Sunday, April 28, 2013

Republicans Long for Children's Workhouses

When Ray Canterbury, member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, read Oliver Twist he thought the hero of the book was Mr. Bumble. Ray was outraged at the end of A Christmas Carol when the morally upstanding Ebenezer Scrooge was perverted into a squishy liberal. Ray thinks children should only be fed if they pay for their nourishment with hard labor.
19th century workhouse dining room.
It's not a new concept. Workhouses, or poorhouses, were government institutions for the poor where they were made to work long hours for starvation provisions. At the time is was thought better to be sent to prison than the workhouse. The notion was the same as Ray's, the poor should be made to work as slaves for any help they receive.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Church that Advertises

Shadow Mountain is one of those kind of churches. You know the type. They are big, they have a shopping mall, an ATM machine to encourage spending, and their services are a mix of a soft rock concert and a revival meeting. They don't believe in any actual doctrine except the one expressed in the movie Wall Street, "Greed is good."
Shadow Mountain is exactly the kind of church that Jesus would go bat-shit on if walked into it (Matt. 21:12).

Since the Boston bombing Shadow Mountain has been saturation advertising on local television in San Diego. What are they selling? Fear. The gist of the ads are that the world is a terrifying place filled with scary people and you should be scared all of the time. So come into our church, listen to the performance, buy a couple of over priced tee shirts, a "Jesus Loves You" key ring, and, of course, several of the pastors books and DVDs and we'll tell you to not be scared.

It's clearly exploitative, although I guess I should be happy they are not showing pictures of mangled corpses. They saw an opportunity to market their church and like any soulless big business they leapt on the chance to sell their brand. And they always need more suckers (or customers, I don't know what they call their victims) to keep pastor David Jeremiah in the luxury to which he has become accustom.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Presidential Library Blight

I like libraries. As a rule I find them wonderful, enlightening places. That said, there are way too many libraries dedicated to dead presidents. There are 21 presidential libraries, including Bush Jr.'s opening in May, and one under construction. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has one.

Ford Overkill
Gerald Ford was president for just three years and his single accomplishment was pardoning the criminal Richard Nixon. Yet, somehow, Ford is the only president who rates two libraries.

Founding Father Dearth
Of the first fifteen presidents only one has a library. Not Jefferson nor Madison nor any other accomplished leader. The one library belongs to John Quincy Adams. Not his father, who deserves a library, but the one-term son who finished second in the election and stole the office from Andrew Jackson. There is a library planned for George Washington (finally) that is supposed to open in September.

They Have Become Shrines
Several of the early libraries - Quincy's, Woodrow Wilson's, FDR's, were put in old homes. Now they have become massive temples. Every president since Herbert Hoover, except JFK, is entombed at his library. The Reagan library is the biggest, built on 29 acres the buildings alone are twice the size of the Taj Mahal.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Most Pathetic Baseball Teams Ever

Unfortunately, I happen to be a fan of one of them.

San Diego Padres
My team, God help me. Second worse all time won-loss record (Tampa Bay is slightly worse). While they have won a couple of pennants those were more by accident than design. Nine former Padres are in the Hall of Fame but only one, Tony Gwynn, got there for his work as a Padre. The others are from the team's habit of trading away every young player who show budding talent before they start costing money and hiring washed up veterans just before they retire to sell tickets. This year's version may be the most pathetic since the 1970's. It has no pitching, little hitting, and a management mostly interested in shaving pennies.

Washington Nationals
Formerly the Montreal Expos. As a franchise they have been in existence for 44 years and have never won a pennant and only made the playoffs twice. They did finish in first place the year the World Series was wiped out by a strike, which more pathetic than not winning at all. For decades they played in an unfinished stadium (Olympic Stadium) that was also falling apart. This year's version is a quality outfit favored by most to win the pennant.

