on the continental shelf continues. I've been reading tons of stuff to get a better understanding of solar systems. The recent issue of Backwoods Home Magazine has a lengthy article on energy saving ideas.

That same issue of BHM had a tiny little advertisement on a pedal-powered car [not PETAL powered, ya damned hippies ;-)]. I immediately thought about James over at Bison Survival Blog and his recent move that requires him to drive his bike to bring water to his new place.

Riding a regular two-wheeled bike with water containers for two people has got to be a pain, not to mention risky at best. He doesn't say how he does it, but he's getting by.

So I went to the pedal-powered 4-wheel car site and signed up for their newsletter so I could get their price list. Ouch!

The bottom-of-the-barrel, cheapest 1-person model goes for over a thousand dollars. The top of the line model, which comes with an electric assist motor is damned near $7,000!

Way out of my price range for a bike - even one with 4 wheels and an electric motor.

So I start sniffing around, and I found this site. They sell plans for $18 to make one yourself. Most of their plans say it will cost you around $400-$500 to put one together. If you want an electric motor option, it will double the price.

They are made primarily of PVC pipe. The main "chasis" frames are reinforced with steel pipe inserted into the PVC. The Side Kick model has a "trunk" to carry stuff. I'm sure a trailer of sorts could be fashioned to increase the payload.

I think this has real possibilities. It would be a fun DIY project. If you had a relatively flat area, this could be a realistic option for certain transportation needs.

I've got a fairly high-end road bike that I haven't ridden for ages. A Craig's List sale could bring me a good way towards paying for this thing.....


Here are a couple of videos of the DIY version in action. Too damned cool...



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Denver Police Tactics 

The art of leadership. . . consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.
--Adolph Hitler

Control the message, and you control the outcome. 'Dolf had it right.

When the stories of the Denver police arresting 100+ protesters were first published, I didn't see a whole lot wrong with what happened. As I read the stories, the protesters had a permit to do their thing, and things were going along fine. They then began to move into the streets, the police moved to stop them and the arrests occurred.

I believe one of the jobs of the police is to maintain civility. The protesters have the absolute right to scream and yell and chant slogans. But the exercise of that right cannot infringe upon the reasonable right of other citizens to go about with their lives as they see fit.

Allowing the protesters to have megaphones or a PA system is reasonable, even though it might inconvenience, say, workers in surrounding buildings. They are able to express their opinion to all who will listen.

Blocking the streets crosses the line. Public safety (fire trucks, ambulances, police cars all being impeded), commerce (delivery trucks, people driving to and from work) and personal freedom of movement, IMO trump unfettered freedom of speech.

When I see stories like this, the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. This is not maintaining public civility. This is nothing short of totalitarianism.
Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.
The producer was standing on a public sidewalk, with his press credentials (though that should be irrelevant) clearly visible around his neck, doing a story on lobbyists and wealthy donors, and the accompanying influence peddling.

What were the charges?
A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.
How do you trespass on public property? Even if the sidewalk was owned by the Hotel as claimed, they have set a precedence of allowing pedestrian traffic to use the sidewalk - unchallenged.

Interference with what? There was no indication by anyone - even the police at the time of the arrest - that he was interfering with anyone's ingress or egress from the hotel.

So that brings us to the "failure to follow a lawful order" charge. Oh baby....

Is that the catch-all charge? When all else fails, say that they disobeyed a lawful order?

The kicker is, requiring him to leave that public sidewalk was an unlawful order. There is no indication he was blocking pedestrian traffic. No indication he was blocking hotel guests. No indication he was infringing upon the rights of others. No indication of him doing anything other than his job as news producer.

Even though it was unlawful to remove and arrest him, the hotel, the lobbyists and the DNC big-wigs will still have won. The cop may publicly get a reprimand when all is said and done, but because the producer was removed, we'll never know who may have attended the special interest meeting. Their anonymity will have been preserved. The elite will once again have been protected by Nanny.

I thought the Dems were supposed to be the party of the common man and the ACLU. Truth, Justice and The American Way. You know, all of that Constitutional stuff.

I guess that doesn't count when big bucks are at stake. Shocking [yawn].
During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you."
Our tax dollars at work...

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Medical Preps 

Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom, and being one's own person is its ultimate reward.
--Patricia Sampson

The Other Ryan over at TSLRF had a post yesterday that touched on medical preps. For a number of reasons, I've been thinking about our potential medical needs in the event of a SHTF scenario.

Each of our cars has a GHB. Each has enough food and water for two adults for 3 days. In addition to a number of survival items, each has a small, basic first aid kit. Band aids, some creams and alcohol prep pads, etc. I've also added a pair of latex gloves and an N95-rated mask (hmmm, price has gone up for the 3M brand) to each bag. Very, very basic.

Our home medical kit is much more complete.

In addition to a couple hundred bandages of every conceivable shape and size, we have:
Anti-microbial non-stick pads, gauze pads, medical and athletic tape, mole skin, ace bandages, forceps, medical scissors, razor blades, a sewing kit, more N95 masks, a box of latex gloves, the full Army/Navy/Air Force First Aid manual, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, Afrin (nasal decongestant AND to slow bleeding - it's a vasodilator), Benadryl (allergies and other allergic reactions), generic Pepto-bismal tablets, hydrocortizone cream, sore throat spray, triple antibiotic cream, stool softener (hey, ya never know), Tums, Orajel and super glue (closing wounds).
As part of our regular emergency supplies, we have a couple thousand 200mg ibuprofen tablets and tubs of Vaseline. In our safe, we have maybe 50 or so Vicadin and codeine tablets from past doctors visits. We also keep extras of any antibiotics we get.

I clearly need to add some sort of sling/temporary cast supplies. I also want to pick up a field dental emergency kit. They have temporary filling and blood-clotting supplies in them (here's a DIY kit). A busted tooth in the middle of an emergency would not be a good thing.

Prescription meds are my biggest concern. Without going into any detail, as a family, we have a fairly significant RX bill each month. The doctors simply will not let you stash away prescription meds in anticipation of a disaster.

Ozark Momma over at She Survives had a great post on herbal remedies. She had a link to what appears to be a very thorough site on herbal remedies. I signed up for their free newsletter, and got a free herbal primer in return. Not a bad deal! In the comments section to the post, she also turned me on to a book for the beginning herbalist that I picked up from Amazon for $11.

I figure if we don't have access to prescription drugs, we'll have to make do with natural remedies. I'd rather at least have a clue as to what I'm doing instead of throwing something together that might end up harming someone. I'll be trying some of the salves and tinctures NOW so I can go to the Doc should something go sideways on me!

I'm going to work on my doctor about getting some extra antibiotics for the kit. I can't believe there is a black market for them. I may have to pay full fare for them, but I can live with that.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Millin' Around 

The first time I tried organic wheat bread, I thought I was chewing on roofing material.
--Robin Williams

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was having problems milling my whole wheat. I had assumed that the grain mill I use to grind my malted grains for beer (primarily barley) would work for my winter wheat stores.

Bad assumption.

The grains were too small and too hard for the knurling on the mill wheels to grab and grind. I've been searching the internet for a mill that had to have a manual crank in case the lights go out, but if it had a motorized base, so much the better. The $400 uber-mills were not going to be considered.

The Family Grain Mill met the bill. It's made in Germany by Messerschmidt and is made from high carbon steel and Lexan polycarbonate. As a bonus, I was able to purchase an adapter so the mill can use our Kitchenaid mixer as the power source.

I use the Kitchenaid now as my meat grinder for my sausage. As a double bonus, the Family Grain Mill also sells a meat/food grinder attachment.

