January 31, 2014

Trivia you can use—or not:

Well, duh

A graduate student researched the reading levels of 183 UNC-Chapel Hill athletes who played football or basketball from 2004 to 2012. She found that 60% read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. Between 8% and 10% read below a third-grade level.

A CNN investigation revealed that most schools have between 7% and 18% of revenue sport athletes who are reading at an elementary school level. Some had even higher percentages of below-threshold athletes.

Follow the Money

The median net worth of a typical American household is about $66,740, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. The average congressman is worth just under a million.

Windows 8 Is Another Vista

It’s hard to call Windows 8 anything other than a flop. According to research firm IHS, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have a combined market share of about 9 percent. Hewlett-Packard has re-introduced a line of computers equipped with Windows 7, saying the four-year-old OS is “back by popular demand.” Local independent computer retailers regularly advertise that customers can still buy new machines equipped with Windows 7.

Thinking About Getting a Harley?

Fully 92% of motorcycle accidents involve riders taught to ride by family and friends. Over half of accidents involved riders with less than 6 months on the accident motorcycle as well.

Shocking, Just Shocking

In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.

The Skinny on Skinny

In the U.S., rich white women and poor black men have the lowest obesity rates (followed by rich white guys). America’s highest obesity rates by far are among poor minority women.

Who Says There’s No Cheap Gas?

Venezuela has the world’s cheapest gasoline, about six cents a gallon, so low that drivers often fill their tanks for less than a dollar.

Biggest Benefit? More Time for Commercials

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is looking at proposals that would end extra point kicks after touchdowns.


Your Congressman LOVED Obama’s State of the Union Address

January 30, 2014

Two-thirds of Americans rated this Congress the worst in their lifetime, in a recent CNN poll. And 81 percent disapproved of them in the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey.

What Obama did in his speech, in outlining a unilateral map for the sixth year of his presidency, was to finally join the majority of citizens in dismissing the lawmakers who will not do their bidding.

“America does not stand still, and neither will I,” he said. “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Mr. Obama used his annual State of the Union address to chart a new path forward relying on his own executive authority.
New York Times

And your congressman LOVES this idea.

“Why should we spend endless hours pretending to read bills we don’t understand and debating them in an empty chamber knowing that, no matter how we vote, we’re going to piss off half of our constituents? Let the president make the decisions and take the rap. After all, he’s only here for eight years. We’re here for life if we play our cards right.”

Legislation by dictatorial fiat is just what congress wants. They can spend their time soliciting bribes (campaign funds), chasing interns, feeding at Washington’s most exclusive eateries, taking meaningless junkets, and cashing in on insider stock deals offered up by supplicatory lobbyists.

Prison Nation

January 29, 2014
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population – Finland: 59
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population – Ireland: 60
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population – Norway: 70
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population – Denmark: 70
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population  – North Korea (estimated): 700
  • Prisoners per 100,000 population – United States: 700
  • Number of prisoners in US: 2,400,000
  • Percent of world’s population living in the US: 5
  • Percent of world’s prisoners in US prisons: 25
  • Number of persons in US on probation or parole: 4,500,000
  • Percent of US prisoners in a federal prison for drug offenses: 51
  • Percent of US prisoners in a federal prison for murder: 1
  • Percent of US prisoners in a federal prison for robbery: 4
  • Percent of US prisoners in state or local prisons for drug offenses: 21
  • Percent increase in US prison population since 1980: 300
  • Percent of US prisoners in private prisons: 9
  • Number of US prisoners released each year: 650,000
  • Percent of released US prisoners re-arrested within 3 years: 67

Keep Our Prisons Full

January 28, 2014

The first piece of immigration legislation to make it out of Congressional committee last year was the SAFE (Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement) Act, passed by the House Judiciary Committee in June 2013. A few bills followed in July, before the entire reform process grounded to a halt. But with things starting back up again, it’s worth revisiting the SAFE Act, and the incredible powers it would bestow on state and local law enforcement.

The SAFE Act, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on a party line vote, would make it a crime to be in the U.S. illegally (currently it’s an “administrative violation”). That means undocumented immigrants would not just be deported, they’d serve a jail sentence before deportation. It’s an expensive proposition: The Congressional Budget Office estimates the SAFE Act would cost more than $22 billion between 2014 and 2018. The act also encourages states and cities to pass their own restrictive immigration laws, and it tasks local cops with enforcing existing federal law. The act would also encourage police departments to divert resources from policing violent and property crimes in favor of busting up immigrant communities.
The Atlantic

Why would the Congress (in this case, mostly Republicans) want to throw illegal immigrants in jail for a few years before deporting them?

Follow the money.prisoners

Prisons are a big business in the US (more in tomorrow’s post). With the legalization of marijuana making headway and with courts reducing sentences for drug dealers and users, somebody has to fill all those empty cells. There’s nothing sadder than a prison sitting empty and the first prisons likely to be emptied are the ones run by private corporations.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has a capacity of more than 80,000 beds in 65 correctional facilities. The GEO Group operates 57 facilities with a capacity of 49,000 offender beds. These guys can see their businesses going south if we don’t rustle up some more convicts in a hurry. You can bet they are pushing boatloads of bribes (er, campaign contributions) to congresscritters sympathetic to the notion of imprisoning illegal immigrants for 3 to 5 and then deporting them.