Philadelphia Phillies
One of the oldest franchises in sports. They date back to 1883 and have been called the Phillies since 1890. No team in sports has lost more games, over ten thousand, than the Phillies. They have had their good years, seven pennants and two World Series in 130 years. But those results would be considered a disappointing decade for the New York Yankees. Their bad years far outweigh the good ones, they finished in first place only once in their first 66 years of existence. They have lost over 1,000 more games than they have won. They have been pretty good recently but history is still a harsh judge.

Cleveland Spiders - Worst Season Ever
You gotta figure on being cursed when your nickname is a creepy arachnid. In 1899, the Spiders ran up a record of 20 wins and 134 loses. Their best pitcher, Jim Hughey, lost 30 games. The owners declared before the season began that they viewed the Spiders as a sideshow and shipped all the quality players to their other team, the St. Louis Browns. Total attendance for the entire season was just 6,088. Attendance was so low teams started refusing to travel to Cleveland; the Spiders ended up playing only 42 home games, winning nine. Their road record was 11-101.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories

A writer for has compiled all the false flag, tin foil hat theories that the government was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. They are so easily debunked it is funny.

1. The Government Knew Gunpowder Was Used
Less than four hours after the bombs exploded the government knew gunpowder was used. One of the easiest things for bomb techs to discover is the type of explosive used. Tests for explosive residue can be completed in a matter of minutes. Within half-hour of the explosions everybody in law enforcement knew gunpowder was used.

2. Radiation Detectors Were Present
It's SOP for first responders to explosions to check for radiation. Besides, if the government was responsible their mysterious men in black caps would already know there was no radiation.

3. Men With Skull Logo Caps Were There
I can buy those caps on-line for $23. Marathon organizers had both private and public security. Security personnel wearing caps you can buy on-line is proof of nothing.

4. Security Had Backpacks
Just like the bombers. Wow! So did mothers with small children, were they part of the conspiracy?

5. Chris Kyle Is Dead
I have practice drawing lines between deaths in a conspiracy. You need more than one unconnected death of a guy hanging out at a gun range with a crazy person to make a web of intrigue. Besides, your patsies both had to die and Dzhokhar lives.

6. There Were Bomb Sniffing Dogs There
Just like at the Super Bowl and every other major sporting event where no bombs exploded. The conspiracy would be if there were NO dogs.

7. The Two Cars Conspiracy
I'd like this one if having two cars made any sense to a conspiracy. Much more likely is that the second photo is a picture of the wrong car.

8. FBI Interviewed Tamerlan
I'd like this one too except the FBI interviews scores of thousands of who end up not being suspicious. It may just mean the FSB is better at recognizing disgruntled Chechens than the FBI.

9. Mom Says They Are Innocent
What mother of spree killers doesn't say that about their children? Proves nothing.

10. 'False Flag'
The ubiquitous proof that says if there might have been a conspiracy sometime in human history that proves this event is also a conspiracy.

I love a good conspiracy theory. This one is quite pathetic.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Manhunt

I'm glad I didn't speculate about the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing because Chechen separatists would not have made the list.

It's hard to come up with historic or literary parallels for the current manhunt for the second bomber. The Dillinger hunt was no where near this intense. The hunts for Jack the Ripper, Zodiac, or the kidnapped Lindbergh baby did not require shutting down a major city.

Perhaps the closest I can come to the feel of events in Boston is the 1931 German movie "M." The teenaged psychopath, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is like the killer in that movie, a pathetic loser who deserves neither sympathy nor pity. He is being hunted like a feral beast because that is all he is.
Peter Lorre played a child killer in "M."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Corporations Are the Greatest Terrorists

As much as the Jihadists, Anarchists, and Christian Identitists may try, they are all pikers compared to the real producers of death, destruction, and terror - American businesses.

Think 9/11. I can trump that with Bhopal where Union Carbide killed many more people. Just this week the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon was topped by the West Fertilizer Company blowing up in Texas.