The manual hand base attachment was solid as hell. I sometimes make pasta, and the pasta roller attaches to the table much like the hand base. The difference is, the grain mill is MUCH more stable. Solid as a rock.

What is so very slick, is all of the parts are inter-changeable and can work on either the hand base or the Kitchenaid. The manual base and the mill came as a package, and were $119. That was well within my budget. The meat grinder was an additional $74 and the Kitchenaid attachment was another $37. All in, it was only slightly over my budget for a manual mill alone.

I tested it out, and produced my first whole wheat. At that moment, it dawned on my I had never cooked with whole wheat. I've eaten whole wheat bread and whole wheat muffins, but I've never cooked with it.


When I purchased my first bucket of wheat, I also purchased the book, "The Amazing Wheat Book" by LeArta Moulton. It's main premise is on how to make, season and prepare wheat gluten.

The idea of wheat gluten is very similar to TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) - a high protein meat replacement. TVP is made from soy flour. It is initially virtually tasteless, but when flavored, can be added to dishes as a filler, or even as the main course. Think veggie burgers or imitation bacon bits.

To make the wheat gluten, you mix 2 parts wheat flour with 1 part water and mix it together. You then let it sit and allow the gluten in the wheat to develop. You then rinse this ball of dough under warm water, and I'll be damned if it didn't turn into this mass of stringy, bouncy 'stuff'. 'Bubble gum-like' is how it was described in the book.

You then cook the gluten. I wrapped mine in cheese cloth into a fat sausage shape, and steamed it for a half hour.

You flavor it after it is cooked, as it is too elastic-like before then. The primary way to flavor it is by simmering it for 5 minutes or so in a salty or spicy broth.

I took half of the sausage log, and cut it into slices. I simmered them in one of the broth recipes included in the book, for 5 minutes.

The initial mouth-feel of this stuff was very pleasant. It had the chewy quality of a piece of meat. It was a bit under-seasoned. I think 10 minutes in the broth will be better. The biggest problem was after the 4th or 5th chew. It got a very distinctive wheat taste. I no longer believed I was eating meat. I now knew I was eating wheat flavored to taste like meat.

I think the reason was the wheat bran. The book mentioned that you didn't need to worry about washing out all of the bran during the dough-to-gluten step. I disagree.

I'm sure the gluten with a lot of bran is much more healthy for you, but you're not going to fool anyone into believing they are eating meat with all of that chaff in there. The gluten washing step is designed to capture all of the starch and bran that comes off of the dough ball, so it can always be recaptured there.

I ground up the second half of the sausage log using the sausage attachment on the manual set-up (gotta test everything!).

It worked as advertised. I'm going to make a couple of veggie-burgers with this ground gluten.

If I can get the bran content lower, I'll make up a bunch of this stuff and freeze it. You can also throw the ground stuff in the oven or dehydrator to dry it out. I'll try that and vacuum seal some for the emergency supply bags. You can never have enough protein sources in your stores...



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Electing The Chief Nanny 

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
--John Quincy Adams

With the choice of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate, there is a lot of talk on the Internet now about the presidential election. For some people, Obama choosing Biden makes electing Obama less offensive. For some, it makes him wholly unacceptable, and they will vote for McCain even though he does not reflect their views. It's a 'pick your own poison' proposition.

I wanted to find a source for information on all of the candidates. It looks like On The Issues meets the requirement. At first glance, it appears to be a fairly unbiased site that simply lays out a candidate's positions and lets you read quotes they've made that support that position.

The site gives you information on each candidate on: International Issues, Domestic Issues, Economic Issues and Social Issues. Each of these major categories has a number of sub-categories.

For instance, the Domestic Issues category breaks down further with Guns, Crime, Drugs, Civil Rights, Jobs and the Environment.

They have a sister site called SpeakOut where you take a 20-question quiz and it shows how closely you match with each of the candidates.

The only concern I have with this quiz is that some human being has had to make an assessment as to where a candidate's stance on an issue falls between Strongly Supports and Strongly Opposes. That is a subjective assessment.

Still, at least for my quiz results, it seems to fairly accurately match my beliefs with the candidates.

Personally, I'm still voting for Bob Barr. And Yes, I realize he has no chance of winning.

It is time to take a stand against our two-party system where the actual practices of the Dems and Repubs are virtually identical. Whether it is President Obama or President McCain, the path of our country will remain virtually unchanged, and we will continue straying further and further away from our Constitution.

One of them will screw us faster on one issue, and the other candidate will be faster on another. Neither party has any incentive to actually listen to the citizens of our country. They realize that they have an even-money chance of being elected.

My 'pick your own poison' vote would be for McCain. I realize that voting for Barr will, in essence, help Obama get elected.

I simply cannot, in good conscience, continue to actively support a system that I know will lead to the downfall of our country. Until a significant portion of our country votes for candidates that aren't a D or an R, nothing will change.

Choosing to take poison will still result in your death. It's just a matter of how long before it takes effect.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Let The Bailouts Begin! 

Welfare is hated by those who administer it, mistrusted by those who pay for it and held in contempt by those who receive it.
--Peter C. Goldmark, Jr.

I've been catching up on my financial services reading, and ran across this little nugget from the FDIC:
IndyMac Federal Bank, FSB (“Indymac Federal”) will implement a new program to systematically modify troubled mortgages. The program is designed to achieve affordable and sustainable mortgage payments for borrowers and increase the value of distressed mortgages by rehabilitating them into performing loans.
It looks like the FDIC may be using the recently failed IndyMac bank as a test case for a broader sub-prime bailout. This should be interesting.

Normally, when the FDIC closes a bank, they seize the assets (cash, loans, real estate, etc.) and become responsible to pay depositors up to the $100K limits. They will generally sell the deposit relationships to another bank (usually at a slight premium) and transfer cash over to them to make all of the depositor whole.

They then liquidate the assets to pay for the transferred deposits. If they come up short (asset sales receipts don't equal or exceed the deposit liabilities), they dip into the FDIC reserve fund.

With IndyMac, they actually started up another bank (they went from IndyMac Bank, to IndyMac Federal Bank). I'm guessing they have, at the bare minimum, significant input into how the bank is run, at least until it is stabilized.

They've set a target for how the trouble loans will be assisted:
Under the IndyMac Federal program, eligible mortgages would be modified into sustainable mortgages permanently capped at the current Freddie Mac survey rate for conforming mortgages (now about 6.5%). Modifications would be designed to achieve sustainable payments at a 38 percent debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
The 38% ratio is the number used in standard loan underwriting. So how are they going to reach this target?
To reach this metric for affordable payments, modifications could adopt a combination of interest rate reductions, extended amortization, and principal forbearance.
Ahhhhhh. Principal forbearance.

To you and me, that means a reduction in the loan amount. Someone needs to "eat" that loss - that reduction in the face-value of the loan - and that will be you and me.

I've noted here a number of times that I believe this is the only way to stop or slow this sub prime home value disaster. I don't think it's right to pay for private losses with public dollars, but I think it's the only real way to stop the bleeding.

In the past "trial balloons" that have been floated on the various bailout schemes, the principal forbearance idea has gotten the most abuse. They are the ultimate bailout. They basically work like this:

You have a loan for $200K on a house that was worth $220K when the loan was made. Since the meltdown, that home is now worth $150K - the loan amount is $50K more than the market says you can get for the home.

You re-write the loan at $150K. There is now $50K that the bank has to write-down as a loss. Nanny steps in and fills that void by providing the bank with something of value - cash, a tax credit, etc. - equal to the write-down.

