Monthly Archives: December 2008

Bush’s cat-like reflexes

I thought the “Iraqi Journalist throws his shoes at Bush” incident was funny because, due to the title of the story–which I read before watching the video of the incident–I knew what was going on. With the foreknowledge that it ended safely for the President I was able to just watch the video and chuckle–at least initially. But, like Josh Marshall of TMP, I think it’s pretty scary a guy 15 feet from the President had the time to aim and throw 2 objects at him, and shout some insults, before he was tackled by security forces. If he had smuggled something dangerous in, he certainly would’ve had time to harm or kill President Bush before anyone stopped him. And as much as I don’t like the man, it doesn’t mean I want him assassinated; I’m still an American and he’s still my President, at least for thirty-or-so more days. And there’s the bigger concern. Bush has one foot out the door. Soon he will move to his new digs and his post-Presidential life. He’ll soon be largely ignored, except by some who’ll try to prosecute or implicate him in various criminal acts. But President-elect Barack Obama is just beginning his time on the World Stage. And, unfortunately, he’s got a lot of loonies with a lot of firepower who wish him harm. Some nut is going to try something, and he he throws something at Obama it won’t be shoes. I hope Obama’s Secret Service detail take’s note of this incident and doesn’t think it’s funny at all.

But since President Bush is OK and is laughing about it, I thought I would too. (And in the back of my brain, I’m doing a Mike Myers as Austin Powers imitation: “Who throws a shoe? Honestly!”) And I must say, eight years of constant physical training have paid off for our Chief Executive: He has cat-like reflexes. He not only dodged 2 swiftly-thrown projectiles, but the second time he had the presence of mind to duck just low enough to avoid the airborne shoe. By just partially-ducking instead of taking cover behind the podium, he looked really bad ass–I’m talking Keanu Reeves “Neo in the Matrix” bad ass.

Josh Marshall concurs:

On a totally unrelated note, I was genuinely impressed by the president’s quick ducking response. In all seriousness, if you watch the video, the guy was extremely close to the president (maybe fifteen feet?). He threw the shoe very hard and very accurately. Given how out of the blue the whole bizarre incident was I think the reporter would have beaned most other folks in that situation.

Kudos to you, Mr. President.

Here’s a video of what COULD HAVE happened if the Iraqi journalist aimed lower or if President Bush was a little slower (thank you, Mike Myers):

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Employee Free Choice Act–You have questions, we have answers.

The AFL-CIO has compiled a quite thorough Q&A page on the Employee Free Choice Act:

Why do we need new federal legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act?

America’s working people are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is disappearing. The best opportunity working men and women have to get ahead is by uniting with co-workers to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.

But the current labor law system is broken. Corporations routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire people who try to organize unions—and today’s labor law is powerless to stop them. Every day, employers deny working people the freedom to make their own choice about whether to have a union:

  • Employees are fired in one-quarter of private-sector union organizing campaigns;
  • 78 percent of private employers require supervisors to deliver anti-union messages to the workers whose jobs and pay they control;
  • And even after workers successfully form a union, one-third of the time they are not able to get a contract.

What does the Employee Free Choice Act do?

It does three things to level the playing field for employees and employers:

  1. Strengthens penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in an effort to prevent them from forming a union;
  2. Brings in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months;
  3. Establishes majority sign-up, meaning that if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a company must recognize the union.

What’s wrong with the current law?

The National Labor Relations Act states: “Employees shall have to the right to self organization to form, join, or assist labor organizations….” It was designed to protect employee choice on whether to form unions, but it has been turned upside down.

The current system is not like any democratic election held anywhere else in our society. Employers have turned the NLRB election process into management-controlled election process—the employer has all the power, controls the information workers can receive and routinely poisons the process by intimidating, harassing, coercing and even firing people who try to organize unions. On top of that, the law’s penalties are so insignificant that many companies treat them as just another cost of doing business. By the time employees vote in an NLRB election, if they can get to that point, a free and fair choice isn’t an option. Even in the voting location, workers do not have a free choice after being browbeaten by supervisors.

What is majority sign-up, and how does it work?

When a majority of employees votes to form a union by signing authorization cards, and those authorization cards are validated by the federal government, the employer will be legally required to recognize and bargain with the workers’ union.

Majority sign-up is not a new approach. For years, some responsible employers such as Cingular Wireless have taken a position of allowing employees to choose, by majority decision, whether to have a union. Those companies have found that majority sign-up is an effective way to allow workers the freedom to make their own decision—and it results in less hostility and polarization in the workplace
than the failed NLRB process.

