January 31, 2011
Minding Our Betters – 01/31/2011
Wisdom, as imparted to the peasantry by our political representatives, opinion makers, and others who would seek to lead us:
Chris Matthews, respected MSNBC pundit providing his viewers with a geography lesson:
“[Egypt] is so strategically located. It has of course, the Nile River. It has of course, the Panama Canal…”
Chuck Schumer, Powerful Senior Senator from New York opining on the complexities of the Constitutional separation of powers:
“So I would urge my Republican colleagues, no matter how strong they feel — you know, we have three branches of government: we have a House, the Senate, we have a President, and all three of us are going to have to come together and give some.”
Judith Stone, president of Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, commenting on what she believes to be the most important criteria for measuring states’ safety records:
“Stone says the group does not consider fatalities when issuing its annual report card on states. ‘We look at laws and whether they've been passed.’"
Frank Lautenberg, respected Senior Senator from New Jersey, responding to Tucson killings in which the shooter purchased his firearm after passing a full background check:
“While the tragedy in Tucson weighs heavily on the national conscience, it’s business as usual for gun show dealers who continue to peddle dangerous guns without a background check.”
January 30, 2011
Weekend Pictorial – Our Cups Runneth Over… With Guilt! – 01/30/2011
All We Wanted Was a Cup With Coffee
This cup, not unlike that annoying girl in your art history class, has a cause. And not just any cause, but a cause supported by a celebrity!
And what if you don’t purchase a celebrity-designed coffee cup to help 7-11 support celebrity causes?
What, you like cancer?
Hey, a Used Coffee Sleeve!
This “ecotainer” coffee sleeve is made of 100% recycled fiber 60% of which is considered “post-consumer.” What is “pre-consumer" fiber then? It’s not exactly recycled, it's just the stuff industries have left over after they’ve made something else.
For the record, we have long been ardent supporters of cycling.
Paying Too Much, One Cup at a Time
Yet another ecotainer we came across this past week informs us that we are "making a difference - one cup at a time."
What if you, too, would like to be "making a difference - one cup at a time?"
Unless you want to hear from Internationl Paper's trademark lawyers, we suggest you find some other way to make a difference.
We're thinking, "one spork at a time."
January 28, 2011
WEEK 1 – Our 21st-Century Regulatory System
President Obama last week launched his “21st-Century Regulatory System” initiative that would not only promote “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation," but also “root out regulations that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb,” and yet at the same time “won't shy away from addressing obvious gaps.”
How’s he doing? We carefully examine the Federal Register, the government’s compendium of federal activity, to find out:
Monday, January 24, 2011
When you stop to think how the federal government can foster innovation the better to ensure our success in a competitive world, one thing surely comes to mind:
“I sure hope we’re employing at least 21 permanent full-time people studying sheep grazing.”
Could we keep up with China if we weren’t?
ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
SUMMARY: The Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES), Dubois, Idaho is proposing sheep grazing and associated activities to achieve its research goals and objectives (to develop integrated methods for increasing production efficiency of sheep and to simultaneously improve the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems).
The final Environmental Impact Statement allowing a department dedicated to studying sheep grazing to graze sheep is not expected to be finalized until next March.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. If you want to create jobs, there are only a handful of tools available to the federal government. One of those tools is revising “the quantity of Class 3 native spearmint oil that handlers may purchase from, or handle on behalf of, producers during the 2010-2011 marketing year.”
SUMMARY: …This rule increases the Native spearmint oil salable quantity from 980,220 pounds to 1,118,639 pounds, and the allotment percentage from 43 percent to 50 percent. The marketing order regulates the handling of spearmint oil produced in the Far West and is administered locally by the Spearmint Oil Administrative Committee (Committee). The Committee unanimously recommended this rule for the purpose of avoiding extreme fluctuations in supplies and prices and to help maintain stability in the Far West spearmint oil market.
If there's one obvious gap that needs addressing in our regulatory system, it's the lack of government-mandated pricing cartels.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
There is no question that this regulation is worth the cost:
Abstract: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to collect economic information from golden-crab landing commercial fishermen in the U.S. South Atlantic region.
Estimated Number of Respondents: 9.
Estimated Time per Response: 1 hour.
Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 9.
Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $0.
Note to self: Do NOT become a golden-crab landing commercial fishermen in the U.S. South Atlantic region. The pay is awful.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
AGENCY: United States International Trade Commission.
ACTION: Revised schedule for the adequacy phase of the subject five-year review concerning the antidumping duty order on granular polytetrafluoroethylene resin (``granular PTFE resin'') from Italy.
The International Trade Commission: Protecting U.S. businesses from having to pay too little for their raw materials.
Friday, January 28, 2011
And finally, this important announcement regarding the publication of the highly anticipated National Highway Traffic Safety Administration annual insurer report on motor vehicle theft.
SUMMARY: This notice announces publication by NHTSA of the annual insurer report on motor vehicle theft for the 2005 reporting year. Section 33112(h) of Title 49 of the U.S. Code, requires this information to be compiled periodically and published by the agency in a form that will be helpful to the public, the law enforcement community, and Congress.
Because where else are you going to get information regarding the motor vehicle theft rates of brand new Hummers, Pontiacs, or Saturns?
January 27, 2011
It’s Less Cumbaya And More Cash-n-Carry
What could possibly bring together the United States Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, two organizations that often find themselves in bitter disagreement over issues of public and private policy? The one thing that always tends to unite people in common purpose, no matter what their prior antipathies:
In a joint statement, the traditional adversaries extolled the virtues of President Obama’s call for giving more of your money to their members:
“America’s working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama’s call to give us your money by spending it on pet political projects.”
“Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only give money to union members and business owners, they are an investment in building the modern lobbying infrastructure our members need to compete for sweetheart government deals.”
We may have paraphrased that a little.
Still, we need to spend money on our crumbling infrastructure,… wait, sorry, spend more money on our crumbling infrastructure given its advanced state of crumbleage.
Of course, It’s been crumbling for a long time now.
October 22, 1982: RX For State’s Crumbling Infrastructure
April 17, 1992: A Warning: Old Cities Crumbling
March 10, 2005: Crumbling Infrastructure Erodes American Quality of Life
Artist’s conception of our crumbling infrastructure:
As the President pointed out in his State of the Union address, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave us a “D” on our infrastructure report card.
The ASCE is very serious about our crumbling infrastructure. For example, take this interview with the president of the ASCE, Blaine Leonard:
HOST: And if that bridge collapse in 2007 (I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis) was a big wakeup call to the country, do you think that there's been significant progress made since then?
Mr. LEONARD: No, unfortunately, really not. It was a wakeup call. Some people started talking about doing some things, but the fact of the matter is the infrastructure continues to decline.
This is unfortunate, although made slightly less unfortunate by the fact that the bridge collapse in 2007 was due to a design flaw and had absolutely nothing at all to do with giving insufficient amounts of your money to the Chamber of Commerce or AFL-CIO.
Also, the trend has actually been reversing for years meaning our infrastructure has many years of crumbling ahead of it.
But none of that is important. What’s important is that we have managed to achieve bipartisan agreement between two old adversaries who have somehow managed to set aside their differences and work together to get the government to hand your money over to them.
No one said bipartisanship was going to be cheap.
January 26, 2011
Innovation: American Style
In his State-of-the-Union speech last night, President Obama called on America to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”
Specifically, he thinks we need to be faster.
“To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information – from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.”
“Just recently, China became home to… the world’s fastest computer.”
“China is building faster trains.“
You want fast, Mr. President? Okay, we’ll give you fast.
American ingenuity at its finest. You want high-speed rail? How about some high-speed ale?
Now, let’s see how fast the Chinese pour their beer.
We call that a “high-speed fail.”
Within 25 years, our goal should be to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed ale, which could allow you to get drunk in half the time it takes to with a regular tap. For some, it would be faster than a beer bong. As we speak, Bottoms up Dispensers in Philadelphia and Las Vegas are already in operation.
Mr President, you said, "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation." Let's win the future by pouring beers in a cup faster than anyone else.
Now if only they could make this work with gin and a martini glass…
January 25, 2011
State of the Union Address/Four Loko Live Blog
They say it can’t be done, that you can’t live blog a State of the Union address and drink Four Loko at the same time, well we’re about to…
Wait, sorry. We misunderstood. They said it “shouldn’t” be done, not that it can’t.