In this case, since Nanny essentially owns this new IndyMac, they can just have the FDIC eat the loss. Their public relations team is selling the idea that it is less costly this way:
This in turn will maximize value for the FDIC, as well as improve returns to the creditors of the former IndyMac Bank and to investors in those mortgages. The new program will help IndyMac Federal improve its mortgage portfolio and servicing by modifying troubled mortgages, where appropriate, into performing mortgages.
Since when did it become the job of the FDIC to, "improve returns to the creditors of the former IndyMac Bank and to investors in those mortgages"? Public dollars into private pockets. I know that's nothing new, but it still disgusts me.

I don't think the other two proposed options - rate reduction and increased amortizations - will be used very much. Both simply reduce your payment, but do nothing to address the fact that you're paying on an asset that is worth less than you owe on it.

Unless the borrower, absolutely, positively MUST live in THAT house, the only way I see either of those two things working is if the new payment amount is less than what it would cost to live in the same home when paying rent.

Still, as soon as the market starts to recover, those people will simply bail out of the property and buy something else. Nanny will have helped to maintain their credit scores by keeping a foreclosure off of their record. They'll use that benefit to ultimately screw Nanny over.

The old TV commercial said, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later". Either of these "payment stretching" solutions will simply delay the inevitable foreclosure or abandonment of these properties.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Adios Las Vegas 

Almost back to the real world. I'm doing this post from McCarran International in Vegas. Somehow they're able to provide internet service for their customers for free, unlike the sink hole that was our domicile for the past 5 days.

We had a very good time, all things being considered.

I have some great stories, the best revolving around the burgled $600. It miraculously showed up in our room. I also believe we'll be getting our room fee refunded, at least a big chunk of it. Their 'crack security team' is red-faced, to say the least.

More to come tomorrow, after I get more than 3 hours of sleep in a stretch. I'm too old for this shit!

Hey, I read another bank went belly-up on Friday. I missed all the fun while on vacation...



Friday, August 22, 2008

Puttin' On A Happy Face 

If at first you don't succeed, punt.

I mentioned that this trip to Vegas is a celebration of my oldest son's 21st birthday. It has been a real bitch to keep a 'happy face' on our trip so far. We're keeping him drunk most of the time, so I don't think he's noticing so much!

The room, well, hasn't lived up to expectations. We rented a penthouse suite (there are 7 of us). Sounds great, looked great on paper, and on the website for the place. In reality, it's a mid-grade joint.

When I've been to Vegas in the past, I usually stay in mid-grade places, as I figure we're here to gamble, consume adult beverages, and have fun. The room is just a place to sleep.

With this trip, we were hoping to 'kick it up a notch', and we've been disappointed. Toss in the early problems (which will get their own post when I get home), and it's been flat so far.

Last night was fun, though. My middle brother showed up, and we all took a cab downtown (as opposed to The Strip, where we're staying). It's a LOT less expensive, and much more relaxed - much more my speed. We took over a blackjack table, and laid some decent pain on the house. For you poker fans out there, we were at Binion's, where The World Series of Poker was born. Pretty cool.

Tonight, we're going to a 'dance review' [read between the lines, people!] and we'll probably head back downtown afterwards.

Things are looking up. If these bastards could just get the wireless going so we could get the promised Internet access from the suite (I'm in the lobby right now), I would feel a whole lot better.

I must be out of touch with the rest of America. I never realized how many May/December relationships there were out there. We have seen hundreds of 'couples' where the guy is 65+ and his wife[?] is 25. Must be true love... ;-)

We had breakfast in the Paris casino this morning afternoon. Most of the guests that were there, were French. Why would you come all the way to Las Vegas to visit home? Very strange.

I saw my first pair of $1,500 shoes. Not 1500 lire. Not 1500 yen. 1500 US American dollars. For a pair of shoes. WTF is wrong with people? If I ever spent that much money on a pair of shoes, I'd expect the sales person to wear them and carry me around on their back.

Vegas always gets a lot of people from all over the world. On past trips, it has had a high percentage of Asians. This trip is predominantly European. Lots of Germans, French and Portuguese. The Euro speaks....

More news from the desert tomorrow!



Thursday, August 21, 2008

Greetings From Vegas 

I was hoping to give you great information about all of the money we've won so far in Vegas. Instead, just a quick note about our room being burglarized. On our first night here.

Great start, huh?

Gotta go fill out a report and do another with the police. $600, cash, gone. They didn't touch either of the two laptops or other crap we have. Just the green.

We were gone from the suite for 7 hours last night, and discovered the burglary this morning when I went to go get some cash for breakfast. They have a card swipe system, and this being Las Vegas, they have cameras everywhere, so security should be able to nail someone. I hope.

More on the saga later...



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PC Police: Busted! 

The two pillars of 'political correctness' are: a) willful ignorance b) a steadfast refusal to face the truth.
--George MacDonald

I love it when political correctness blows up in the face of the Correctness Police.
We're the ones keeping emissions from the air!" shouted Leah Shahum, executive director of the 10,000-strong San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, at a July 21 protest.

Mr. Anderson disagrees. Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It's an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this month.
This is so very similar to what happened with corn and ethanol. On the surface, it sounds like a great idea: Reduce evil oil consumption by converting an inexpensive grain into a fuel to power our vehicles.

Instead, it has taken land out of production that was previously available for food. People are literally going hungry in other countries because of this. Prices have skyrocketed. It takes more energy to produce than it supplies. The equation is upside down.

But it's PC, so it still gets support.

This bike thing is the same. While on the surface, it seems logical that encouraging more bikes would reduce pollution, but the exact opposite seems to be happening. By taking streets and parking spaces out of circulation, the cars - whose numbers are increasing, not decreasing - get stuck in more traffic and have to circle the block more times before finding a space, resulting in MORE pollution being created.

So Mr. Anderson continues to fight the good fight. When necessary, he turns the decent phrase as well:
He continues to blog from his apartment in an old Victorian home. "Regardless of the obvious dangers, some people will ride bikes in San Francisco for the same reason Islamic fanatics will engage in suicide bombings -- because they are politically motivated to do so," he wrote in a May 21 post.

I've got to give a Hat Tip to my little town. They have a law that says when a new subdivision goes in, all of the new streets have to include bike lanes. Whenever new streets anywhere in the city go in, bike lanes have to go in as well.

I could easily ride my bike for 50 or 60 miles in my little town and never ride on the same lanes twice.

They aren't taking space away from cars, they're adding space for bikes. You can do that in the suburbs with land to expand into. Big cities such as San Francisco usually have defined boundaries. They're stuck with what they've got.

Deal with it.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.
--Lance Armstrong

The movie, I.O.U.S.A. comes out on Thursday. It's about how America has dug itself a hole of debt so deep, we may not be able to get ourselves out of it, unless we start cutbacks right now. We Americans have become so addicted to Nanny giving us stuff, the politicians are afraid to stop giving it to us.

As a former Bush Administration official notes in the clip, "The Vice President told me we didn't have to worry about deficits. I got fired for having a differing opinion."

Hopefully, this movie will be the bitter wake-up pill we need to get ourselves out of the downward financial spiral.
Throughout history, the American government has found it nearly impossible to spend only what has been raised through taxes. Wielding candid interviews with both average American taxpayers and government officials, Sundance veteran Patrick Creadon (Wordplay) helps demystify the nation's financial practices and policies. The film follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker as he crisscrosses the country explaining America's unsustainable fiscal policies to its citizens.

With surgical precision, Creadon interweaves archival footage and economic data to paint a vivid and alarming profile of America's current economic situation. The ultimate power of I.O.U.S.A. is that the film moves beyond doomsday rhetoric to proffer potential financial scenarios and propose solutions about how we can recreate a fiscally sound nation for future generations.
Click the links to see when it will be in your area. Get educated. Educate someone else.