Does the Employee Free Choice Act take away so-called secret ballot elections?

No. If one-third of workers want to have an NLRB election at their workplace, they can still ask the federal government to hold an election. The Employee Free Choice Act simply gives them another option—majority sign-up.

“Elections” may sound like the most democratic approach, but the NLRB process is nothing like any democratic elections in our society—presidential elections, for example—because one side has all the power. The employer controls the voters’ paychecks and livelihood, has unlimited access to speak against the union in the workplace while restricting pro-union speech and has the freedom to intimidate and coerce the voters.

Once a majority of workers indicate they want a union by signing cards, the company should not be able to drag the process out for months as they can under a management-controlled election process. The will of the majority should be recognized.

Does the Employee Free Choice Act silence employers or require that they remain
neutral about the union?

No. Employers are still free to express their opinion about the union as long as they do not threaten or intimidate workers.

Will employees be pressured into signing union authorization cards?

No. In fact, academic studies show that workers who organize under majority sign-up feel less pressure from co-workers to support the union than workers who organize under the NLRB election process. Workers who vote by majority sign-up also report far less pressure or coercion from management to
oppose the union than workers who go through NLRB elections.

In addition, it is illegal for anyone to coerce employees to sign a union authorization card. Any person who breaks the law will be subject to penalties under the Employee Free Choice Act.

Isn’t this law really about unions wanting to increase their membership?

This law is about restoring to working people the freedom to improve their lives through unions.

More than half of people who don’t have a union say they would join one tomorrow if given the chance. After all, people who have unions earn 30 percent more than people without unions and are much more likely to have health care and pensions. With a free choice to join unions, working people
can bargain for better wages, health care and pensions to build a better life for their families.

With the economic pressures on working people today, the freedom to pursue their dreams is crucially important.

Does the Employee Free Choice Act take away the right of individual states to prohibit union membership as a condition of employment in their state?

Absolutely not. The Employee Free Choice Act has no effect whatsoever on such laws or on the right of individual states to enact such laws.

Does the Employee Free Choice Act have a small business exception?

The Employee Free Choice Act does not make any changes to current NLRB jurisdictional standards.

Who supports the Employee Free Choice Act?

The Employee Free Choice Act has the support of hundreds of members of Congress of both parties, academics, historians and civil and human rights organizations such as the NAACP and Human Rights Watch, most major faith denominations and 69 percent of the American public.

Who opposes the Employee Free Choice Act?

Corporate front groups are waging a major campaign to stop the Employee Free Choice Act. They do not want workers to have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to bargain through unions for better wages, benefits and working conditions. The anti-union network includes discredited groups such as the Center for Union Facts, led by lobbyist Richard Berman, who is infamous for fighting against
drunk driving laws and consumer and health protections, and the National Right to Work Committee
and Foundation, the country’s oldest organization dedicated exclusively to destroying unions.

Learn more about the EFCA and forming/joining a union at AFL-CIO.

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Stick bugs, Wind Turbines, Q microbes, Scuderi engines, VIVACE–and hope

I’ve been taught stewardship and environmentalism are not only beneficial, but essential, from a young age. Some of the teachings came from my maternal grandfather, who, as a farmer, was connected to the land. Some came from my parents, boomers who rejected the me-me-me cry of many of their peers and instead listened to the conserve/scrimp/respect/make-do coda of their depression-era parents. Some came from ex-hippie earthy/crunchy teachers in grade school.

One such lesson is especially vivid. I remember a 1st grade classmate finding either a stick bug or a praying mantis in the woods behind our elementary school playground. He was utterly amazed at this oddity of nature and scooped it up to show the teacher. The teacher quickly gathered everybody nearby to look. One obnoxious kid said it was weird or gross and we should smash it. The teacher admonished him not to do it, and said stick bugs (or mantises) were endangered, and that if we killed one, we’d have to pay a $100 fine for doing so. Moreover, she said, destroying something so rare and wonderful was wrong. For such young middle-class kids, a hundred dollars was a princely sum–high enough a penalty to dissuade the obnoxious kid from carrying out his threat.

Now, I don’t know if mantises or stick bugs are endangered, but that’s not the point. What I learned from that situation was that nature’s forms are myriad, and that all are precious. I stumbled along the way, burning some ants with magnifying glasses and other boy stuff, but I think I emerged as an adult who understands we humans, as the top of the food chain, have an obligation to preserve nature for our descendants.