Massey Energy killed 29 of 31 miners at its Upper Big Branch Mine in one afternoon in 2010. In 2011, Jensen Farms killed 30 people with contaminated melons. A cruise ship owned by the American company Carnival Cruises killed 32 tourists when her captain ran her aground in Italian waters.

Each of these corporate terror attacks are officially excused as accidents. They are really the reckless disregard of health and safety in the pursuit of profit. Punishment for these crimes is seldom swift and often non-existent.

Union Carbide
Union Carbide had over $7 billion in revenue in 2009. It is a wholly owned, and very profitable, subsidiary of Dow Chemical. While seven men were found guilty of minor crimes in India for the Bhopal killings, none has seen the inside of a jail for even one hour let alone their two year sentences. The big local fish, Keshub Mahindra, has seen his net worth grow exponentially since Bhopal. He is now worth over half a billion dollars.

In 1984, the Union Carbide CEO was arrested in India, not for his crimes but to protect him from lynching by outraged Bhopal survivors. He was only indicted for manslaughter after he had returned the the United States and the US government has diligently protected him from extradition for 22 years.

Massey Energy
Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship, has used extensive campaign contributions to legally buy politicians and judges wherever Massey has coal mines. Massey had revenues of $2.69 billion in 2009. A handful of middle managers were made to take the fall for their bosses.

Jensen Farms
The farm has gone in the bankruptcy and the owners have paid small fines. Federal criminal charges have been fruitlessly "pending" for two years.

Carnival Cruises
Carnival had net revenue over $15 billion in 2012. Until very recently they were refusing to pay the cost of rescuing their stranded ship. They only changed their minds when Sen. Jay Rockefeller threatened congressional hearings. Carnival CEO, Mickey Arison, has a net worth of $5.9 billion. Regardless the number of deaths and other crimes committed by Carnival Cruise representatives no criminal charges have even been filed against their executives.

I could go on and cover lesser felonies like grand theft, extortion, and fraud but then I would be writing forever.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Poisonous Foods

Chocolate and Ricin
Ricin, the poison allegedly sent to senators and the White House, is an easy deadly poison to make. The same seed that makes ricin is used to make chocolate.
The castor oil plant is commonly available and favored by landscapers because it grows quickly and has pretty flowers. In warmer climates like the southern US it will grow wild in vacant lots. The plant is also legally grown commercially.

Oil from the castor bean has many uses including herbal medicine. It is a valuable lubricant found in products like Castrol R motor oil. Castor oil is used in foods as an emulsifier.
The ingredient PGPR in your Hersey chocolate bar is made from castor beans. The recipe to make ricin from castor beans is easily found on the internet.

Poisoned Apples
Apple seeds, apricot kernels, cherry pits, and almond nuts all contain deadly amounts of cyanide. A half cup of apple seeds, ground up and consumed all at once is enough to kill someone. About 15 raw bitter almonds are a lethal dose.

The stalks are fine. The green leaves are deadly. The poison is oxalic acid, also found in spinach. Food shortages during World War I caused people to eat rhubarb leaves; several people died.

Potatoes and Tomatoes
Both are members of the Deadly Nightshade (belladonna) family. In the case of tomatoes the fruit is fine but the stems and leaves contain tomatine. Potatoes are more deadly. Here the poison is solanine found in leaves and sprouting tubers.

All these plants are completely legal to grow. The deadly parts of the plants are legal to own and transport across state lines (except for raw bitter almonds which must be heat treated). Hemp, quite non-lethal, is, however, extremely illegal.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Scott Brown, Senate Shopper

In the post-Civil War south there was a class of politician, Republicans as it happens, who moved from northern states into the formerly rebellious states to take political offices. They were called Carpetbaggers after their practice of packing all their belongings in satchels made of old carpets. They were generally loathed as corrupt opportunists.

Scott Brown is a modern Carpetbagger. Having lost election in his home state of Massachusetts and having worn out his welcome in the Bay State with his generally sleazy politics, Brown is now shopping around for another state where he can return to all the perks and privileges of the Senate.