Our current economic path is unsustainable. Wake up, folks. We can't tax our way out of this. We must cut spending, and that's going to be painful for every one of us. Start getting used to the idea.

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Viva Las Vegas, Baby! 

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.
--Helen Keller

I am now officially, incontestably old. My oldest son turned 21 today.

I don't think this has as much to do with my actual chronological age as it does with the fact that I can now legally sit in a bar and knock back a couple with my kid. Old guys can do that.

A couple of years ago, when we were talking about his 21st, he said that he wanted to spend his birthday with his uncles and dad in Las Vegas. Being the loving, caring 'giver' that I am, we found a way for my baby boy to have his wish.

Plus, It's Vegas, Baby!

We got a big-assed suite on The Strip - it sleeps 10 but there will only be 7 of us, so we'll have plenty of room to fall down blind drunk without hitting anything spread out and enjoy ourselves.

We actually fly out tomorrow. We found awesome tickets from some puddle-jumping outfit that flies out of the Stockton Airport (OK, I didn't even know Stockton had an airport). Our flight is early tomorrow morning, so we're going up to my brother's home near Sacramento, and his paramour will take us all to the airport in the morning.

We'll do cake and stuff tonight, then take my son to our favorite Sacramento dive bar. We'll take it easy on the boy, as we'll be in Vegas until Sunday. A young liver can only take so much abuse!

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the paramour of one of my brothers is a dancer at the Luxor. She was able to get us a bunch of tickets for VIP seating to one of her shows. I'm not a big song and dance kind of guy, but when you throw in nekkid women and alcohol, well, it's tough to say No.

I'll force myself to do it for my son. I'm just that kind of dad. I'm a giver.

The suite has wi-fi, so I'll be bringing my laptop so I can provide in-depth analysis of world events, banking scandals and Nanny State developments. I'll also report on the best buffets and cheapest shots as well. Hey, I told ya I was a giver!



Monday, August 18, 2008

All Risk, No Reward 

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
--Henry Ford

I was reading this article titled, Breaking Up Big Banks Questioned As Losses Mount. This is something that's been twisting around in my head for a while. In the article, the author seems to be advocating breaking up the banks because their business model is failing.
America's biggest banks have suffered unprecedented losses from the ongoing credit crisis, and that's made some investors question whether the big financial conglomerates should be broken up in order to survive.

Break-up advocates, who for months have been clamoring for Citigroup Inc. to be dismantled, got some validation of their viewpoint this past week. Europe's UBS AG - created through the combination of Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland in 1997 - on Wednesday laid the groundwork to tear up its business model after another quarter of steep losses.
I think he's missing the point.

I believe their business model was - and still is - sound. The idea is to diversify your business to the extent that a down-turn in one sector - say, lending - is offset by gains in another, such as bond trading.
"The whole idea was, 'let's be so unbelievably diversified that we won't be affected,' but when the credit markets seize up, no matter what kind of financial company you are, everything seizes up," said William Smith, president of New York-based Smith Asset Management.

These banks aren't taking it in the shorts because they were diversified financial companies. They're taking all of these losses because they made crappy loans. They disregarded the fundamentals of credit underwriting in exchange for quick profits. The Risk/Reward calculus got thrown out the window.

They became the 'sheeple' of finance. Everyone else was producing these loans, and making buckets of money doing so. They figured that if they didn't jump on the Sub-prime Express, they'd get left behind.

Instead, they're getting run over by it.

My perspective is more from a free markets view.

I think that you should be free to grow your business to any size you wish. The bigger, the better if that's what you want. But, you are solely responsible for your decisions. If you screw up and make a boat-load of bad business decisions - or even just one really, really bad one - you need to go under.

This looming hammer of failure is what keeps businesses honest. Get too greedy, get sloppy in your execution, forget about the basics, and you get crushed. This simple business concept has helped keep American businesses on their toes, literally for centuries.

But look at this corner we've painted ourselves into: We have these massive banks that each control large portions of the market. If one of them were to fail, the ensuing panic that would spread across the entire financial industry would cause it to collapse.

Look what happened with the failure of IndyMac. That was a moderately-sized bank of $32 billion in assets. People were freaking out, standing in lines for days to get their money.

What would be the reaction were Citigroup, a two trillion dollar company -over 60 times larger than IndyMac - to fail?

It would be a disaster. There would be runs on virtually every bank in America. If Citigroup failed, my little corner bank doesn't have a chance! Because of this - because the failure of a single large bank would have a ripple effect across all American banking, Nanny simply cannot allow one of them to fail.

And the big banks know this. They know that they have an unspoken safety net not available to the little guys. As a result, they take risks they would not normally take.

Don't believe it? While not banks in the strictest sense of the word, look at Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. They expressly state that they are not guaranteed by Nanny, yet they are in the midst of a massive bailout. Paid for by you and me.

Businesses have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to increase profits. They choose management to get the job done by any legal means possible.

At the same time, Nanny has the responsibility to regulate and restrict monopolies. Now, these big banks are hardly monopolies, but they're sure as hell oligopolies.

My free market side say, "Get out of the way, let them grow any way they want". But that comes with the free market proviso that if you screw up, you fail. Assets seized, depositors paid off, shareholders stuck with the bag. Exactly how it should be.

Banks - at least for big banks - no longer have to live by that rule. They and their shareholders get the benefits of the free market, but none of the risk. As we've seen, that's a recipe for disaster.

Because of that, Nanny must step in and limit the size banks are allowed to grow in terms of market share. I don't know what that size is, but it needs to be below the size threshold where Nanny would feel compelled to bail them out when they screw up.

Until this happens, taxpayers will forever be at risk of having to bailout the shareholders - the same ones benefiting from pressuring management to increase profits - without receiving any of the benefits during the good times.

That's not capitalism. Hell, that's not even socialism. It's just plain stupid.

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Prepping..... For Oktoberfest! 

Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold beer — and another one!

With my annual Oktoberfest party a scant 2 months away, I needed to get on the stick and get my beer reserves loaded up. I actually used some of my disaster gear to brew the beer.

A couple of months ago, I made a dual-filtered homemade Big Berkey water filter. It's a great gravity-fed system. For a little over $120 (filters, buckets, lids and spigot), I've got a filter system that will remove the bacteria, heavy metals plus many pesticides and VOCs from 6,000 gallons of water. I bought two spare filters, so I can clean upto 12,000 gallons.

Anyways, the regular brewing carbon filter I use on my outside hose water was on the fritz, so I used the homemade Berkey. Although I had used it when I first built it, I had forgotten how well it worked. It cleaned water at the rate of about 3 gallons an hour.

Here's my baby:

Here's a peek at the inside:

So, I brewed up 20 gallons of beer over the weekend. All of them lagers. I made 5 gallons each of a German Pilsner, an Amber Lager, a Munich Helles, and a Bock.

If you drink beer - and BudMillerCoors are not beer, they're auto parts cleaners - you really need to brew your own. Aside from the absolutely superior flavor, the price is right. These 20 gallons will give me the equivalent of 9 cases of beer (5 gallons gives you two cases and a 6-pack). I went a bit over the top and picked up some specialty grains and yeasts, and spent $120 on the ingredients. That still only comes out to $0.56 per 12 oz serving.

I'll be making 20 more gallons of two types of ales in a couple of weeks. They both use much more 'pedestrian' grains and yeast, and the price per bottle will be in the $0.35 range.

Now of course, that doesn't include the value of your time. I spent a good 14 hours over this past weekend making these brews.

