3/31/2011

Fleeing The Blue States...In Droves

With Detroit being such a deep blue economic and political basket case, is it any wonder black families are leaving it and a number of other cities in blue states in droves in search of work and a better life?

Not to me.

Just like their white brethren before them, they realize they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by remaining in cities and states that are hostile to business, either from liberal Democrat policies or job-killing union demands. They know they've been sold a bill of goods and want nothing more to do with the glad-handing politicians and those supporting them, so they're voting with their feet.

More power to them.

Let's hope they've learned the most important lesson from this debacle: Government (and the unions) aren't the answer. They're the problem.

3/30/2011

Yoga For Yankees

In case those of you out there think we Yankees aren't up to speed on all the new-fangled exercise fads, I'm here to tell you you're wrong. And to prove it, here's Fred Marple to give you a little preview of Yoga for Yankees.

3/27/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

BeezleBub spent all day yesterday with the drama folks of his high school. Between two one-act plays being performed at his high school, they also had to pack up one of the sets and take it all the way to Plymouth for one of the state drama festivals, perform, pack it all up again and return here, unpack it all, and perform back at the high school.

He and his friends got back home very late last night.

And so he experiences the fun of working in drama tech, which I know I certainly enjoyed during my high school years.

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The unions are suing Scott Walker in an effort to override the legislation that stripped public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights in regards to benefits and pensions.

Their suit claims the state senate didn't have the quorum required to pass such legislation, but the joke's on them.

The legislation that stripped the collective bargaining rights had been separated from the budget bill, meaning all that was required was at least 50% of the state senators be present to have a quorum. That meant the missing Democrats had no effect on this legislation. It was the budget bill that required two-thirds of the senators to be present to have a quorum.

Nice try.

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This doesn't bode well for the Pay State's employment prospects: Massachusetts job fair canceled due to lack of jobs.

I hate to say this, but even if the economy is recovering (at least the Obama Administration says it is), many companies are reluctant to hire, making do with the personnel they already have. At this point they'd rather pay overtime than bring on new hires because if the economy continues to limp along during this non-recovery recovery, they won't have to lay off them. Other companies would rather contract for temps, meaning they don't have to provide any benefits and can shed them if things don't turn around. If they do turn around they can offer the temps full-time jobs.

(H/T Instapundit)

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Could some of these people be the 'looters' Ayn Rand warned us about?

Absolutely.

Power Line has more on this, including this statement: There may not always be an England.

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I have to admit dismay when it comes to this new: New Hampshire is towards the bottom of the list when it comes to having fully-funded state pensions.

I had hoped the Granite State would have been more fiscally prudent, but it turns out they were as foolhardy as so many of the other states. Some of that I can lay at the feet of the previous two legislatures and the governor. For the previous four years the Democrats controlled the New Hampshire House, Senate and governor's office. They went on a nightmarish spending spree. Not that all the blame can be laid there, but I think you'll find that the problem was probably more manageable prior to that.

When my wife started working at the state veterans home and we looked over the pension and benefits package, she saw that the pension system was promising 8% annual return on investments. I laughed out loud upon seeing that, knowing it wasn't possible they could guarantee such a claim. Any financial planner promising such returns would be jailed for making such ludicrous claims.

An interactive map covering all the states and their funding liabilities can be found here.

(H/T David Starr)

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Why is relying so heavily on income taxes form upper income earners is always a bad move by the states?

It comes down to two things:

1.) High income earners income tends to be far more volatile than everyone else's.

2.) It's easier for them to relocate to low tax states and take their income with them.

But that hasn't stopped some of the most financially strapped states from relying on them even more than they have. They've also been seeing those same high income earners leaving for greener (read that less expensive) pastures.

(H/T Tax Prof)

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I don't remember where I found the link for this, but the Boston Globe has a celebrity look-alike piece comparing well known celebrities and supposed look-alikes. Of the 50 or so in this piece, the one that stands out the most is Frank Roberts, who is a dead ringer for Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Neo-neocon comments upon and links to a number of posts dealing with individual's political change. For many of them the conservative point of view opened a whole new world for them, one based on rationality and logic rather than passion and unthinking emotion.

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How did the AGW supporting New South Wales Labour Party do in the recent elections Down Under? Let's just say it was a total 'shellacking'.

It appears the average Aussie voter has had enough of them and their draconian plans to destroy the Australian economy and they were having none of it.

There's hope for Australia yet.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the calendar says spring but the temperatures say winter, snow melt has slowed to a crawl, and where the urge to pull the winter tarp off of our boats is getting stronger.

3/26/2011

PDS Alive And Well

Ir appears that PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) knows no bounds. When such Leftist pundits like Bill Maher must resort to stating Sarah Palin is a “dumb t**t” in order to get a laugh, you know it's gone too far. On the other hand Palin takes it in stride, knowing the source of the remark, and knowing the feminist Left has no problem with her being disparaged. As she says, “I need NOW's defense like a fish needs a bicycle,” borrowing a line from ardent feminist Gloria Steinem to illustrate her disdain for the organization.

It never ceases to amaze me the level of vitriol leveled towards Palin, or at her family. It shows how far manners and adherence to the unwritten rules of politics have fallen among the Left. This may end up coming back to bite them in the ass, as it should.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both the Democrats and their bought-and-paid-for media went after Sarah's family, a long standing taboo. Candidates were always considered fair game. Their families were not. The Dems crossed that line and now they may never be able to step back across it. Even now they continue to hammer her and her family as if they are deathly afraid of her. Maybe it's because they are.

Apparently quite a few others feel the same way about how Sarah and her family are being treated. Others miss the point, like this person:

For example, when Bristol Palin said winning Dancing with the Stars, would be a middle finger to her and her mom's critics.

Try as I might, I can't see Chelsea Clinton saying that about her parents' critics (in public).

If people had been criticizing just Sarah, that's one thing. But they went after Bristol, her baby, and her baby brother. No one did that to Chelsea Clinton when Bill was in office. It's an apple and oranges comparison.