Oozing fake sincerity, Brown is claiming that all those years he was living and working in Massachusetts he was really, in the private reaches of his heart, a New Hampshirite. He may have gone to Boston College but he all the time he secretly rooted for Dartmouth.

Brown may well return to the Senate. All it takes is for the voters there to lose all their self respect.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beanball Vengeance

Beanballs and revenge are common stories in baseball. In 1915 Boston Red Sox pitcher Carl Mays threw several pitches at Ty Cobb's head. To retaliate, Cobb bunted so the first baseman had to field it and the pitcher had to cover first. Cobb deliberately ran over Mays, raking his leg with Cobb's sharpened spikes leaving a huge gash. Cobb stood over the bleeding pitcher and told him, "The next time you cover the base I'll take the skin off your other leg." Pitchers seldom threw at Cobb after that. The beanball brawl that left Dodger pitcher Zack Greinke with a broken collar bone reminded me of that story.

Greinke and Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin hate each other. Greinke averages six HBP a season but has hit Quentin with pitches three times in fewer than thirty at-bats. After hitting him, Greinke took a couple of steps off the mound and taunted Quentin instead of apologizing. Quentin, on the other hand, gets hit a lot so he ought to be used to it. He had been hit on the wrist two games earlier and had missed the next game because of that injury.

Zach Greinke is very stupid. Greinke is a skinny beanpole while Quentin is a linebacker of a man who outweighs Greinke by fifty pounds. Greinke is a star pitcher on a team aspiring to play in the World Series. Quentin is a second-rate slugger on a third-rate team that would consider it a fantastically successful season to not finish in last place.

Quentin is being suspended for eight games although the Padres will probably not miss his .182 batting average. Greinke will miss eight weeks, some ten starts.

My opinions here are colored by the fact I'm from San Diego and the LA Dodgers are our hated enemy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Is the 'Chained CPI'?

At its core, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is an easy calculation - take the price of something then and compare it to the price of something now. The difference is the inflation (or deflation) of the price, the percent change is the CPI.

At the government level the CPI is a perfect example of How to Lie With Statistics. The CPI can be manipulated in an infinite number of ways.

An easy way is to calculate back to front instead of front to back, like the cartoon above. If things cost $10,000 in 2010 and $11,000 in 2012 you have an annual inflation of 5% (1000 divided by 10000). However, if you calculate it in reverse (1000 divided by 11000) you get an inflation rate of only 4.5%.

The Chained CPI uses this trick then averages the two results. But since time only moves forward, never backwards, this trick is only a trick designed to artificially reduce the CPI percent by 0.25% per year.

Another way is to manipulate the "market basket" used to calculate the CPI. The CPI assumes that people buy so many apples, so many cars, so many houses, and so many aspirin in a year. The Chained CPI assumes that when the price of something goes up people buy less of it. To a certain extent this is true; bargain hunters are real. But the Chained CPI relies on rigid formula
Like this one invented by a Finnish banker in 1936
to make grand assumptions about how real live people will react, ignoring how being on fixed incomes limits choices. The Chained CPI is much like Marie Antoinette who when told that the people were too poor to buy bread replied, "let them eat cake." It seriously under-considers inflation in education and healthcare on the assumption that people would choice ignorance and death over tuition and medicine.

The Chained CPI is being favored not because it is any more accurate than any of the many other available formula. It is being favored by politicians because of all the formula it routinely produces the tiniest calculation for inflation. This will allow for real cuts in Social Security payments without actually voting to cut Social Security.

P.S. I have such a headache from reading up on this shit.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stabbings Prove Gun Control Matters

Yesterday a Texas wacko stabbed 14 people on a college campus. Because he used a knife none of the 14 were killed and several had wounds so insignificant they didn't need any medical aid.

