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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Forget the black helicopters

Beware the innocuous white van! And I mean vans equipped with a mobile version of the airport backscatter scanner. According to Forbes

Law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

But they will only be used for bombs right? Riiiiiigght…. Given the power, its nearly impossible for a government not to use it.

This looks like a joke, but its from an article in Forbes and I also found an older article from Defense Industry Daily

I need to go get my tin foil hat ready!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bernanke has the tools, except they don’t work right.

From this mornings speech

"The issue at this stage is not whether we have the tools to help support economic activity and guard against disinflation. We do," Bernanke said. "The issue is instead whether, at any given juncture, the benefits of each tool, in terms of additional stimulus, outweigh the associated costs or risks of using each tool."

So he has the tools except they cause other problems. That is a bit like saying “yeah I can fix your brain cancer with this here chainsaw. It will cut it right out.” I don’t think that makes it the right tool.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Recycle! because we’ll be watching…

High-tech carts will tell on Cleveland residents who don't recycle ... and they face $100 fine

The move is part of a high-tech collection system the city will roll out next year with new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes.

The chips will allow city workers to monitor how often residents roll carts to the curb for collection. If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn't been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables.

And then he will cite them for not recycling enough.

Remembering this refresher on what really happens to your curbside recycling the Cleveland plan (and others e.g. in Alexandria, VA and in the UK) strike me as technology for technology’s sake. Which means spending money and making the policy makers sound like they are making improvements while in fact just creating more busy work and bothering their constituents with more nonsense.

<HT: The Volokh Conspiracy>

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First it’s a receiver…

Why does the RIAA and the National Association of Broadcasters want to require an FM radio in your cell phone and other portable electronics? Its not because they could then argue a larger potential audience should require larger license fees for their content. Its for the children! So says NAB's Dennis Wharton

"We would argue that having radio capability on cell phones and other mobile devices would be a great thing, particularly from a public safety perspective. There are few if any technologies that match the reliability of broadcast radio in terms of getting lifeline information to the masses."

[full story at Ars Technica]

Its hot cuz it ain’t windy! And it ain’t windy cuz its hot!

As I mentioned last week, we had record energy consumption here in Texas. How do you think all that wonderful wind energy investment is working out for us? Not so well as that darned physics just keeps getting in the way.

When I got extra hot and needed extra juice to cool off, why did the wind not blow? Because it was hot. Hot everywhere.

only about 5 percent of the state's installed wind capacity was available when Texans needed it most. Texans may brag about the size of their wind sector, but for all of that hot air, the wind business could only provide about 0.8 percent of the state's electricity needs when demand was peaking.

Why does Texas get so little juice from the wind when it really needs it? Well, one of the reasons Texas gets so hot in the summer is that the wind isn't blowing. Pressure gradients—differences in air pressure between two locations in the atmosphere—are largely responsible for the speed of the wind near the Earth's surface. The greater the differences in pressure, the harder the wind blows. During times of extreme heat these pressure gradients often are minimal. The result: wind turbines that don't turn.

One of my friend’s electric company is one of these wind outfits. I think I’ll ask him to pay my bill next month.

full article at Slate

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome to the Republic of Bananas!

In the past we’ve seen that many congressmen don’t bother to read the bills. Now with all the bait and switch action they do to wholly substitute one bill’s text with another, it seems they aren't even taking the time to write the whole bill.

This is an excerpt from HR 1586.



  1. The description is “to modernize the air traffic control system”
  2. The official title of the act is the “______ Act of _____”
  3. And the first section allocates funds to the Department of Education for disbursement to state education agencies (not aviation related).

This makes absolutely no sense at all. At least in the past they were at least pretending to do their jobs but this is serious misconduct. Every single person who voted for this bill needs to be removed from office for incompetence.

I don’t care how *important* something is. You cannot record sloppy laws. Its hard enough to get the ones right that you actually pay attention to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Real debate hard to come by

I recently saw a debate between Radley Balko and Wendy Murphy on the Stossel show. Radley challenged her claim that only 2 percent of sex offenders are actually on sex offender registries and she had no real response to back it up nor did she really have a point that the statistic was supporting. She merely was trying to state a statistic purely for its own sake.