But for a lot of those slamming Palin, it comes down to this: The problem with our society in this media-soaked age is that we equate glibness with intelligence and cynicism with wisdom.* It certainly explains Bill Maher, Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, and the rest of the usual suspects.

*This is a composite of two different comments from Ann Althouse's post on the subject.

Will the intensity of PDS continue to increase as we approach the start of the 2012 presidential campaign season? Without a doubt. Will the invective aimed at Sarah Palin by the Left reach a level of hysteria not seen since Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds? Absolutely. Will any of it stop Sarah from moving forward, regardless of her plans or political ambitions. Absolutely not.

3/25/2011

Who Killed Detroit?

The question: Who killed Detroit?

The answer: Not necessarily who you think.

The Motor City once had over 1.8 million people living within its environs. Now the number making their homes in Detroit as a little over a third of that.

What happened to make large parts of Detroit look like a set from a movie about post-apocalyptic America? There are two groups with whom we must lay the blame for the city's misfortunes: the Democrat political machine and the UAW. There's plenty of blame to go around between these two groups.

The Democrats in power did everything they could to make it less attractive for businesses and residents to stay. The UAW did everything it could to make sure jobs with the Big Three automakers went away. Both groups succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, which is why Detroit is an ongoing economic disaster.

...a lot of the blame goes to a generation of bad management. But the main reason for Detroit's decline is the greed of the industry's main union, the UAW, which priced the Big Three out of the market.

As recently as 2008, GM, Ford and Chrysler paid their employees on average more than $73 an hour in total compensation. The 12 foreign transplants, operating in nonunion states mostly in the South and Midwest, averaged about $42 an hour.

Guess which manufacturers are healthiest and expanding their market today? In 2008, the Big Three still made 59% of all cars in the U.S. But, according to recent estimates, their market share is now 46% — with foreign companies selling the bulk of all U.S. cars. So Detroit's loss has been the South's and Midwest's gain.

Reading the comments from the editorial linked above is telling as well, with more than a few giving prime examples of the differences between Detroit and some of the surrounding communities. The contrast is striking.

Business and neighborhoods are thriving in the outlying towns and cities, with foreign automakers locating technical centers in a number of them. At least they think there's a future near Detroit, even if they're avoiding Detroit itself.

The communities themselves also have the good fortune not to be under the sway of the destructive Democrat political machine that has so damaged Detroit. As one commenter writes:

Come to Metro-Detroit and see the suburbs with Republicans in charge such as Novi - then see the suburbs with leftists in charge - such as Pontiac. You can literally tell the basket cases from the still-vibrant burbs by their leadership.

Of course I have no doubt the Democrats have plans for the still-prosperous communities, making sure they are brought into the leftist fold and turned into dying towns, all in the name of some pie-in-the-sky leftist utopia that will never come to be. They'll play the envy card and the greed card and the racial card in an attempt to bleed those communities dry as well.

Let us hope for the communities sake that they fail.

(H/T Instapundit)

3/24/2011

New Hampshire Legislature "Pulls A Wisconsin"

After passage of an amendment to a pending budget bill that strips public sector unions in New Hampshire of so-called “evergreen” rights, meaning state and local municipal workers would become employees-at-will should their labor contracts expire without renewal. This means they could be fired or have their pay or benefits reduced should their labor contracts expire before new contracts are ratified.

I first heard of this move when I received a phone call last night just past 7PM - a robo-call from the SEA (State Employees Association), the state worker's union. (My wife works for the state and is, therefore, a union member.)

If I recall the monologue correctly, the voice on the other end (I believe it was the union president) stated the legislature had “pulled a Wisconsin”, referring to Wisconsin's removal of collective bargaining rights for pensions and benefits from most of the state and local workers unions. The caller went on to exhort the SEA members to protest the move, something perfectly within their rights to do.

On the other hand, I have the right to not give them any more of my hard earned dollars than I absolutely have to, particularly if those dollars are funding both benefits and pension packages that are far above my own. I haven't received the kind of pay raises or increase in benefits the state workers have, nor do I expect to. I am and have been an employee-at-will for a long time and frankly I prefer it over the 20 soul-deadening years I spent in a union shop.

Welcome to the real world.

"It's The End Of The World As We Know It!"

Are you ready for the end of the world as we know it?

Apparently these guys are. And so can you for the low low cost of only $25,000 per person!

But wait, if you buy now we'll throw in this set of genuine Ginzu knives!

3/22/2011

Will This New Engine Change The Automobile?

We hear of innovative inventions all the time. Some are slightly different versions of existing technologies. Others are radically different and new. The one I'm covering here is somewhere between the two.

A new type of engine, called a Wave Disk Generator, has no pistons, crankshafts, or valves. It is reminiscent of the old Chrysler turbine engine, manufactured in 1963 and installed in 55 cars for testing purposes.

While the details of the Wave Disk Generator are different from the Chrysler turbine, there are similarities. One of the biggest is that both are capable of using just about any fuel, be it gasoline, kerosene, diesel, Jet-A, alcohol, or vegetable oil.

The new engine will be connected to an electrical generator, which in turn could be used to charge batteries or drive electric traction motors in a vehicle. According to the developers the new engine will be able to use up to 60% of the energy from its fuel,compared to about 15% in a standard internal combustion engine used today.

Might this engine be the basis for advanced hybrids some time in the near future? Maybe.

3/21/2011

Like A Phoenix From The Ashes

From the rubble rises a new beginning.

The new Freedom Tower rises next to the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, at 58 stories and climbing. At 680 feet it's just a little over one-third its planned height of 1776 feet.

An average of one floor is being added every week and construction continues around the clock. While it will still be a few years before the building is complete, it already provides a view of the 9/11 Memorial, which is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011, exactly 10 years after The Terrible Day.

3/20/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

We had two wonderfully warm days towards the end of the week. A lot of the snow surrounding The Manse is now greatly diminished, with the slope directly in front almost completely bare. Saturday's somewhat cooler temps slowed the continuing melt, but didn't stop it.