Okay, that’s different. But regardless, we’re going through with it.
So, why the combination? How is the President’s SOTU address and Four Loko alike? They both have a lot in common:
Both come in attractive, eye-catching packaging enticing you to want to give them a try.
Both had a really bad time of it last fall.
And both have come out with new revamped versions of themselves.
For example, Four Loko has eliminated all the stimulants.
Barack Obama has eliminated all the gray.
Wait, that’s not right.
The President has remade himself into Barack Obama 2.0.
Updates to follow as we settle in.
8:24 PM: For the record, I am NOT going to sit here and get drunk on Four Loko while watching the State of the Union. That would be a bit much, even for me.
I'm going to start with beer.
8:38 PM: Ed Schultz on MSNBC in advocating for (yet again) increased federal funding for education notes that 60% of our public school buildings are over 50 years old.
Interesting data point. Over 60% of my house is over 70 years old. Maybe the federal government can redo my basement.
8:47 PM: Chris Matthews on MSNBC: That's why I like "rail" it brings back jobs, in steel, factories...
We have a better idea. Steamships. We need a federal steamship initiative. It will bring back blacksmithing jobs, woodworking, tanneries...
Not sure about the Four Loko, either.
9:07 PM: The Reason State of the Union Drinking Game.
Great, and I'm choking down Four Loko.
9:12 PM: Obama congratulates the new speaker, John Boehner. He somehow manages to keep it together.
9:13 PM: Tucson shooting, which had nothing to do with politics, makes us all pause to think about how we can make politics nicer.
9:18 PM: "but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making." Translation: "It's not my fault."
9:19 PM: "Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100." He knows that's a good thing, right? Right?
9:20 PM: The Chinese have the world's largest solar powered computer. We think we heard that right.
9:21 PM: "Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age." Uh oh, angry dad is back.
9:24 PM: "We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology." "We're" already investing in the first two. There's a reason why "we're" not investing in the latter.
9:28 PM: "Tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources." And 80% of your salary will go to pay for your clean electric bill!
9:32 PM: Dad doesn't think you've been respectful enough of your teachers. It's not that he's angry with you. He's... disappointed.
9:34 PM: "That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks." Translation: "That's why I nationalized the student loan industry."
9:37 PM: Undocumented workers "still living in the shadows." Also, convenience store parking lots.
9:38 PM: "We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians." Umm, this sounds really really familiar.
9:42 PM: Obama wants to lower tax rates and sign free trade agreements. MSNBC is reported to be in flames.
9:44 PM: He's going to end unnecessary regulations. Except for the ones he likes. Which, and this is only preliminary, appears to be all of them.
9:47 PM: President is willing to fix health care where it needs it. But we get to keep the ponies.
9:49 PM: "So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years." That reminds us. We're going to buy a Porsche, a condo in Key West and then promise the wife we're going to "freeze our spending."
9:54 PM: "And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans... It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success." American's who aren't millionaires. Who are millionaires because they became successful. He may not understand that.
9:56 PM: "Both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it." Oh no! What about the Mitch McConnell Distance Learning Center and Loop Trail? What about the the James E. Clyburn Pedestrian Overpass?
9:59 PM: "And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family." Just a reminder. He's pretty sure you're a racist.
10:04 PM: I really expected something new tonight. But it's pretty much the same thing only without the extra stimulants. The Four Loko is still pretty vile too.
10:06 PM: Obama calls for ROTC to be welcome on all college campuses. At MSNBC it is reported that anchors are trying to light the embers back on fire so they can burn the place down again.
10:09 PM: "That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth." Yeah, he got Boehner to cry. Of course, that's like getting me to drink.
10:12 PM: Catch line of the night: "We do big things." Runners up: "We do stuff." "Wow, check us out," "That's really something." and "Look, yeah."
10:25 PM: GOP Congressman Paul Ryan is on. I like Paul Ryan, but I really wish I had drunk the old-style caffienated Four Loko.
10:37 PM: We're pretty sure he loves his country. Also, America is great. As is freedom. We don't think we missed anything.
10:48 PM: Frank Luntz focus group believes Obama fell short of expectations. Had they been drinking Four Loko, they would have felt he fell short of expectations, AND be sick in their stomach.