Today Radley eviscerates her on this as the latest in a long string of nothing arguments, but the real shocking thing is that she is apparently is a pundit for hire with no real agenda other than to appear on television.In a prior interview she said

You have to appreciate my role as a pundit is to draw inferences and make arguments on behalf of the side which I’m assigned

I know that the cable news forums are profitable entertainment enterprises but I’d at least expect the people arguing a point at least to believe the point and not just be assigned a role and accept it. If I wanted that I’d go find the local high school debate team.

A gun for higher who is neutral or ambivalent with respect to the topic at hand will be a less useful debater, which ultimately lessens the impact of the debate as a whole. It also makes it less entertaining which I would assume would make the networks sit up and pay attention.

Close, but no cigar

I want to know what these are made of so I can get some in letter shapes. Then I can live the dream.

Someone is selling little cover ups for the new airport “naked view” scanners at On the site they have images of a regular scanner image but (a) don’t have any with the pasties on so you can’t see how well they work and (b) there aren't any testimonials of how the TSA actually reacts to these. I’m guessing if you went through a scanner with a large area blocked by an amorphous blob you are gonna get patted down anyway. If that is the case, just ask for the pat down in the first place.

oh, and I *am* jealous that I didn’t get in on this myself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Scott!

from the Energy Blog

Texas electricity demand set another record on Tuesday, breaking the all-time record set last week.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the Texas grid, said Tuesday demand hit 63,830 megawatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

We could power nearly 53 flux capacitors for that!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blogger = Council = Big fine

In the category of Never let them get away with saying “yes, but the law will never be applied in that way.” 

From Thurber's Thoughts, a blogger critical of the local county board of elections who uses only his own funds to run his blog has caught up in campaign finance transparency laws. It is intended to provide information on backers of election campaigns, not to silence independent individual political speech.

In an apparent retaliatory action against an outspoken critic, the Geauga County Board of Elections charged independent blogger Ed Corsi with violating campaign finance laws. The elections board forwarded a complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), where Corsi faces fines of up to $1,000 a day.

From the filing it sounds as if they think he is an organizationimage

Law of Legislation #1: Given the power, someone will use it.

Law of Legislation #2: Regulation of this sort is impossible to get right

Yeah it should be illegal…but we need the dough!

More local governments bend over for cash as the economy slows.

Alcohol has rarely been in short supply at airports, but some cash-strapped local governments are taking steps to open the taps further.

Along with Prop 19 in California, prostitution taxes in Nevada, and legalizing online gambling by Congress, its just more evidence that the vast majority of government moral grandstanding is so much fluff to pander to the voters. When the rubber meets the road and they need money, they would rather find new taxation by legalizing previously unthinkable activities instead of taking a good hard look at existing spending outlays.

Legal or illegal has NOTHING to do with taxation (or shouldn’t). Its about what needs to be agreed upon in the social contract of the community in order to coexist peacefully with one another.

I guess you really should never let a good crisis go to waste.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get flashed, go to jail

What would you do if you were driving down the road and there were two girls standing on the side of the road flashing their breasts at every car that went by? Would you pop out your cel phone and snap a pic? “Hey guys, you are not gonna believe what just happened!”

The next thing you know, you might end up on the registered sex offender list and never be able to attend your own child’s school play again.

That’s exactly what is happening to a man who was subsequently charged with

felony possession of photos of sexual performance by a child and a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

because the local sheriff happened by as this guy was snapping his photo. The girls turned out to be 15 and were charged with indecent exposure.

But how many other illegal photos are out there from this incident? Is it creepy? Maybe, but only after you learn the girls legal age. Before that its just ridiculous and somewhat expected in the world of hand held cameras. And it certainly doesn’t justify the draconian penalty that is the list. There are too many innocent (or at least harmless) people who get caught up in sex offender list. In some states, public urination can land you a scarlet letter. Just try to explain to the nice mother next door that you really aren’t a creepy predator in danger of molesting and killing her five year old child when she see’s your name on the published list.

At least in this case the girls weren’t charged with something that would put them on the list.

In TX it wouldn’t even have to be an underage issue, if he emails it to his friends it may violate Sec. 21.15.  “Improper photography or visual recording” which states that a person commits a felony if they

(1)  photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another at a location that is not a bathroom or private dressing room:

(A)  without the other person's consent; and

(B)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;

which doesn’t require registration as far as I can tell but is still ridiculous as a crime for someone who puts it out there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Well played ma’am

In response to a well thought out and politely delivered question regarding the potential limits of the federal government’s power (especially in light of the health care bill passed earlier this year), the congressman’s answer is

The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country