If it keeps up like this it's quite possible all the snow covering the open areas of our property will be gone by April.

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BeezleBub and I made some progress on his Jeep, getting it running again. It still needs some TLC in the form of a new distributor cap, rotor, plug wires, and a new circuit to the electric choke on the carburetor, something we'll be taking care of over the period of the next week.

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This weekend was the annual New Hampshire Maple Syrup Open House, where sugar houses all across the state welcomed visitors to see (and in some cases take part in) the process by which sap from sugar maples is boiled down to make maple syrup. (What? You thought maple syrup comes from the local supermarket? Get real.)

The WP Father-In-Law sugars every year, making enough to supply the whole family until the following year.

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One slightly unpleasant surprise this morning: Internet and phone service was out here at The Manse. After searching for a copy of our cable bill to get the customer service phone number (for some reason, my lovely wife really doesn't like keeping phone books around), I pulled out my cell phone and contacted the cable company. They informed me service in my neighborhood had been out since 5AM and that their tech was working on the problem.

After the call, I looked again at the cable bill and saw the total we've been paying for Internet and digital phone service. I did not like what I saw. (Deb is the business manager/finance director here at The Manse, so this is the first time I've seen the cable bill in a couple of years.)

This has prompted me to consider some options, including doing away with the landline altogether and using just our cell phones (not an option with which I am comfortable), or using Verizon's Home Connect, which converts our landline over to a wireless connection, but uses our existing telephones. It's cost is minimal compared to our digital phone service and allows us to keep our existing phone number.

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I think I'm going to keep a copy of this handy just to save time. It would certainly reduce the time wasted on faux discussions to a minimum and allow me to focus on actual discussions where one or both of the parties learn something new.

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The more I watch the President's actions (or lack of them) in regards to Libya, Japan, and a host of other national and international issues, I've come to realize that Hillary Clinton is more presidential than Obama. As Glenn Reynolds wrote more than once, “Hillary Clinton – the best wartime president in history.”

Her frustration with the President is starting to show, though they are subtle for the time being. I have a prediction I'm going to throw out there, one I hope those of you out there will remember:

Hillary Clinton will resign her position as Secretary of State before the end of the year and run against Obama for president...and beat him.

You heard it here first.

But Professor Jacobson has a different take, that being she'll be the fall guy if things in Libya go badly.

Not that it will hurt her chances if she decides to run against The One.

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Ron Enderland reminisces about Expo 67 in Montreal, all triggered by a visit to Epcot in Orlando.

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Adding yet another voice to the discussion about government mandated energy efficiencies for household appliances comes this comment from the original WSJ opinion piece.

The life expectancy of newer washers (made in the last 15 years or less) are 1/2 - 1/3 what the older models were. How environmentally friendly is it to be producing machines that have that short of a life span? Our family cannot afford to be buying "energy efficient" machines every 8-10 years. Please do think. I'm neither an economist nor do I keep close tabs on earth-friendliness, but even I can figure out that the resources used in making these machines at 2-3 times the demand there used to be MIGHT be costing us more than the bits of energy saved in their use. Not to mention the cost in landfill space.

Indeed. Though I think the part about “the last 15 years” is going back too far. I'd say more like the past 8 to 10 years. An 8-10 year lifespan may be overly generous as well, particularly if you are dealing with a family of four and the amount of laundry they generate every week.

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Tom Bowler has an interesting idea for a flat income tax, what he calls the 20-20 plan.

I propose a 20-20 tax plan -- 20% with a $20,000 exemption. The first $20,000 of taxable income would be exempted, with taxable income being total income minus any actual expenses incurred earning it. A 20% tax rate would apply to the what's left. So, taxable income of $20,000 or under would result in $0 income tax due. A taxable income of $25,000 would result in a net of $5,000 subject to the 20% rate and $1,000 due in income taxes, which equates to an actual tax burden of 4.00% of total taxable income.

--snip--

I used 20% and $20,000 because 20-20 is kind of a catchy name, but the numbers don't matter so much as the concept. We could cure a lot of ills with a simplified and sensible tax code.

A sensible tax code? Sign me up!

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With the warmer temperatures we've been seeing, our consumption of firewood has dropped considerably. We have a wood box next to the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove that holds enough fire wood to heat The Manse for one day during most winter days. Now that same amount heats for a little over two days. Other than a few more up-an-down temperature days over the next few weeks, I expect the need to keep the fires going will drop off quite a bit over that time, meaning we'll only need to run the wood stove from mid-evening and over night.

That suits me just fine.

As Deb also reminded me, in another month and a half we'll be able to put up the Official Weekend Pundit Clothesline and start using it to dry our laundry.

That also suits me just fine.

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Along with the warmer weather comes a change in BeezleBub's work routine.

Over the winter he spent most of his time at the farm splitting, stacking, or delivering firewood. This weekend that all changed, with him working in one of the greenhouses filling pots with soil, getting them ready for tomatoes and other vegetables. Unless there's a special need, he's done with fire wood until late next fall. It will all be farming from now till then.

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Apparently Rand Paul and I aren't the only ones that wish to be able to keep buying incandescent light bulbs. Jacob Sullum is of the same mind, not wanting to be forced to buy more costly, less reliable CFLs that, quite frankly, don't do all that good a job.

It isn't that we don't use them here at The Manse. We do. But we only have them in lights we use all the time. They don't work very well outside, particularly in the dead of winter, and they don't last long in applications where they're constantly being turned on and off. Then there's the mercury to deal with when disposing of them, or worse, breaking them.

I'd be happy to use LED bulbs, but they cost too much and we still don't have enough of a track record to see how long they'll last. I also have my suspicions that they won't be as hardy as incandescent bulbs in regards to voltage surges and spikes coming down the power lines. (Semiconductors, which is what LEDs are, are notoriously fussy when it comes to things like that.)