Here are my 4 babies, tucked away in my fermentation fridge. It's an old fridge where I added a plywood box so I can fit 4 buckets at a time in there. I have a temperature controller, so I can set the fridge to keep the temperature between any range I need - lower for lagers, higher for ales.

It will take two or three weeks for these to fully ferment. They'll then be transferred to 5-gallon stainless steel soda kegs, and placed in my Freezerator to finish lagering at 40F for the following 6 weeks.

Beer here!

Hi. My name is Mike. I'm a beer snob.

There. I feel better. I've been brewing my own beer since 1980. A long damned time. There are only a couple of times when I still drink a BudMillerCoors. Actually, I NEVER drink Miller: It tastes like sweet shit, and Miller Brewing supports illegal aliens.

Anyways, I sometimes actually crave a Bud Light [gasp] as a lawnmower beer. What's a lawnmower beer? It's the first beer you have after mowing the lawn or doing yard work on a hot, sweltering day. It's that beer where you pop the top and consume all 12 frosty ounces in 4 seconds. You suck it out of the can more than you drink it.

There is nothing like a light American lager to fit that bill.

Of course, after your thirst has been quenched, you find your favorite chair or hammock and have a real beer, and relax...



Sunday, August 17, 2008

Playin' Ball 

We operate under a jury system in this country, and as much as we complain about it, we have to admit that we know of no better system, except possibly flipping a coin.
--Dave Barry

My last two posts have been about government officials using the Color of Authority - the implicit trust conferred on government officials - in illegal or unethical ways. This story falls in that bucket as well.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I have twice been picked to sit on juries, and both times happened to be for methamphetamine manufacturing.

This second trial had a bad smell to it right from the very beginning.

We were told up front about the main meth cooker. He was a father of two kids, had a wife and they lived in a decent enough apartment complex. They showed us pictures of the meth being made on the dining room table. Right next to the kids toys.

But he wasn't our defendant. Some other guy was. I guess he was supposed to be the sous chef for the main cooker!

His story was that he was a musician and was there to buy some meth after a jam session, not to make it.

The DA seemed overly aggressive. It seemed like she was just trying to hang another scalp on the wall. She kept saying there was nothing to substantiate this guy's story. She specifically said there was no indication that this guy was even a musician. It was weird.

They had a partial hand print from the guy on a can of Coleman white gas (yeah, that's part of what is used to make meth).

The defense attorney kept trying to bring up evidence showing this guy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also tried to imply that he hadn't cooperated in some way with the DA. The DA kept objecting, and the judge kept sustaining it. Little stuff would leak out, and the judge would admonish us to "disregard that information". Sure.

The attorney did make a great point (at least in my mind) that the hand print was only a single hand (the guy had said that he thinks he may have picked a can up to move it away from food that was on the table).

His point was, if the guy was actually using the can to make meth, there would have been a second set of finger prints from the other hand on the bottom or lower front of the can where you would have grabbed to steady the can while pouring. k

The DA said something like, "He may have been wearing a glove on that hand". Weak.

Both sides finished their stories, and we went back for deliberation. We did a non-binding straw poll and it was about evenly split between guilty and not.

The bailiff brought in a bunch of the trial evidence. Some of it had not been presented to us directly. For instance, there was group of pictures that the DA got admitted as evidence, but we hadn't actually see each of the pictures. We broke the stuff up, and I got a pile of photos.

The second one down from the top was a picture of the living room of the apartment right after the raid. Off to the side, but plain as day, was a bass guitar. It looked exactly as the musician guy had described in his testimony (it had a unique color and body shape). He had also testified that it had mysteriously disappeared after the raid.

Strange, huh, how his only link to an alibi mysteriously disappeared....

[My first thought was, "Dude, you have the worst public defender ever put on this earth. How did he miss this?"]


We kicked it around for a couple of hours. Not a single one of us thought he was part of the manufacturing gig. Based upon the information we were supposed to not hear, we figured he was asked to testify against the real cooker, he declined, so they were going to punish him for not 'playing ball'.

We were eventually stuck at 10 for acquittal, 2 guilty. The two guilty votes both said they didn't think he was there cooking, but he needed to be punished for wanting to buy the drugs.

There was LOTS of yelling about how that isn't what he was charged with, but it didn't matter to them.

Jesus, that scared me. The thought of citizens wanting to punish someone for something that they weren't even charged with. He wasn't even successful in buying the meth, he just wanted to buy it. They said that meth was so bad, anyone even associated with it needed to go to jail.

We ended up as a hung jury.

For both of my stints as a juror, I was taught how to make meth. They wanted us to know the steps involved as background information.

Holy crap. How anyone can put that in their body is beyond me.

You take a bunch of pseudo-ephedrine (e.g. Pseudofed, now regulated at pharmacies), crush up the tabs, throw in lye and Coleman white gas, and mix it all up. You let this slurry settle out and suck out the meth. Hoping that you don't blow your ass up in the mean time.

Nasty shit.



Saturday, August 16, 2008

More "Colorful" Tales 

There are some good people. But a good chunk of them will lie for no reason at all - it'll be ten o'clock and they'll tell you it's nine. You're looking at the clock and you can't even fathom why they're lying. They just lie because that's what they do.
--John Cusack

Yesterday's post got me thinking about the whole Color of Authority thing. Two other related incidents fit that theme.

I've been on jury duty twice in my life. This is unusual, because when you fill out the jury questionnaires, they ask you if you have any family members in law enforcement. I always list my dad and brother. If they're particularly sensitive cases (capital murder, rape, etc.), they even ask if you have any cop friends. I answer to the affirmative, as I've been in 3 cop weddings!

So most of the time, I get released fairly quickly - by the defense, I'm guessing.

But, somehow, twice I've actually made it into the jury. Both times had to do with methamphetamine.

The first was in the early 1990's. By the end of this trial, I would have witnessed both the utter mind-boggling stupidity of the typical criminal, and simultaneously had my bubble burst about the unquestioned honor of police officers.

My dad, my younger brother and one of my college buddies/roommates were my only real living examples. They were all honest and honorable to a fault. I naively assumed all cops were this way.

I'll never forget the defendant's name. William Hitchcock. Do you think his nickname might have been 'Wild Bill'?

Anyways, William was a meth cook. He owned an auto shop in our county seat, and was using the shop as his meth kitchen. Somehow he got on the radar of the local PD as well as a special county-wide drug interdiction task force. He had the big guns coming after him.

It was hilarious watching this weasel trying to get out of this. The DA asked him why his full hand prints were all over 3 jars of meth-in-the-making inside his shop refrigerator.

Wild Bill: Well, I went to the shop, opened the fridge and saw these 3 strange jars in there. I grabbed each one by the side, held them up to the light to try and figure out what they were.

DA: What did you think they were?

WB: I wasn't quite sure, but I figured they were something illegal - probably drugs.

DA: So what did you do?

WB: Well, since I don't do drugs, and they weren't mine, I put them right back where I found them!

DA: So what you're saying is you found what you believed to be illegal drugs in your refrigerator in your building, and you just put them back?

[We, the members of the jury, all simultaneously chuckled]

WB: Uhm, yep.

They had a boat-load of other physical evidence against the guy - photos, residue in his home, an inventory of meth ingredients, etc. The prosecution had him dead-to-rights as a cooker.

But they weren't only after him for being a meth cook. Wild Bill was an ex-felon. When they searched his home, they found two guns. A rifle in a back bedroom, and a hand gun under his bed. Two big no-no's for ex-felons.

The DA was trying to get 3 strikes on this guy all in one fell swoop - one drug and two weapons charges. With the other one he already had, this guy would never come out of prison.