I live in a rather odd part of Massachusetts, the rural west, where there is a strong Republican contingent and lots of center-right Democrats. When gasoline hit $4 around here the past summer, I saw some truly ugly behavior. For weeks I heard people all around me, at work, shopping, parks, family gatherings, etc, extirpating the “environmentalists” and the “Democrat” party. These idiots were ready to put nukes, derricks, and mines anywhere and everywhere in US land or coastal waters–save their backyards–as long as they got their cheap gas back. I was worried that high gas prices, ironically, would keep the “drill here, drill now” crowd–Big Oil and Big Coal’s chief enablers–in power.

You know the rest of the story: despite a bunch of factors that usually send oil prices through the roof (summer driving season, Georgian invasion of its breakaway republics, tensions with Iran, unrest at African refineries, piracy, collapse of financial services industry, etc.), the cost of a barrel of crude continues to fall–currently in the mid-to-low $40’s range. “Drill baby, Drill” lost is relevance. Obama got elected. Palin ultimately embarrassed the GOP powerbrokers with her diva behavior and outright kookiness (the base continues to adore her, though). The economy continues to flounder.

Amid the daily reminders of how awful our situation is, there are glimmers of hope. Here in western Massachusetts, the family of an Italian-American inventor are nearing production of an innovative split-cycle internal-combustion engine that produces double the gas-miliage with negligible emissions at only a slightly higher cost than the current versions of engine. It is seen as the first breakthrough improvement of the internal-combustion engine since the late 19th century. Researchers like Qteros are racing to make 2nd-generation bio fuels (non-food crop-based) abundantly available and reasonably affordable. Scientists and engineers like the folks at FloDesign Wind are bringing game-changing technologies to the wind power market, with turbines that are smaller, easier to transport, allow greater numbers to be deployed in smaller footprints, and operate more-efficiently at both higher and lower wind speeds than current models.

But, perhaps most promising of all, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan may have discovered the “Holy Grail” of clean tech power generation: the VIVACE system. It is a principle said to be theorized originally by Da Vinci: water moves around fixed bodies and creates destructive energy in the form of vortexs and shedding. Some very smart guys think they’ve found a way to harness that energy.

From Vortex Hydro Energy:

VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy)

A novel approach to extract energy from flowing water currents. It is unlike any other ocean energy or low-head hydropower concept. VIVACE is based on the extensively studied phenomenon of Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV), which was first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones.” For decades, engineers have been trying to prevent VIV from damaging offshore equipment and structures. By maximizing and exploiting VIV rather than spoiling and preventing it, VIVACE takes this ‘problem’ and transforms it into a valuable resource for mankind.

Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV) result from vortices forming and shedding on the downstream side of a bluff body in a current. Vortex shedding alternates from one side to the other, thereby creating a vibration or oscillation. The VIV phenomenon is non-linear, which means it can produce useful energy at high efficiency over a wide range of current speeds.

Vortex Induced Vibrations Oscillates Objects in Fluid Currents

Vortex Induced Vibrations Oscillates Objects in Fluid Currents.

VIVACE devices have many potential advantages, which improve installation survivability in the hostile underwater environment and enable low-cost power production by decreasing capital cost and minimizing maintenance.

  • High energy density – permits low cost energy to be produced from relatively small installations – requiring up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power concepts.
  • Simple and rugged moving parts – allows for robust designs that can operate for long periods in the underwater environment with minimal maintenance.
  • Low dependence on ocean/river conditions – application of non-linear resonance permits useful energy to be extracted over a wide range of current speeds.

VIVACE and other renewable energy technologies also face regulatory hurdles. Again, VIVACE is advantaged by salient benefits over other technologies.

  • Non-obtrusiveness – installations can be positioned beneath the surface, thereby avoiding interference with other uses, such as fishing, shipping and tourism.
  • Compatibility with marine life – VIVACE utilizes vortex formation and shedding, which is the same mechanism fish use to propel themselves through the water.

Prototype, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office Naval Research, is currently operating in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory at the University of Michigan. This device has met and often exceeded expectations; thereby, providing strong evidence to proceed to the next scale, a multi-kilowatt field demonstration.

These technologies can move us towards energy independance, but we need a real effort from government during this bleak economic period to make sure these projects are funded and nurtured until they are able to eclipse oil and coal. We need President Obama to be onboard with this, because, quite frankly, if we don’t kick our oil habit this country will be completely parceled off and sold to the highest (foreign) bidder, and if we don’t kick both oil and coal were going to destroy the planet’s ability of sustain life.