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where open water can no be seen here and there, lone bob-houses are left on the lake, and where we have snow forecast for Monday.

3/18/2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To - Part II

Since I regaled you with the tale of the sort of semi-spectacular failure of the WP Parent's HDTV earlier this week, a timely opinion piece by Sam Kazman has appeared, lamenting the poor quality of today's washing machines. And not so much the quality of the machines, per se, but their inability to actually clean clothes.

Call it another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences coming back to bite us all in the a**...er...wallet.

What's caused this decline in their ability to get clothes clean? Three words:

Energy efficiency mandates.

Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don't fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don't let you toss in a wayward sock after they've started.

In 2007, after the more stringent rules had kicked in, Consumer Reports noted that some top-loaders were leaving its test swatches "nearly as dirty as they were before washing." "For the first time in years," CR said, "we can't call any washer a Best Buy." Contrast that with the magazine's 1996 report that, "given warm enough water and a good detergent, any washing machine will get clothes clean." Those were the good old days.

In 2007, only one conventional top-loader was rated "very good." Front-loaders did better, as did a new type of high-efficiency top-loader that lacks a central agitator. But even though these newer types of washers cost about twice as much as conventional top-loaders, overall they didn't clean as well as the 1996 models.

So how much energy is being saved if we have to wash our clothes more than once to get them clean? How much is being saved if we have to wash smaller loads for the same reason? If I had to guess, I'd say not much, if at all. (We're fortunate here at The Manse as we have an 11-year old front-loader that does a great job cleaning clothes. We've thought about replacing it and our not-very-good clothes drier with new models that would allow us to stack them in the laundry nook, but now I'm not so sure.)

Remember, this is the same government that has mandated the elimination of incandescent light bulbs, use of low-water volume flush toilets, and a host of other energy 'saving' appliances. The problem is that most of these energy saving measures don't work very well and the savings are minuscule or non-existent, all while costing us more to buy.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the low-volume flush toilets. Sometimes it takes more than one flush for it to properly dispose of the effluvia deposited in them, and the low water volume sometimes prevents the aforementioned effluvia from making it all the way to the septic tank or sewer system, clogging the drain pipes. If the government really wants us to save water, then maybe they should spend time and money on more effective means like fixing the leaky public water systems that waste far more water than 'normal' toilets would during their entire lifetime.

(H/T Instapundit)

3/17/2011

How To Annoy Progressives

Over the years I have had interesting conversations, and not a few heated discussions with progressives of all stripes. Far too often their arguments devolve into what they feel about something rather than what they think about it. Other times it's one lame talking point after another, many which sound good on the face of it but aren't backed up by personal experience, or history. It's all theory and feel-good sound bites. Failures in practical applications of their beliefs are explained away with excuses like “It was implemented poorly” or “Everyone has to be brought into the fold otherwise it doesn't work” or “We won't make the same mistakes the others made.”

That last one is always my favorite, allowing me to use one of two rejoinders, those being: “Yeah, you'll make worse mistakes!” and “Do you know the definition of insanity? It's doing the same thing over and over, but expecting the results to be different this time.” That always brings them up short.

But I am not the best person to speak on such matters. That title belongs to those who lived under the oppressive regimes of “progressive” or “socialist” utopian countries. More often than not they're capable of skewering ever single talking point or nonsensical utterance brought forth by the 'enlightened' progressives because they suffered under the very system the progressives wish to force upon us.

One such is ex-Soviet immigrant Oleg Atbashian, who poses a number of questions progressives are loath to answer:

Dear Americans, these are some questions I have collected in 16 years of living in your country. Please see if you can answer them for me:

If all cultures are equal, why doesn’t UNESCO organize International Cannibalism Week festivals?

If all beliefs are equally valid, how come my belief in the absurdity of this maxim gets rejected by its proponents?

Once a politician labels the truth as hate speech, can anyone trust him to speak the truth afterward?

If a politician gets elected by the poor on a promise to eliminate poverty, wouldn’t fulfilling his promise destroy his voting base? Wouldn’t he rather benefit from the growing numbers of poor people? Isn’t this an obvious conflict of interests?

How did the “war on poverty” end? Has there been a peace treaty or a ceasefire? Who is the occupying force and who are the insurgents?

Why weren’t there demonstrations with anti-feudal slogans under feudal rule? And under Stalin, no anti-communist demonstrations? And under Hitler, no anti-fascist demonstrations? In a free capitalist society, anti-capitalist demonstrations are commonplace. Is capitalism really the worst system?

If the poor in America have things that people in other countries can only dream about, why is there a movement to make America more like those other countries?

If diversity training benefits everyone, why do those classes mostly consist of white heterosexual males?

How come those calling Sarah Palin a “bimbo” often look like part of Paris Hilton’s entourage?

How come the unselfish Americans hate their country out of personal frustrations, while the selfish ones defend America with their lives?

If being a winner in nature’s struggle for survival is selfish, does being extinct make you an altruist?

How come so many anti-American radicals are wearing American brands, listen to American music, watch American movies, and play American video games on computers designed by American engineers?

And finally, if all opinions are equal, how come a liberal who disagrees with a conservative is open-minded, but a conservative who disagrees with a liberal is a bigot?

Indeed. Read the whole thing and if there are any questions you can think of that might also annoy progressives, add them to the comments of Oleg's post.

Here are a few questions gleaned from the comments:

Why are gun control advocates so violent?

Why is it that the Left’s mantra is “Celebrate Diversity” yet they all think the exact same and anybody who has a “diverse thought” is taken to the town square and hung?

Why is it I’ve never worked for a poor person?

If Communism was such a shining example for everyone, why didn’t they put up a “Picture Window” instead of an Iron Curtain?

If all cultures are equal, then why are the liberals down on red-necks and conservatives?

Why do all leftist states have to build walls to keep their own people in, whereas rightist states have to build walls to keep other people out?

Why is leftism never judged by its reality but only by its lofty promises?

And the list goes on and on. Can any of you think of questions that would annoy progressives?