Had that Texas wacko had any automatic weapon, and AR-15 or even a Glock pistol, at least 10 of those 14 people would be dead today. The fact that even in gun crazed Texas this wacko couldn't get his hands on a firearm saved a lot of lives yesterday.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Extreme State of the States

Saddest State in the Union - West Virginia
According to TripAdvisor, Hillbilly Hotdogs is the finest eatery in Lesage, WV
Gallup did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that the saddest of them all is West Virginia. Born during the Civil War out of those counties in the rebelling state of Virginia that were so poor they didn't own any slaves and so didn't see any sense in waging war against the United States. Since then, the state has been rewarded with poorly regulated coal mines, poor education, and even poorer health care. Second place is neighboring Kentucky with whom they shared the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

Happiest State - Hawaii
Duh! Sure the state is expensive and there are too many tourists but who wouldn't be happy living in Paradise.

Dumbest State - South Carolina
The 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant gave us this classic quote from the contestant from South Carolina.
The Palmetto State is at the bottom in every category of a survey published in the Education Policy Journal. One in six never graduate high school and less than half have ever set foot in college. The others in the bottom five (Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) are all part of the Republican Party base.

Smartest State - Minnesota
Surviving the stupid that is Michelle Bachmann, Minnesotans believe in educating their children. Nearly all (92%) graduate high school and over 80% attend college. There must be a connection between snow and smarts because the other states near the top share a tendency towards bitter winters.

Poorest State - Mississippi
Mississippi state rankings
Poor, dumb state. There is a serious correlation between being a Republican state and being poor and uneducated. Probably deliberate. Unhappy West Virginia is in second place.

Richest State - Maryland
This probably has a lot to do with all those over paid federal bureaucrats living in Washington D. C. suburbs.

Weirdest State - New Jersey
This is purely subjective and there are a lot of weird states to choose from. But, think about it - Chris Christie, the Jersey Devil, and Snookie. The Gates of Hell are supposed to be located near Passaic. California has a lot of weird going for it but nobody beats New Jersey.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Fashion for the NRA Nation

The world as envisioned by the NRA is a boon for the makers of Kevlar. Republicans in Arizona are being urged to stay dressed in bulletproof vests at all times, but that is just the tip of the fashion iceberg.

Bulletproof Polo Shirts
For a mere $3,475 you can order nice, light, casual attire from a Colombian designer (few people know more about being shot at on street corners better than Colombians) that allegedly can stop a bullet from a .357 Magnum. It doesn't look like it could stop a determined mosquito but they claim it's certified by the US Department of Justice and that Steven Seagal is a customer. The owner of the company likes to make his employees don the shirts so he can take pot shots at them.

Armored Jackets
For the budget conscious paranoid the Israelis make denim and leather jackets that will stop bullets for under $1,300. Apparently they are very popular with your more aggressively pro-Second Amendment biker gangs.

Total Security
You don't just listen the the NRA, you watch FOX News and know that there are more bad guys in American cities than just your Constitutionally endowed neighbor. You need more, like a bulletproof hoodie complete with built in gas mask. It is necessary fashion for teenagers walking Florida suburbs after dark. Although at just $200 I doubt it is actually, you know, bulletproof.

For the Women
While bulletproof fashion for men is a thriving market, there is a decided lack of variety for women. Sure, you can find pink Kevlar vests and the Germans are very proud of their bullet-resistant bras because boobs are the most important body part women have.

The Kiddie Market
With the Newtown shooting and the NRA's campaign to turn schools into armories the market for bulletproof children's apparel is exploding. Bulletproof backpacks (over $300) are especially popular. Although strapping a Kevlar vest onto young Timmie pretty much guarantees bullies will beat the crap out of him on the playground.