So the DA is asking Wild Bill about the guns. He just blurts out that the rifle in the back bedroom wasn't his, but he knew it was there. In the eyes of the law, they're the same thing. He might as well have had the WalMart receipt in his wallet.

But, he was quite vehement about the gun under his bed. No. Damned. Way. He said he didn't own a handgun, never has.

So the DA brings up one of the guys from the special county squad. Very impressive. Testifying in his black tac suit and all.

She asks the cop where he found the gun. He says it was under the bed in the room that contained all of Wild Bill's clothes and mail.

Check. It was in his room.

The defense attorney gets up and asks for some more details. He flips on an overhead projector that has a photograph of Wild Bill's room.

Attorney: Officer, is this the room where you found the gun?

Cop: Yes.

Attorney: [next picture] Is this the bed under which you found the gun?

Cop: Yes.

Attorney: How can you be sure?

Cop: I recognize the unique head board for the bed, and the unique bed spread. I also recognize Officer Jones in the picture. He was a part of the Joint Task Force Team.

Attorney: OK. Officer, can you describe where you found the gun under the bed? Was it right by the edge? Was it in the middle? Near the head or near the foot? Do you recall?

Cop: Yes, I remember quite clearly. It was on the floor on the side of the bed I presumed to be the sleeping side, as it had a night light and reading material on the night stand. It was near the head of the bed.

Attorney: How far under the bed? Right near the edge? A little ways under? In the center?

Cop: [Holding his arm out to his side] Well, I was on my stomach, and reached under the bed about an arm's length.

Attorney: Thank you. [goes back to picture of bed] I want to be sure that this is a picture of the bed you testified that you found a handgun under in Mr. Hitchcock's room.

Cop: [looking a bit less confident now] Yes, that's the bed.

Attorney: [changing to another picture of the bed, this one with the bed spread pulled up]. Officer, as you can see, this bed which you have now twice identified as the one under which you reached 2 to 3 feet to retrieve the gun, is a platform bed. At most, there are 3 or 4 inches of available space under the edge of the bed. Please explain to us how you were able reach under this bed 2 or 3 feet.

Cop: [deer in the headlights frozen] Uhm, I've given my testimony.

Attorney: [letting that sink in for a bit] Yes you have officer. No more further questions.

The DA just put her head down, and fumed.

I was gut-punched.

Since he 'found the gun', he provided the only testimony. This guy didn't stretch the truth. He didn't fib a bit. He gave testimony that would have added an extra 'strike' to this guy's record, and it was a bold-faced, unadulterated lie.

This all occurred on the last day of the trial. By the end of the testimony, I was fuming mad. How the fuck could a sworn officer of the law flat-out make shit like that up?!

Seriously, it was like a kid finding out Santa Claus wasn't real. Here I am, a 30-something man who has just found out that even cops can be bad. It was beyond comprehension based upon my life experience to that point.

I must say, though, it was a fortuitous thing to see. We all read or hear about abuses of authority. But until you see it with your own two eyes - right hand raised, left one on the bible - swearing that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God, and then the mother fucker looks you in the eye and lies, you don't want to believe that kind of abuse can exist.

But it does exist. And that experience has caused me to question everything that comes from any level of government. I now know this piece of shit cop was not unique.

From a highway cop fudging a speeding ticket because the driver got mouthy, to the Secretary of Defense telling the nation the WMD's are "here, here and here" - when they only believed they existed. Many people in all levels of government, when given power, seem to abuse that power in some twisted 'the ends justifies the means' calculus.

I, for one, will never blindly trust again.

We found Wild Bill guilty of the cooker charge and the weapon's charge he admitted to, and not guilty of the handgun charge. We sent a note to the judge asking if we could recommend a punishment for the cop that lied. The judge basically told us to shut the hell up, stay focused and give him a verdict.

Tomorrow, another meth jury story about punishing those that won't 'play ball'.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Color of Authority 

Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.
--James Madison

There are a number of things that get me bent out of shape. San Francisco politicians. Race baiters. Sacramento politicians. Fascists. Washington politicians. Socialists. Gun grabbers. Ignorant people. There is a laundry list of items I haven't included.

But there is nothing that brings my blood to a boil more quickly and with more ferocity than abuse of the Color of Authority. In short, this means a government official using the power of their position to abuse a citizen.

The sub-set of this that hits me the hardest is when the government official has a gun. Unlike a bureaucrat that may be screwing with you over a building permit or some other service, with the police or federal officers, if they push it, you can end up dead.

I think this stuff hits home the hardest because my family has a long history of police work. My dad was a cop and one of my brothers is a current police captain. I've got a lot of police friends. I trust and respect every one of them.

But it seems like there are two flavors of cop: The ones that genuinely want to help and protect society, and those that are power freaks. Power freaks that now have a gun and a badge.

It seems as though Denver has at least a handful of the latter type of cop.
On the video, which was shot outside Coors Field on the home opener of the Colorado Rockies game on April 4, undercover Denver Police detectives hit, kick and choke John Heaney.

After three detectives had Heaney facedown on the ground with his hands behind his back, the video shows undercover Det. Michael Cordova pull Heaney's hair, lift up his head and slam it into the ground, breaking two of his teeth on the cement.
Now, apparently the guy being arrested was no angel, and perhaps deserved to be arrested.

Heaney was charged with second-degree assault on a police officer and criminal mischief after one of the officer's sunglasses were broken during the arrest. The officers claim Heaney rode his bicycle through a red light at 20th and Blake Streets and then punched Cordova in the nose.

Heaney, who didn't know the men were undercover police officers, says he only flipped Cordova's Rockies hat off of his head.
None of us were there. We have no idea what the circumstances were that prompted the cops to arrest the guy. Personally, I give the police a lot of latitude to assess a situation and act accordingly. You arrest the guy, file your report, then let the court system figure everything out.

Not for these cops.
"The thing that kind of made everybody gasp was when the officer took the back of the guy's head and shoved it to the ground on his face," said TV Producer Greg Prinkey. "He was not resisting. It was totally uncalled for."

When Prinkey saw men beating Heaney, he ran in to stop the fight. The video shows that's when the officers yelled, "Hey, we're cops! Get the (expletive) out of here!"
Believe it or not, up to this point, I can kind of give the cops the benefit of the doubt. The suspect may have been biting or spitting or something that people could not see. It's a stretch, but I could still maybe cut the cops some slack.

Again, you write up your report, and let the courts sort it out. Instead, these power-drunk bastards just flat-out lied.
Both officers said Heaney was throwing "wild punches" at them, hit the officers in the face and chest and continued to attack them, even when they had him on the ground.

Under oath, Cordova and Costigan also denied knowing anything about Heaney's broken teeth.

Heaney's attorney Lonn Heymann asked Cordova in court, "Was there a point at which somebody slammed his face into the ground?"

Cordova answered, "Absolutely not."

"How did Mr. Heaney's front teeth get broken," asked Heymann.

Cordova replied, "I have not a clue."
As the TV producer notes, "Had I not been rolling the camera, and no one else was rolling the camera, it might have just been swept under the rug,".

I hope these bastards are tried, convicted and sent to prison for a very long time. Only the most naive would believe this is the first time these cops have acted this way. I hope their pensions are stripped and they lose their jobs. I hope Heaney sues them personally, takes their homes and everything they have built over their police careers.

I hope their scalps are hung over the hearth for all others to see that this type of behavior is not tolerated and will be severely punished.

I've got an arms-length brother-in-law (he's married to the sister of one of my brother's wife) who was very much like these pricks.