3/16/2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

I was in the midst of putting together a post about how to annoy progressives when I got a call from the WP Parents. It seems they had a problem a little earlier in the day and now needed assistance. When they told me what had occurred all thoughts about my original post were put aside.

What had happened that was so earth-shattering that they required help from me? What was it that took me away from my home (and keyboard)? Something truly awful.

Their two year old HDTV died in an almost spectacular fashion.

As the WP Mom explained it, it started with something that sounding like an electrical arc, then sparks, and finally puffs of smoke pouring out of the vents at the rear of the screen. Then the picture died.

The audio survived the spitzen-sparks show, but the picture was gone.

With March Madness upon us (and UConn playing), it was of the utmost importance to remove the dead HDTV, procure a new one, and install it. They took care of the first two and I took care of the last.

A quick trip from The Manse expedited the matter, and an hour later the old 37” HDTV was in the garage to await disposal and the new 46” set was up and running.

From the description of the failure I have to guess the high voltage inverter that provides the 1500 to 3000 volts for the LCD backlight failed, hence the arcing sound, sparks, and smoke. While it could probably could have been replaced, the cost of doing so, specifically the labor, was more than that of going out to buy a new set.

The fact that it failed after two years leads me to suspect it was the direct effect of the banning of lead in electronic solders under the EU's RoHS (Restrictions on Hazardous Substances) directive. (Damn the EU!!) One of the side effects of that ban is a decrease in the long-term reliability of certain electronic and electrical equipment. I have a feeling that either a solder joint failed or a tin whisker grew from the lead-free solder and shorted out something that burned out the inverter.

Many of the newer LCD sets have replaced the fluorescent backlights (and the need for high voltage to drive them) with LEDs, which operate from a much lower voltage and last longer, too. (I wish the WP Parent's new HDTV did, but it also uses a fluorescent backlight. We'll see how long that lasts.)

3/15/2011

Anti-Nuclear Power Hysteria Cranks Start Up Again In US

It didn't take long for the anti-nuclear power hysteria to start up here in the US after the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility came to light.


It seems shortly after the first report of trouble, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) called for a moratorium on the permitting or building of any new nuclear plants in the US. Never mind that the nuclear plants in Japan are 40 years old. Never mind that they're of a Generation II design no one builds any more. Never mind that any new plants planned in the US are Generation III or IV plants, neither of which require the active cooling measures of Generation I or II plants. (The new reactors are convection cooled, meaning the heat of the reactors causes the cooling liquid to flow. No pumps are required.)


Other anti-nuclear organizations jumped on the bandwagon in an effort to stifle any further construction of nuclear plants. Many of these same groups also have a tendency to call for “green” power, but when such green alternative energy systems are proposed, they protest against them, too. And even if they are built, they'll then protest the power lines needed to carry that green power to the people who need it. It's a no-win situation with them.


They need to get a life.

3/13/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

You did remember to set your clocks ahead, didn't you?

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Now that we've managed to make it past the rain, it's the temperatures driving the melting of the snow and ice here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Not that I'm complaining by any means. At least with the warmer temps we can dial back the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove and still keep The Manse warm. It also means that three small armloads of fire wood is enough to keep the stove running throughout the day.

One sign spring is approaching: bob-houses are being removed from the ice on the local lakes and ponds. Though there is a statewide April 1st deadline for removing bob-houses from the ice, I have a feeling they'll all be gone (for the most part) well before then. There will be one or two die-hards (read procrastinators) who will wait until the last minute only to find they can't reach their bob-houses except by boat...maybe.

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Speaking of boats, plans for prepping the Official Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Runabout, aka The Boat, are already under way. There are some maintenance issues to take care of, specifically getting a new canvas snap cover made for the cockpit and replacing an old rubber fuel line that has suffered the ravages of alcohol-laden marine gas one year too many.

Hopefully we can get The Boat launched and to its summer berth before Memorial Day, just as we did last year.

A note: I looked at posts from this time last year and found I wrote almost the same thing in one TOAS post. Am I getting repetitive, or what?

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Does Apple's iPad2 fit Arthur C. Clarke's definition of magic?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

According to Virginia Postrel, it does. As she writes:
Hence Mr. Ive's second boast about the iPad's magic: "I don't have to change myself to fit the product. It fits me." A capable machine makes you feel powerful even if you don't understand it and can't fix it. The perfect tool is invisible, an extension of the user's own will.

And isn't that the definition of ubiquitous computing? The average person doesn't have to spend a lot of time learning all kinds of arcane knowledge in order to use the computer technology at hand. They can just pick it up and use it. No degrees in electrical engineering or computer science required.

I am fascinated by the technology inside the iPad2, but that's me being one of the techno-geeks Postrel mentions in her piece. I always want to know how something does what it does, what all the bits and pieces are inside it and how they work together. Not that any of that knowledge will make it any easier for me to use one, but I'll have a better appreciation for what it does.

(H/T Instapundit)

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Jay Solo is back!

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Ken Sweeney thinks President Obama's “show and tell at the White House on bullying was sad and pathetic.” I have to agree.

As he tells us, “Liberals want to eradicate bullying. Conservatives want to raise kids strong enough to deal with it.”

As commenter Bryan G. Stevens adds:

It is funny the Left claims to no (sic) like bullies, when as adults, that is all they seem to do.

Indeed.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

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David Starr really doesn't like the way Windows handles multitasking. Even after all these iterations of Windows it still doesn't do it very well.

And it's too late to change it now. Doing so would undoubtedly break a bunch of programs and nobody wants to do that. This poor design decision was set in concrete and the concrete has hardened.

There have been plenty of other operating systems that multitasked well, including VMS (used on Digital Corp. minicomputers) and OS/2 Warp, IBM's Windows-killer, which ran Windows programs better than Windows did.

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As time moves on, it is becoming quite apparent that the GOP leadership in Congress isn't listening to the people who put them into office and have failed to carry through on the promises made when they were running for office.