I remain hopeful. When I read about VIVACE and Qteros and FloDesign Wind, and ponder the possible implications of widespread use of their technologies, I don’t feel like my often-grumpy self, but like the 1st grader I was staring at a strange and wonderful insect, marvelling at the beauty and variety of nature.


Read more about the Scuderi split-cycle engine here.
Read more about Flodesign Wind Turbines here.
Read more about Qteros revolutionary Q microbe here.
Read more about VIVACE hydro power here.

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Patriots, Wingnuts, Aryans, brothers in hate, CAN YOU JOG A HALF MILE?


I usually don’t seek out crazy on the internet, there’s too much out there and I don’t have the time or the inclination or the stomach for much of it. But I love TMP, and though usually free of sheer, unadulterated wingnuttery such as this, a new poster (who’s teeny tiny 6-point type in his post intrigued me) copied bits of the kookiest thing I’d read in days: Greg Evensen’s pre-election day post about the coming 2nd US Civil War. Eversen is a former Kansas state trooper, and has a radio show of some sort.

It’s standard fare, and timid compared to some of Michael Savage and G. Gordon Liddy’s stuff. Evensen walks the line, making no overt threats against anyone specific, and his post consists largely of questions to his fellow patriots. My favorite question comes towards the end of the following paragraph (emphasis mine):

American patriots you need to decide what your battle plans are. You can not wait any longer. Are you stored up? Are you prayed up? Have you stayed up figuring it all out? Have you decided that the time has come for you to take that same principled stand that your founders took to establish this FREE nation in the first place? Have you decided who your true enemies are? Are you tired of the bankers running it, ruining it and then demanding we pay up for their greed? Are you sick over this nation finalizing its socialistic stance nationalizing the infrastructure of the county and Obama as an open socialist/communist/radical presidential candidate? Will you resist the “state’s” efforts to take you in and deprive you of your freedoms? Will you try to work with patriotic police officers and American armed forces that will fight with you? Will you stand firm when they shut off your supplies? Will you resist in the cold and in the dark? Will you go all the way to a constitutional victory? Can you dress your own wounds? Can you jog a half mile? Will you be able to live without commonplace things you have grown accustomed to having any time you wanted them?

So, American patriot who’s going to bring down a tyrannical government: CAN you jog a half mile? Can you. . . jog. . . a half mile?

In addition to dressing your own [gunshot, knife, toilet paper cut] wounds and pondering whether to mercykill your wounded (I inferred this from another series of questions from later in the rant: “Do you take your wounded with you? How? It’s not like the movies.”) rather than let them fall into the secular humanist hands of the enemy (where they would no doubt be interrogated, and forced to tell the enemy your secret plans and deepest, darkest secrets, such as the fact that you suffer from erectile dysfunction), a patriot will have to jog short distances, perhaps while transiting between the bunker and 7-11 (for rations and big gulps).

Everyone in the know knows that the commie pinko babykiller fag one-worlders can’t go faster than a brisk walking pace, and won’t follow for more than a third of a mile at most. Knowing this, if we are able to JOG more than 1/3 mile–say a 1/2 mile, we’ll be able to leave them in the dust and continue to pick apart their forces Red Dawn-style.

Some folks look at Red Dawn not as a 80’s adolescent superhero masturbation fantasy, but as a blueprint on how to win a revolution:

Red Dawn shows the frontline Gureilla war tactics that it takes to win wars. The movie illustrates the power of surprise, dedication, and member loyalty within a group. No tyrant or standing army can ever match such a combination. Originally the movie was to be known as Ten Soldiers as the movie entails the fighting spirit of ten citizen soldiers.. Red Dawn is a movie of catch phrases, and quotes that have left a legacy for the minds of the free. The movie left one quote that burns into ones conciousness, “We’re all going to die, die standing up.” This is the motto of the free. Rather in life or in death, freedom exists because of the selfless risk, attention, and constant enlightenment pursuits that drive the minds of those whom truly serve as the guardians of freedom.

The guy who wrote this review of Red Dawn should probably hook-up with Greg Evensen. Perhaps together, they can train hard for that 0.68 K race–sorry, jog–and be ready come WWWIII, the long emergency, Civil War II, whatever.

Oh, yeah, one last thing before I go:

“WOLVERINES!”

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Chinese Takeover of American Banking System–in progress

From Rawstory:

Fed approves Chinese bank CCB to open office in US

AFP
Published: Monday December 8, 2008

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The US Federal Reserve said Monday it had authorized China Construction Bank, a leading Chinese state bank, to operate in the United States.