It's a brave new world we are entering. Actually, it is an extremely cowardly and paranoid new world where the only thing we fear more than getting shot on the street is not being able to shoot down others on the street.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Simple Math

Sequester = Austerity = fewer jobs

Which also equals

Weak Economy

It's a simple math that anyone other than a politician or a pundit understands.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Carnival Cruise: Titanic Waiting to Happen

The news that the Carnival Cruise ship Carnival Triumph achieved sentience, broke free of her moorings, and tried to escape is only slightly surprising. The ship has realized that it is only a matter of time before the company's greedy executives and incompetent captains kill again.
When Carnival's Costa Concordia sank in 2012 it killed 32 people.
The ship was just trying to save human lives. It is a pity she was recaptured and will be forced back into service.

It is a wonder, however, that anyone who is not suicidal would book a trip aboard a Carnival ship since the cruise line and the word "death" are synonymous.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is College Basketball Corrupt?

It is estimated that over $3 billion was bet on college basketball in March alone. With that much money at stake there is a lot of incentive to find weak, exploitable souls to fix games. It's happened before.

One of those weak souls may be PAC-12 head of officials Ed Rush. During the PAC-12 tournament last month, Rush addressed a meeting of officials and instructed them to ring up or run Arizona head coach Sean Miller. Sure enough, the very next day in the semi-final game between Arizona and big money darling UCLA referees rang up Coach Miller on the ticky-tackyest technical foul in the history of basketball. The technical fouls were the margin of victory for UCLA.

I have absolutely no evidence that Ed Rush bet on the game or was in the pocket of Vegas bookies. No evidence has come up to show that any money changed hands. It could be that the PAC-12 is right, that Rush's instructions were just a sick joke. It's also possible that Rush is not corrupt but, as PAC-12 referees confidentially say, he was just being an obscene bully.

Still, the affair stinks.
  • The PAC-12 tournament was held in Las Vegas, making it extra convenient for bookies wishing to fix games.
  • The head of officials clearly expressed his desired outcome the day before the game was played and repeated it the following morning.
  • The head of officials desired outcome occurred as instructed.
  • The PAC-12 investigation was neither public nor comprehensive. It could just as easily be a cover-up as an actual investigation.
From the point of view that I don't wager on sports and am barely interested in college hoops, I am unconcerned whether or not the sport is a cesspool of corruption. But there are people, especially in law enforcement, who are interested and they probably ought to take a really close look at Ed Rush and the whole sewer that is gambling in major college sports.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Five Kinds of Fools

Fools, like everything else, can be categorized.

Professional Fools
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. ~ Shakespeare
These are the only honorable and respectable fools. They are the clowns, jesters, harlequins, and comedians. They are the only class of fools who would not be insulted upon being called a "stupid fool." They know they are fools and are wiser for that knowledge.

Pulpit Fools
Who's more foolish the fool or the fool who follows him. ~ Obi Wan Kenobi
Religious and political leaders are the same - they are either charlatans or true believers. There are priests who took their vows solely to gain access to altar boys and televangelists who convince widows to tithe their pensions so the preacher can buy himself a gold toilet. There are also a few people who enter religion or politics because they truly believe in doing good. The sad truth is most all of the true believers are soon corrupted by the money and power and become charlatans.

Garden Variety Fools
Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town? ~ Mark Twain
These are the fools carefully cultivated by the pulpit fools. They are tended and grown. Religious types are even open enough to use sheep metaphors to describe their "flocks" of fools and the fools are not even self-aware enough to realize how insulting that is.

Superstitious Fools
A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education. ~ George Bernard Shaw
More people believe in angels than believe in evolution. Many people wanted to ban Harry Potter because they believed that witches were real and the books would seduce young people into witchcraft. We've had presidents who believed in astrology (Reagan), talked to ghosts (Lincoln), and saw UFOs (Carter).

Gambling Fools
A fool and his money are soon parted. ~ English proverb
Many a business model is based entirely on the correctness of this proverb. Casinos, Goldman Sachs, Bernie Madoff all take money on the promise of doubling it or just keeping it for themselves. Nike became a billion dollar company on the notion that people will spend hundreds of dollars on $20 sneakers. It is true that the entire notion of Western capitalism would collapse without this class of fool.