Maybe it's time to send them a message, reminding them of their promises.

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If we need yet another example of why we should do everything we can to stymie the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate's efforts to turn America into yet another failing socialist utopia, all we have to do is look at Denmark.

According to a slew of economic experts, the Danish economy is in a mess and time is running out for the welfare model in its present form. Originally meant to serve the weakest members of society, the welfare state widely expanded in the 1970s, resulting in an explosion in public expenses in what is perhaps the world’s most comprehensive and generous welfare system.

At the moment public social spending equates to 32 percent of Denmark's GDP, something unsustainable. Total government spending in the US is somewhere around 25% of GDP at the moment (historically it runs around 18%), of which public social spending is only a part, and we already know it isn't sustainable. But that hasn't stopped the We-Know-Better-Than-You progressives in the US from trying to take us down that same dead end road.

(H/T Vermont Tiger)

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Also by way of Vermont Tiger comes this interesting take on the economics of urinal cakes.

(I have to admit to being reminded of one of my favorite lines from a movie dealing with urinal cakes. From Roadhouse: “Don't eat the big white mint.”)

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Here's another example of the “new civility” being practiced by the Left:

Wisconsin Republicans Forced To Skip St. Patrick's Day Parade Over Lefty Death Threats.

Of course the folks making the threats are the same folks seen in this video claiming they are the face of democracy while at the same time harassing state officials sitting in their offices. That's not democracy. That's getting your way through intimidation, by union mob rule. That is the face of fascism.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where bob-houses are disappearing from the lakes, the snow banks are melting away, and snowblowers are being moved to the back of the garage.

3/12/2011

Skilled Workers In Short Supply In US

For those of us who have been paying attention the past decade or so, none of this comes as a surprise to us: Factories are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill open positions.

Some of this can probably be blamed on the higher education bubble, where for years kids were told the only way to get ahead was to get a college degree. Some can be attributed to us Baby Boomers making our kids lives far too easy and making them think that actually working for a living doing manual labor (even highly specialized and lucrative manual labor) is something other people do. And some blame can be laid upon laid off workers, looking to get training or work in areas other than the ones from which they were laid off.

You might think that it would be easier for manufacturers to find new employees. After all, the number of workers employed in factories is still more than 2 million lower than pre-recession levels due to layoffs or plant closings.

"The perception out there is that we're losing manufacturing jobs to China and India. So if they've already been displaced and they're going to go back to school, they're going for something not manufacturing-related," said Rob Clark, vice president of operations at Clark Metal Products, a company outside of Pittsburgh started by his grandfather and now run by his uncle.

The trades are also suffering, as evidenced in the first comment made to this post at Lucianne about the subject:

I know the guy in charge of the local VoTech school here. He says they are probably gonna close the Heating/AC class because nobody is interested in becoming a heating/ac technician, even though he says local companies have standing offers to hire graduates direct from school for $18-20 an hour.

To many young adults think life is an episode of MTV Cribs, where money just falls outta the sky for them...

That kind of money is darned good for starting right out of school with no experience. And of those who go to college, far too many are coming out with degrees with little practical application in the real world. (I don't know of too many companies looking for people with BA degrees in Native American Transgender Studies. And those with Philosophy degrees are purely out of luck because the big Philosophy companies just aren't hiring these days.)

Is it any wonder more companies have to move operations overseas? If they can't find employees here, they have to look elsewhere in order to stay in business.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

3/11/2011

Is Extended Daylight Savings Time A "Saves Energy" Scam?

If this article in the Washington Times is correct, it is.

While I have nor problem with DST, I do find it to be a pain changing the clocks twice a year, and even worse, adjusting to the time change.

As it stands now Daylight Savings Time lasts 8 months (from early March to early November) and Standard time only 4 months. I have no problem staying on DST all year long (I'd rather have daylight later in the day during the winter months).

Back in 1973 President Richard Nixon imposed DST year round during the Arab Oil Embargo in an effort to “save” energy. According to the WT article, it doesn't, but I don't care. The things I liked was that we didn't have to change the clocks and we had an extra hour of sunlight after school. Yes, it was dark in the morning on the way to school, but that wasn't as much of a problem as walking home from school in the gathering gloom.

I will admit to being a bit lazy this past November when we made the change back to Standard Time. You see, I never changed the clock in the trusty F150. I figured “Why bother? I'm just gonna have to change it back in a few months anyways.” And here we are, approaching that time of year and the clock will now be right and I didn't have to change anything.

Maybe it's time to stick with DST and do away with the twice-a-year clock change.

3/10/2011

State Government Making It Easier To Steal Identities?

This ought to make us feel our privacy is in good hands:

Confidential data found on junked New Jersey Computers.

Taxpayers' Social Security numbers, confidential child abuse reports and personnel reviews of New Jersey workers nearly went to the highest bidder after the state sent surplus computers out for auction.

Nearly 80 percent of surplus computers in a comptroller's office sample had not been scrubbed of data before being shipped to a warehouse, according to an audit released Wednesday.

"At a time when identity theft is all too common, the state must take better precautions so it doesn't end up auctioning off taxpayers' Social Security numbers and health records," Comptroller Matthew Boxer said.

Ya think?

This type of equipment requires careful handing to make sure all the confidential data on the hard drives has been erased or otherwise destroyed. Just hitting the 'Delete' key doesn't do the trick. A program like File Shredder or Shredit should be used to ensure all deleted data is truly gone for good. Or the drives should be destroyed by using a drill press to drill through them (and the internal platters), making sure the data cannot be read.

Someone got sloppy, lazy, or stupid, allowing state-owned computers to go up for sale without making sure the drives had been wiped clean. Identity theft is tough enough to deal with without state government making it easy for the bad guys to get that kind of information.

3/08/2011

Another Victim Of 'Verizonitis'?

First, FairPoint Communications bought out Verizon's wireline operations in northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont). Then FairPoint ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a little over a year later when it started hemorrhaging customers as its costs and rates rose, customer service quality dropped, and its income dropped with it.