The proposed New York City branch of CCB “would engage in wholesale deposit-taking, lending, trade finance, and other banking services,” the Fed said in a statement.

The US central bank recalled that China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB) is 57.0 percent owned by the Chinese state, 19.7 percent by US banking group Bank of America and 5.7 percent by Temasek Holdings, a sovereign wealth fund owned by the government of Singapore. The remainder of the capital is publicly traded.

CCB is the second-largest bank in China, with total assets of approximately 1.1 trillion dollars, it noted.

The Fed said it had determined that CCB had adequate anti-money laundering safeguards and had committed to respect US laws on money laundering.

CCB’s own funds exceed the minimum set by the 1998 Basel Capital Accord and “is considered equivalent to capital that would be required of a US banking organization,” the US central bank said.

CCB would be the fourth mainland Chinese bank — excluding banks in Hong Kong — to open operations in the US, after the Agricultural Bank of China, the Bank of China and the Bank of Communications.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China’s top bank, also has asked the Fed for authorization to open a branch in New York.

I guess this is now commonplace–what the corporate news would consider a non-story, since I never heard a peek when the other three Chinese banks opened in the US. As a commenter on Rawstory said (paraphrasing the Simpsons), “I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords.” I guess its time to enroll my son at the Chinese “immersion” classroom in Amherst. Hopefully his Chinese language skills can keep me out of the forced labor camps and/or debtors’ prisons that the Chinese will no doubt export here in the near future.

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Lisa "Who’s Nailin’ Paylin" Ann the mattress-actress visits Uncle Jesse and Cooter

I couldn’t resist. Besides, from the traffic map, it seems the only popular post on the blog was my last “Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?”

Submitted for your approval, an interview with self-described “mattress actress” (gotta love that self-deprecating wit) Lisa Ann, aka “Serra Paylin” from the guys at Red State Update (video is PG-13, as there are some scantily-clad young ladies and enormous amounts of cleavage):

You can purchase the video at Hustler.com, or just go there and watch one minute hardcore videos of Lisa Ann and her enormous, bouncing funbags. Makes a great stocking stuffer for the wanker in your life. And yes, if I wasn’t happily married, I’d probably buy 2 copies. In case I have to spell it out for you, there is ADULT, XXX content on the Hustler website, so it isn’t safe for work.

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I love this article–just because

Another winner from the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, PA. If you can believe it, this was a front page, above the fold story on December 3, 2008.

I think the writer intended the “simple” on the headline to mean not only “uncomplicated or direct in meaning”, but also “unintelligent or uneducated”–like a simpleton. You be the judge:

Expletive makes simple message thorny

Police cite man for having expletive on truck sign, raising free-speech issue.

By Edward Lewis elewis@timesleader.com
Staff Writer

HUGHESTOWN – It’s not the message but a single word on a sign that is causing a First Amendment dispute in Hughestown.

Joseph Decker, 39, of Parsonage Street, said police cited him with a summary charge of disorderly conduct for attaching a sign to the rear window of his pickup that reads, “If your (sic) in America and can’t speak English, get the (expletive) out.”

“They’re saying I’m racial profiling,” Decker said. “I’m not. It doesn’t matter who it is; if you can’t speak English, then get out. It’s that simple.”

Hughestown police Detective Darrin Bidwell said Decker was cited because he used an obscenity in the message, adding that the sign is exposed to children walking to Pittston Area middle and elementary schools.

“We’re not disputing what he says. If that’s his opinion, that’s fine by me,” Bidwell said. “It’s the wording he used. It’s completely spelled out. We’ve received complaints, and he’s in a school zone.

“He’s welcome to say whatever he wants, but legally, it’s clearly stated in the crimes code,” Bidwell added.

Decker said police issued the citation when they observed the sign while his truck was parked near his home.

“It’s my right to voice my opinion,” Decker said.

The article goes on to quote two civil rights lawyers arguing that the First Amendment protects the use of expletives, spoken and written, in the “public square” and that Mr. Decker covered two letters in his sign to avoid further trouble, making the expletive read: F – – K. No word on whether he also changed “your” to “you’re”.

I would submit that the message of the sign is ignorant, as well as the use of an expletive on it, and a decent person wouldn’t hang it in the back of their vehicle. While they may not reveal this in the presense of people like Mr. Decker, most immigrants to this country are bilingual, speaking English and well as their native tongues. The the cases of immigrants I know it is a point of pride to speak good, but not necessarily “American”, English. And there isn’t a FUCKING thing wrong with that.

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