A couple of years ago, he was a cop for a local PD. He was working undercover. He went to another town, hired (or coerced) a hooker to give him a blow job. In the middle of the day. In the front seat of a car parked on a street in the middle of town.

A citizen called the local PD. When they showed up, he flashed his badge and said he was, "on the job". He figured "cop code" would save his ass. To their great credit, the officers arrested the bastard.

His department suspended, then fired him. He and his union fought it, but the city prevailed.

The sweet, sweet irony is that this guy is now a garbage man. He has gone from a job with incredible power, to one with none whatsoever. That's the definition of justice.

Family gatherings have never been the same. They are so much better now!

UPDATE: I went back and re-read the post, and the comment of cop-to-garbage man didn't come out like I intended. At least to my eye, it seemed to imply that the job of a garbage man is the bottom of the barrel. That was NOT what I was trying to get across.

My intent was to contrast the jobs. One is a very powerful job, the other is not. If anyone else read it as being disparaging to garbage men, sorry, that was not the intent. All of my disparaging comments are reserved for that prick of an ex-cop!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

This Can't Be Good 

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
--Albert Einstein

The chess game with Russia is getting more.... interesting.
Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday to base American missile interceptors in Poland, the prime minister said, going ahead with a plan that has angered Russia and threatened to escalate tensions with the region's communist-era master.
Escalate tensions? Ya think?

So, we're giving them Patriot Missiles and are signing a Mutual Defense agreement. If Russia - or anyone else for that matter - invades Poland, we have to put boots on the ground.

Now, I don't necessarily think that's a horrible idea, I just hope we're not biting off more than we can chew. Bush has got us spread pretty thinly, and we don't have the 'gravitas' we once commanded. As irishdutchuncle noted in a previous comment, "the big stick has lots of dry rot". That needs to be fixed, and quickly.

And it's not just Poland. We're pissing all over Russia's backyard.
While Washington says the defense system is meant to guard Europe against missile-armed states like Iran, the Kremlin feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force, and Kosachev told the Interfax news agency the deal will spark "a real rise in tensions in Russian-American relations."

The United States has also reached an agreement with the Czech Republic's government to place a radar component of the missile defense system in that country. That deal still needs approval from the Czech parliament.
Czech Mate? Sorry, I couldn't resist...



Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em 

Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.
--Arnold Schwarzenegger

I was sniffing around World Net Daily, and bumped into this story about menthol cigarettes. It caught my eye, because I happen to smoke menthols.

One thing the article made clear: I will not die from smoking. I am going to die because my blood pressure has got to be off the chart. When I read bullshit like this, I just want to scream.
Mentholated cigarettes started out in the 1920s with such names as Spud, Listerine, the Original Eucalyptus Smoke and Snowball. Today they're sold as Newport, Kool and Marlboro Menthol, the smokes of choice among the black community.

Critics charge they are products designed specifically to lure young blacks into a lifetime of tobacco use.
Oh Lord, it's gonna be one of those stories.

So I gird myself. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I can do this.

Perhaps not.
While a growing number of states and cities, including Chicago, have moved to ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants and entertainment sites, and Congress is weighing a ban on flavored cigarettes, the issue of what, if anything, should be done about menthols has proved complicated for political Washington —and for smokers.
Did I read that right? Our federal government is working on legislation to regulate the flavor of smokes? This can't be right.
A ban, though, looks like a political step too far for Congress. The House last month approved a measure that would authorize the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products and to ban flavored additives. Menthol flavoring, however, was exempted in the bill; defenders of that loophole argue it is a necessary concession to get the bill through the Senate.
Oh, it's a "political step too far". No, it's out of their fucking jurisdiction! A political step too far would be wearing a USC football lapel pin to a Notre Dame game.

OK, OK. I know both houses of Congress are nothing but a bunch of glad-handing, front page grinnin' whores. How is this a 'poor, abused blacks' issue?
Menthol critics point to studies that claim young blacks, who as a group are much more likely than whites to smoke menthols, have been targeted by marketing programs of cigarette manufacturers.
Ya mean like the way Crown Royal and goose liver pate are targeted to rich folks? Neither one of them do anyone much good, but you don't hear for calls to have them banned. Well, you do for the goose liver, but that was because it was to protect the goose, not the rich folks.

So how do blacks feel about this?
Billy Perry of Chicago said he's been smoking Newports for 30 years. "It has a better taste and less of the effects of harshness," Perry said. [Hey! That's the same reason this white guy smokes them, too! Small world, huh?]

But Perry said there is "not a shadow of a doubt that blacks are being targeted" by cigarette marketing campaigns.
... and ...
For her part, Twaynis Royal, a Newport smoker who is a student at Chicago's Robert Morris College, said cigarette firms have identified their market and are going after it. Royal, who is 25, said she started smoking Newports as a teenager, because that was what her parents smoked.

"Newport realizes their database is black people and they do the targeting," Royal said.
So. We have two blacks who recognize the cigarette companies are targeting them with menthols, yet they still buy them. Who has got the problem here? Do they want Nanny to do what LA did when they banned fast food restaurants in high-black areas? Apparently so.

But that wasn't what caused violent spasms in my brain and body. It was this:
Studies report that nearly three out of four black smokers prefer menthol brands, compared to three of 10 white smokers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Read it again, and let the numbers speak to you.

Roughly 3/4th of blacks smoke menthol. This is cause for Congress to actually discuss banning menthol smokes. Civil rights groups are preparing for protests. Health officials are soiling their shorts.


Where's the love, Congress? Where's the love?

When are blacks going to jump up in unison and say, "HEY! Enough is enough! We can run our own gotdam lives. Got it?!"

I keep waiting for it, but I fear the answer is 'never'. In my 49 years, I have witnessed the gradual, but steady, decline of blacks in our country. Instead of the handouts, quotas, affirmative action and diversity training helping, it has further ingrained helplessness into an entire segment of our society.

A radical black voice now and then screams out against this disintegration, but it's too little, too late. They see that blacks are being treated as nothing more than disabled children, unable to care for themselves. Instead of being cheered and encouraged, they're spit upon. Called "Uncle Tom's" or "House Niggers" or worse.

It's always someone else's fault. "Keepin' It Real" has somehow become the base of their culture.

Good luck with that. See how well it's worked so far?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What History Tells Us 

History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.
--David McCullough

Lots going on in the world, not much of it good.

The big deal right now is the mess in the old Soviet Union. Russia and Georgia to be precise. I must admit, I'm not to clear on what the hell is really going on there. Oil is involved in this somehow - a big fat pipeline runs through Georgia.

Russia has been pulling some crap by providing citizens of South Something-or-other with Russian passports even though South Something-or-other is part of Georgia. Kind of.

What I do know is this is just the latest display of power from Russia. It ain't the first, and I don't think it will be the last. Old Mr. Putin has a hair up his ass and doesn't seem worried about throwing a couple of punches around.

I don't know if Georgia has any of the old Soviet nukes in their back pocket, but there is a lot of fierce nationalism in that neck of the woods. I don't think either side will back down from this thing unless there is a shit-load of face-saving available.

History tells us that whenever the Russians get a bug up their ass, people start dying. Usually in large numbers.

What really got me in a tizzy was this story.
Pakistan's Parliament convened this week to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf. The same day, radical Islamists staged a rally in support of the move and a purported al Qaeda tape also surfaced, praising the idea. That shows what's at stake here: Pakistan's very existence, and its future as a moderate, democratic state.
Great. More instability in the most unstable region of the world.

If a radical Muslim group - take your pick - gets control of the reins in Pakistan, this planet is in for a world of hurt.

The specter of a nuclear weapon being lobbed at us with some piece of shit Scud missile on a freighter off one of our coasts, and exploding over mid-America, becomes very real.