Next, Frontier Communications buys out Verizon's wireline operations in the rural areas of a number of states, despite warnings it was probably getting in over its head, just as happened with FairPoint.

Now Frontier is cutting services, this time in Oregon as it shuts down the FiOS TV franchises it bought from Verizon. Frontier has been losing money on the operation because the operating costs were higher than they were led to believe. (Big surprise there...NOT.) And for those services they still offer through FiOS (Internet and VoIP), Frontier will now charge a $500 installation fee on top of the 46% rate increase it just laid upon its customers in Oregon at the first of the year.

Gee, this all sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I wonder how long it will be before Frontier ends up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just as FairPoint did?

I'll go out on a limb and say it will be before this time next year.

3/07/2011

Why Businesses Start New Factories Overseas

We hear the platitudes from the President, his cabinet, and his 'czars' about how they're going to get America working again, bringing jobs back to the people.

Unfortunately it seems they have been doing everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen by making it a long, lengthy, painful process for new business ventures to being able to fund and build the factories they need here in the US. That's why they end up building them overseas instead.

Why should any company build a factory here when they know they'll be buried under never ending paperwork and conflicting regulations, held hostage by petty and/or incompetent bureaucrats, or taxed to the Nth degree even before they manage to manufacture a single product? The US has never been so hostile towards business as it is today. But then one has to look at our national leadership to see where that hostility originates, notwithstanding all claims to the contrary by said leadership..

3/06/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

BeezleBub returned from the Big City (Manchester) last night after participating in the FIRST Robotics competition.

While his school's team didn't do as well as they had hoped, the did have some triumphs, including winning the final qualifying round.

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Yesterday's weather was quite variable, with a lot of mist, fog, and light rain in the morning, abundant sun in the afternoon, and warm and windy overnight. To say there was a lot of melting would be an understatement. There was even more melting today as temps reached almost 50 degrees and the rains fell all day.

The warm weather let us cut the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove all the way back such that it was giving off just enough heat to keep running but not so much that it made it too hot inside The Manse. We didn't need to use much in the way of fire wood to keep The Manse toasty warm.

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Like some others, I think it's time we remember what Thomas Jefferson said in regards to the Barbary pirates and apply the lesson to the present day Somali pirates. To paraphrase: “Millions for defense. Not one penny for tribute.”

It's time to cut the Navy and Marines loose on these brigands and end their piracy by any means necessary, just as was done against the Barbary pirates in the early 1800's. Let the Somali pirates know the cost of committing such acts is too high a price to pay.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been rereading Tocqueville's Democracy in America and finding it just as relevant today as it was when it was written in the late 1830's.

One passage that sticks out at this point deals with Congress, specifically the make up of the House and the Senate, and the dichotomy of the two:

When you enter the chamber of the House of Representatives...you are struck by the vulgar appearance of that august assembly. Often the eye searches in vain for a famous man. Nearly all members are obscure individuals whose names call no image to mind. Most are local lawyers or businessmen or even members of the lowest classes in society. In a country where education is almost universal, it is said that not all of the people's representatives are capable of writing correctly.

A short distance away is the chamber of the Senate, whose narrow confines contain a substantial proportion of America's famous men. Scarcely a man is to be seen who has not distinguished himself by some recent achievement. Among these senators are eloquent attorneys, distinguished generals, clever magistrates, and well-know statesmen.

About the only thing that has changed is the character of the Senate, which I attribute to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, allowing the direct election of senators by the people rather than by the state legislatures. Now the Senate resembles the House and senators spend less time representing the needs of their home states and more their needs to ensure their re-election.

Maybe it's time to consider repealing that amendment.

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Eric the Viking offers us some encouraging words from British historian Paul Johnson in regards to America.

Johnson is also a fan of Sarah Palin, saying “She's great. I like the cut of her jib.”

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Dan Pierce points us to a TWeekly Standard piece on the real reason the public employee unions are fighting so hard against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and others (Kasich in Ohio, Christie in New Jersey, etc). It has nothing to do with wages, benefits, or collective bargaining and everything to do with the forced collection of union dues to ensure the unions can continue to buy politicians. Specifically Democrat politicians.

Remember, it's always about the money.

Skip also has his take on unions. I particularly like the photo included with his post.

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Bogie tells us that cats tend to center on the human females in a household. She links to a Discovery magazine article about the phenomenon.

However, here in The Manse six and three-quarters of our seven and three-quarters cats tend to center on me, the great Fūd Giver Person, Cleaner of Litter Boxes, Brush Master Extraordinaire, Belly Rubbing Expert, and all around cat person.

So maybe I'm one of the exceptions that proves the rule.

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Despite increasing amount of money being spent to educate our kids, we're not getting better results, but worse.

More than one study has shown that the amount of money spent is not an indicator of how well our kids are being educated. It's how the money is spent and how much autonomy the schools have that is the deciding factor. (By autonomy, I mean that the state is not the one setting the agenda, the goals, or the curriculum, but the towns.)

Right now not many of us are getting the best bang for the buck, and it shows.

(H/T Instapundit)

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A report on this evening's ABC World News says the White House is considering dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a means of trying to control oil prices.

The White House does realize the problem is not a fall off in oil supply but the situation in Libya driving rising oil prices, don't they? How will releasing some oil from the reserve have any effect on world oil prices?

This tells me the the President truly has no idea what drives the prices of commodities like oil.

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Cap'n Teach has more bad news from the Globull Warming front: Colder than normal temperatures in Costa Rica will adversely affect the price of coffee.

One has to ask : Has Al Gore visited Costa Rica lately?

Teach also gives us some good Globull Warming news: California's snowpack is above average this year, meaning there will be fewer problems with the water supply this year. Now all California needs to do is get rid of all those people sucking up water that should be used for growing food.

Oh, and let's not forget the hurricanes. Gotta remember the hurricanes!

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The UK is smarter than we are, at least when it comes to the UN.