The Internet of Things

January 27, 2014

internetofthingsThe Internet of Things is the idea that devices connected to the Internet collect data and report it to users. Or, the devices themselves can act on the data.

Connect smart devices like laptops, smart phones, and tablets to ordinary household gadgets like refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens, thermostats, and door locks and a “smart home” now comes to life.

So what?

The whole concept of the Internet of Things is a good indication that the computer technology industry has run out of ideas. Consider the magic of The Internet of Things that some companies envision as “revolutionary:”

  • The Nest thermostat adjusts household temperature depending on usage patterns and billing rates. It can be controlled using a mobile app. How is this materially different from the programmable thermostats that have been around for decades? Well, it’s less secure than current thermostats because, now, anyone with a few hacking skills can turn off your furnace in the dead of winter or, alternately, put your fuel bill through the roof by setting the demand temperature to 90. A Nest thermostat costs $250. Recently, Google bought Nest for $3.2 billion.
  • LG Electronics offers users the ability to control their appliances by way of text messages. Do you really need an ongoing personal relationship with your coffee maker? Apparently Grindr isn’t working out so well for you.
  • The AllSeen Alliance, a consortium of companies like Cisco, Sharp and Panasonic, are manufacturing products compatible with a networked system to ensure these products can interact with each other. The only time your oven and clothes washer need to communicate would be if they were fomenting a strike.
  • Doctors supervising patients can monitor their medicine intake, blood pressure, sugar levels. The Internet of Things will alert them on line when something goes wrong with their patients. Since your doctor won’t do anything anyway, better the Internet of Things should just call the undertaker when the time comes. Cut out the middle man.
  • The Internet of Things can turn the lights on and off whenever the owner is out on vacation just to create the impression that somebody is still home. Light timers have been around for, what, 50-75 years?
  • Smart refrigerators can tell when you’re out of beer. Finally, an idea worth considering.
  • Devices on The Internet of Things can monitor sleep patterns, workout measurements, sugar levels, blood pressure and share these data using social media accounts. Are you guys fucking crazy?

Smart Meters

January 26, 2014

smartmeterSometime soon, your friendly local utility company is going to make an offer you can’t refuse: “Let us install a smart meter for your electricity (or gas) service and you’ll save money while helping save the environment.”

Refuse their generous offer.

Smart meters will allow your utility to monitor your power consumption, 24/7.

There are two serious consequences to this scheme:

  • Since the meters are wireless, anyone with some tech savvy can monitor your power consumption. This is a boon to residential burglars since they can cruise a neighborhood for a few days and quickly ID homes that are unoccupied. The makers of these meters will assure you that only authorized personnel can read them. However, the meter manufacturers and power companies are all but silent about the cryptographic security of these devices. All of them are hackable, most by your neighbor’s teenage kid.
  • These meters are addressable. That means your utility can send commands to, say, arbitrarily ration your power or cut you off entirely. These meters allow the power company to regulate the amount of power you can use at certain times. They can cut you back on a hot day so your air conditioner won’t run when you need it most. You sweat, while the power company avoids having to invest in needed generation and distribution equipment.

Smart citizens will not voluntarily allow utilities to install these meters Utilities will go crying to government for legislation to ‘save the environment.’ So, you can expect governments to try to make them mandatory. If smart meters show up on a legislative agenda near you, make some noise. This is just another Big Brother, Big Corporation scheme to screw taxpayers and customers.

Take time to read this neat piece of propaganda from EPB Electric Power.

Read between the lines.

Wind Farms

January 25, 2014


Among the worst ideas of the Green Movement is wind energy. Expensive, unreliable, ugly, and (if you’re a bird or a bat) deadly.

Countless vistas of gorgeous, endless deserts and prairies in the United States have been blighted by these hideous structures, night skies ruined by their blinking red lights and flashing strobes.

Most of the land in the United States where there is enough wind to support the economics of wind power is far from populated areas. Even if the wind power is cheap to produce at the source, it is no longer competitive by the time it has been transmitted 500 miles to some city that can use it.

The solution, of course, is to build the windmills nearer the cities. But land near major coastal cities is expensive. So why not put the windmills in the ocean? Great idea. Destroy yet another frontier.

The most entertaining of these projects is Cape Wind, a $2.6 billion dollar wind farm to be built off the shores of Cape Cod, summer playground for the rich and famous. Oh, they howled when Cape Wind was proposed but the environmentalists prevailed, presumably persuading the Kochs, Rockefellers, Clintons, Kennedys, Obamas, et al that they could hardly oppose such a sensible response to the crisis of global warming without revealing themselves as hypocrites.

Well, at least Cape Wind will provide jobs for Americans, right? Sorry. Cape Wind initially promoted the project partially on the strength of providing jobs for Americans. But GE, their biggest player, backed out in 2009, saying offshore power was too expensive. Not to worry. Cape Wind is on its way to getting federal loan guarantees so that it can buy towers, blades, turbines, switchgear, and transmission equipment from Germany and Denmark. Mass Tank, a US bidder for some of the Cape Wind project (and its federal money) was told their services would not be needed.

Jobs for Americans? Yes there should be a few, mostly plucking dead birds out of the water lest they prove an embarrassment to the Greenies.

Birds flying near wind turbine