Boom-boom, out go the lights. And the fridge. And the laptop. Well, the whole grid. Read up on EMP if you don't know what I'm talking about.

I think the ruling Mullahs would only have difficulty in deciding whether to first nuke us, Israel or India. Who knows, they may go for the trifecta, and just do us all on the same day. Some glory to Allah bullshit.

History tells us that when religious zealots get power, they use it, and people start dying. Usually in large numbers.

I'm not an overtly religious guy. I'm a Christian, but I'm more of a one-on-one guy versus the whole Go To Church gig. But I'm telling you, the Christian 'extremists' have been beating the drum about December 2012 being the whole "end times" thing.

The Mayan calendar - and thus the world - ends at the same time. Good old Nostradamus picked some shit to happen around that time frame as well. We're supposed to get hit by a comet, and the earth's magnetic fields are supposed to reverse. Take a look here if you really want to feel cheery.

A little over 4 years. Hell, who knows? The way things are stacking up, they may have all been overly conservative in their estimates.

No, I haven't gone bunker hunting. My Spidey-sense is just going off big-time. And it's usually pretty accurate. My brain sees a bunch of puzzle pieces on the table, but I just can't put them together yet.

Just in case, I think I'll buy some preps that come with non-corrosive primers...

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Greasing The Skids 

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
--Winston Churchill

We'll some part of us is getting greased. Let's just call it 'skids'. We're about to get screwed, and not even get a kiss.

I saw this article yesterday titled, 'Most Companies In US Avoid Federal Income Tax'. It led off with this:
Unlike the rest of us, most U.S. corporations and foreign companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income tax, according to a new report from Congress.

The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, and about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.
Hey, do ya think those blood suckers in Congress are getting ready to jack up taxes on businesses? Here's your first clue:
"It's shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
No, Byron, what's shameful is the way you bastards in DC have no clue on what 'fiscal restraint' means. What's equally shameful is that you don't understand that no business in the history of the United States has EVER paid taxes. Their customers have.

Unlike the progressive personal income tax - which is shameful enough - a business simply raises its prices when Nanny increases taxes. It is just another expense, like salaries, raw materials or advertising. The company will make their profit numbers, and they'll do it on our backs. So instead of a business' taxes going up, our cost goes up.

The reason I smell an even stronger rat with this story is how transparently biased it is. They say that roughly two-thirds of all business don't pay taxes, and that they generated over $2.5 trillion in sales.

As the article points out, many types of corporations are 'pass-through entities', like sub-chapter S corporations and most LLC's. Every dime of income that goes into the business passes directly through to the personal tax return of the business owner. The corporation doesn't pay any taxes, the individual does.

What they also conveniently left out of the 'study' was how many of those companies made a profit. No profit, no tax liability. Don't you think that would be something you'd want to look into if you were examining business taxes? Hell, they examined over a hundred thousand business tax returns. Couldn't they have checked a box on their survey form that said Profit Yes/No?

But then that wouldn't fit in with the purpose of the study.

The bottom line is this: We're broke. We're in debt up to our asses. We've got wars to pay for and sub-prime banks and borrowers to bail out. Nanny has got to come up with a way to pay for the 63% of the federal budget that is entitlements. This idea of just running the money printing presses is causing problems.
"It's time for the big corporations to pay their fair share," Dorgan said.
No, Dog Dick, it's time for you to do your job and cut expenses. How about we start with all of the federal departments not specifically authorized in the Constitution, huh? Just a thought...

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Expansion Plans 

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.
--Ayn Rand

Like any growing enterprise, The Bank Of Nanny continues to find ways to expand its reach.

I've ranted about this before. Here I told you how Nanny has granted herself the ability to buy ownership in private banking concerns. You know, the same ones she is supposed to be regulating.

I wrote here about how Nanny forces banks to make loans - sorry, Community Reinvestments - that are a big part of why the sub prime mess is, well, such a mess.

I pointed out here how Nanny closed one formerly profitable line of lending, and immediately expanded another government program that just happened to fill that market need. Amazing, huh?

It seems like the good folks at The Bank of Nanny like that best technique the best: Make it illegal in the private market, then fill the void.
The spreading subprime-loan debacle has emboldened some state governments to move aggressively against "payday lenders," outfits that offer high-interest-rate loans to cash-strapped borrowers who pledge to repay them when their next check arrives.
The payday loan business has exploded in the past few years. They fill a very specialized market niche. If you can't get or don't want a checking account at a bank, they provide you with a way to cash your check.

Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this: The people that use these business do so because they have done something to get them banned from banks, or they don't want an account.

Both instances involve personal choice. (Yeah, if you are banned from a bank, you made the choice to defraud them in the past).

They charge a butt-load to cash a check. Check cashing is an extremely risky business. You'd be shocked at the numbers. As an example, for the eight years I was at my last bank, the ONLY fraud losses we incurred were for either bad checks or credit cards. It was about split down the middle.

Like I said, they charge a ton to cash a check. For instance, to cash a $100 check, they charge $15 for two weeks. Steady yourself, but that equates to 360% per year. Good Lord, that sounds like a lot of money.

But is it?

Let's look at their clientèle. The first part is people that can't get a checking account. You can get yourself blacklisted (for 4 years, I believe) if you get caught kiting or doing anything illegal with your account. Banks developed a nationwide system where you get into this system if you've screwed over any other bank. Once this was started, check fraud plummeted.

The other group is people that don't want a checking account. I was actually surprised at how many people are voluntarily 'unbanked'. There are literally millions of people in this country that are qualified for a regular checking account, but don't want one.

They want to stay 'off the radar'. The don't trust banks. Or they're not here legally.

Yep, illegal aliens make up the single biggest slice of the voluntarily unbanked.

We had a huge union client that had lots of illegals in their ranks. These guys would cash their checks and walk around with hundreds or thousands of dollars in their pockets. Lots of them got rolled for their wads.

The union wanted us to set up a program where we would issue reloadable debit cards - like those gift cards you can buy - that didn't have an individual checking account attached to it. We dragged our feet because it didn't pass the 'smell test'.

We eventually used the "Know Your Customer" laws as our way out of that program. If it had gone through, it would have meant issuing over 20,000 cards just for this one union in the Bay Area.

It's funny, but another union heard about this and wanted a similar card. While virtually all of their members were either Americans or legal aliens (they did .GOV work), they wanted the cards primarily so they could get their vacation pay bonus, and not have to let their spouse know they got the money!

Back to the check cashing joints. So ask yourself this question: How much would you charge a complete stranger - even one that has given you his or her drivers license and SSN - to cash their check? I don't know what my number would be, but I guarantee you it would be well north of fifteen bucks.

Clearly, there's a market for this service. You used to be able to cash your checks at the local watering hole, but you paid 'interest' by buying a couple of drinks. Same thing with local grocery stores, but with them, you can usually only get a certain amount over the price of the groceries you're buying. And don't bother bringing in a payroll check.

So these new laws are looking to set the interest rate at 36%. That sounds reasonable, right? Well, the most a check cashing place would be able to charge for that $100 check would be less than $1.50 every two weeks. To cash checks for complete strangers. Yeah, that will work.

If this goes through, Nanny will have effectively legislated the closure of this obviously needed source of cash.

How will this void be filled? What new option will be made available that does not currently exist? The pols will decry the plight of the illegal alien or the poor working-class guy that is being robbed by 'the system'. It doesn't matter that they're using these places by choice. It must be fixed, 'cause Nanny Knows Best.

Any bets there will be a new branch of The Bank Of Nanny opening up soon?

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