Citing problems with waste, fraud, and abuse of funds given to the United Nations, the UK is “substantially cutting” the funds it gives to the UN.

That's something the US should have done a long time ago. It might also be a good idea if the UN were to seek a new home outside the US as it has become nothing more than a pit of vipers unfriendly to America and supportive of brutal dictatorships.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow has been melting away at an astonishing rate, bare ground can be seen here and there, and where overnight winter snows are expected to miss us by miles.

3/05/2011

Bullies With A Badge

Are these law enforcement personnel out on Long Island using their badges as a means to “harass us and eat of our substance”? Taking a look at the case of Nancy Genovese, I'd have to say yes.

After her arrest for supposedly posing a terrorist threat by taking pictures of a tourist attraction outside a public airport, being subjected to an illegal search and seizure, theft of $5300 in cash, confiscation of her camera and other personal belongings in her car (which have not been returned), being denied her right to an attorney, being imprisoned based upon false testimony by one of the arresting officers, she was interviewed by the FBI and found to be no threat. But the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department still held her in custody for some time, but finally released her, dropping the charge of criminal trespass (the only thing which she was charged). How can someone 'criminally trespass' on a public right of way, to whit, a public road?

Did she take this sitting down? Nope. She filed a $70 million lawsuit against the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County, and various other county and town officers and officials.

Now here's a bit of irony: the Town of Southampton town attorney failed to respond to the suit in a timely fashion, causing the town to default.

How did this happen? According to the now former town attorney “he forgot” to file the town's response to the suit. Genovese asked for a summary judgment against the town, but was denied by the court.

Here's more on the Genovese case, including an overhead view where the 'terrorist' incident took place.

3/04/2011

They Don't Have It So Rough

I've been having a rather lively discussion with one of my regular readers/commenters about the ongoing battle in Wisconsin between the governor, GOP legislators, a majority of voters, and the public sector unions. She seems to think it's just fine for the taxpayers to fund an unsustainable entitlement (she really likes the great pensions the state and local union employees will be collecting), while ignoring the facts of what she's supporting and what it really costs.

Robert Costrell gives us a breakdown of just one part of the public sector compensation in Wisconsin: teachers.

The average Milwaukee public-school teacher salary is $56,500, but with benefits the total package is $100,005, according to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools. When I showed these figures to a friend, she asked me a simple question: "How can fringe benefits be nearly as much as salary?" The answers can be found by unpacking the numbers in the district's budget for this fiscal year.

You never see that in the private sector. Why? Because businesses couldn't afford it and it would make them uncompetitive both in the domestic and world market, assuming they would even survive.

As I mentioned to her in a comment to this post, quoting from Costrell's piece, Wisconsin teachers pay nothing towards their pensions. Not a penny. The taxpayers pay for it all. How is it they get away with this? I can explain it in two words: collective bargaining. Hold on to your hats (or should I say wallets) because there's more. Lets' take a look at health care benefits:

Under the current collective-bargaining agreements, the school district pays the entire premium for medical and vision benefits, and over half the cost of dental coverage. These plans are extremely expensive.

This is partly because of Wisconsin's unique arrangement under which the teachers union is the sponsor of the group health-insurance plans. Not surprisingly, benefits are generous. The district's contributions for health insurance of active employees total 38.8% of wages. For private-sector workers nationwide, the average is 10.7%.

I wish my employer paid 100% of my health care benefits, but I know that won't happen because they can't afford it. They can't tap the taxpayers to pay for it all. And even if they could, the taxpayers couldn't afford it...hey, wait a minute! That sounds almost like...ObamaCare! And it won't work for the same reason.

I could go on and on, but it might be better if you Read The Whole Thing yourself.

3/03/2011

More Than Just A Pretty Face

How many of the celebrities we've followed over the years are hiding a secret known only by a few people? Many would be shocked to find out what they were hiding.

What is the secret to which I refer?

Brains.

No, not the “I want to eat your brains” kind of secret. Rather, it's the fact that they actually have extraordinary smarts.

The latest to make the list of brainy celebs is Academy Award winner Natalie Portman.

She's not just a pretty face, she's also something of a scientist, and has been since her high school days. She also studied neuroscience at Harvard.

A few others to add to the list include Mayim Bialik (Ph.D. in Neurobiology), Danica McKellar (B.S. in Mathematics), Brian May of Queen (Ph.D. in astrophysics), Lisa Kudrow (B.S. in Biology), and one of the most beautiful film actresses ever, Hedy Lamarr (co-inventor of spread spectrum radio communications).

3/02/2011

Will We Ever Learn?

We've been here before, but Ronnie Reagan put that to rights.

Maybe it's time to do it again.

3/01/2011

Do The Unions Really Believe This Will Work?

One has to wonder how the public sector unions believe their crusade against Wisconsin taxpayers is painting them in a sympathetic light. With multiple reports of union thuggery, verbal threats made by union members and supporters towards Governor Scott Walker and GOP members of the legislature, less than civil words from a Wisconsin Democrat towards a Republican colleague, violation of reporters' First Amendment rights by union activists, blatant astroturfing both inside and outside the Wisconsin State House, and ever more unpopular 14 fugitive Wisconsin state senators abrogating their oaths of office and on the run from neighboring Illinois Tea party activists, is it any wonder the American public does not support their efforts?

Too many taxpayers across the nation see for themselves the union overreach that will directly affect their wallets as states will be required to take even more money from struggling Americans to meet the unrestrained union benefits and pensions. The unions sound more like spoiled children when they complain about the size of their raises or demands to pay a piddling amount (compared to workers in the private sector) towards their own benefits and pensions at a time when everyone else has had to tighten their belts to make ends meet. About the only place the public sector unions will find sympathy is in the dictionary.

The people have had enough of profligate spending by government at the federal, state, and local level and they won't stand for it any longer because they have nothing left to give. It's time the unions realize this and stop making the taxpayers and the politicians supporting them the bad guys in this battle.