10:56 PM: For the record, she also loves America.
11:18 PM: A few final observations. Obama plans to focus laser-like on the economy and jobs after two full years in office during which there was intractable unemployment. Other things the President is hoping to get to this year:
Catch up on season 5 of Lost.
Get those 2009 taxes filed.
Check out what all the excitement over Avatar is about.
We have an idea on how to cut goverment spending. Any cabinet secretary Obama hasn't talked to since he became president, gets their entire department cut.
Now you'll have to excuse us. We have to find a way to wash this vile Four Loko taste out of our mouth. Lye isn't that bad for you, is it? Really, Four Loko without large amounts of stimulants is like professional hockey without a fight. What's the point?
Stop, And I’ll Shoot!
Over the weekend a New York City police officer shot an innocent 76-year-old unarmed man in the stomach during an early morning drug raid on his apartment in search of his son who was suspected of dabbling in drugs frowned upon by the authorities.
We know what you’re thinking, “My God, that’s awful! Do you have any update, any information at all, on how that poor police officer is doing?”
You bet we do, courtesy of the New York Times which wrote a sympathetic follow up story titled “For a Police Family in New York, Yet Another Test,” detailing the travails of the officer and his family following the tragic events in which he shot an innocent 76-year-old unarmed man in the stomach.
Oh, and the old guy is doing okay too, we guess.
That still leaves the question of why the police officer shot an elderly man.
Naturally, our first thought was that there weren’t any dogs available. Or maybe there was a dog behind the elderly man that the officer was trying to shoot or possibly the man was wearing a T-shirt from The Black Dog Tavern, and the officer was shooting at that, but as it turns out, police the next day said that the officer was actually just trying to turn on his flashlight. As one police source put it:
"He went to hit the button to put the flashlight on, but instead, the weapon fired.”
This is a useful rhetorical formulation in which despite totally benign intentions, something bad happens of indeterminate responsibility. This is something you can use in your own life. For example:
“I went to buy some bed linens, but instead a 70” HDTV was purchased.”
“I went to turn on ESPN, but instead our son’s college fund was lost on a football game.”
“I went to make a tofu sandwich, but instead a pepperoni pizza got eaten.”
Remember, believability is not absolutely necessary.
So, what lessons can we learn from a situation in which police officers bust down someone’s door at 7:00 AM in the morning searching for someone who is taking drugs frowned upon by the authorities and end up shooting an innocent unarmed American citizen (in a totally isolated incident, of course) who was minding his own business?
Make sure you leave the lights on next time?
Always have a few dogs on hand “just in case?”
Mandatory trigger locks for flashlights?
If you’re Mayor Bloomburg you’re going to focus on the obvious:
We need to get guns out of the hands of people who are not police officers.
Hey, someone could get hurt!
Scheduling Note: Tonight we will be doing a “State of The Union/Four Loko” live blog. What does the President’s State of the Union speech and Four Loko have in common? Check in later to find out.
January 24, 2011
There’s Lies, Damned Lies, And Carefully Researched Washington Post Articles – Part II
As part of its continuing series investigating the role inanimate objects play in crime, the Washington Post this Sunday made a startling discovery:
When high-capacity magazines are legal, more people have them!
According to the Washington Post’s detailed scouring of Virginia police records, the number of guns seized in crimes that have high-capacity magazines is more than it used to be back when they were banned. This was clearly so newsworthy they gave it front-page, above-the-fold treatment for the Sunday paper complete with a dramatic red-colored bar graph to illustrate the increase, detailed statistics on the seizures, and quotes from experts noting that "…after a few years' lag time the prevalence of high-capacity magazines was declining. The increase since the ban's repeal is quite striking."
We know what you’re thinking, “At least you’re not writing about scrapple again.”
Also, “Wow, the increase since the ban’s repeal really is striking. What about the increase in crime and murders and general mayhem?”
Not so striking. In fact, it never really comes up.
Look, the Washington Post has limited resources. They can’t be expected to examine every little factoid you might whimsically desire.
Fortunately, here at Planet Moron we have access to advanced research tools including “Google” and the “Intertubes” that are apparently unavailable to a major metropolitan newspaper and found that violent crime rates and murders in Virginia declined both during the ban and after the ban meaning there is no demonstrable link whatsoever between crime, murder, deaths in general, and the number of rounds a magazine can hold. (Unless you want to argue that the increase in murders using "blunt objects" is a direct result of people being hit over the head with high-capacity magazines).
Sure, we may have some fancy-sounding facts on our side, but the Washington Post has something better: Selective anecdotes and guilt by association.
In fact, the Post goes into painstaking detail regarding the use of high-capacity magazines in crimes. How painstaking? Not quite so painstaking that they note the equal use of standard-capacity magazines in those very same crimes.
For example, in the Columbine shootings the Washington Post helpfully notes that police recovered “unspecified high-capacity magazines,” but forgot to mention (as we did last week) the very-much-specified low-capacity 10-round magazines used to equally deadly effect by one of the shooters.
And in discussing the Virginia Tech Shootings, the Washington Post notes that “Police recover three 15-round magazines.” (Emphasis in the original.) The Washington Post did not note that police also recovered a bunch of 10-round magazines.
Maybe the Internet was down that day.
The Post does quote the author of a 2004 study saying,
"Tentatively I was able to show that guns associated with large-capacity magazines tended to be associated with more serious crimes, more serious outcomes.”
How tentatively? So tentatively that his conclusion in the actual study (remember, we have Xfinity!) was:
It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime
• Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs[large capacity magazines] in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.
Undeterred, the Post also cites a number of additional examples when guns with high-capacity magazines were used in crimes, such as the man who shot his girlfriend, two people at a convenience store and himself, and the guy who shot a police officer and then killed himself.
In fact, most of the crimes the Post uses as examples end with the killer shooting himself.
The only obvious conclusion?
High-capacity magazines ensure criminals will always have enough ammunition to kill themselves.
Now THAT would have been a headline.
Given the Washington Post’s rigorous approach to statistical analysis and its dramatic interpretation of data that doesn’t appear to mean anything in particular, we look forward to the following headline:
In Virginia, high-capacity iPhone seizures rise
IPHONES INTROUCED IN ‘07
Flash drive capacity tracked by police.
January 23, 2011
Weekend Pictorial – Scrapple Edition – 01/23/2011
What kind of Christmas present comes wrapped in butcher paper?
If you said "a Christmas goose," you haven’t been paying attention.
We speak, of course, of scrapple, this particular gift coming from an older brother.
Having a slab of fresh scrapple straight from the butcher allows you to get a real close look at it.
This is not necessarily a good thing. See those dark spots? You don’t want to know what those are. And those lighter colored tan things? You don’t want to know what those are either. Let’s just say if you’ve never gone to a diner and asked what their unskinned pork jowl special-of-the-day is, you don’t want to delve too deeply into the the makeup of scrapple.
So what to do? Slice it up and brown it in butter.
Sure, you could slice up the Federal Register and brown it in butter and make it pretty appetizing, but there is something about the taste and texture of scrapple fried to a nice crisp brown. There are many ways to eat scrapple, but I prefer to eat it like waffles and pancakes, on a plate with syrup. Not a bad meal for a cold Sunday morning.
Speaking of which, it’s really cold in Washington DC.
January 21, 2011
Top Ten Things Peggy Noonan Probably Doesn’t Think You Need
Out: Inalienable rights that cannot be infringed upon.
In: Whether or not Peggy Noonan thinks you need it.
Peggy Noonan, one of the matriarchs of Reagan conservatism, sees no reason why you should be permitted by the authorities to have a pistol magazine that holds more bullets than Peggy Noonan thinks is absolutely necessary for her needs… er, your needs. Your needs, of course. As she says:
“What civilian needs a pistol with a magazine that loads 33 bullets and allows you to kill that many people without even stopping to reload?”
Ms. Noonan then answers her own question:
“No one but people with bad intent.”
Being the owners of a few pistol magazines that hold in excess of 30 rounds, we really had no idea that we had bad intent. We just thought it would be nice not to have to reload so much at the range and that they kind of looked cool, but what do we know? We’re not Peggy Noonan!
Ms. Noonan goes on:
“Those clips were banned once; the president should call for reimposing the ban.”
Some of you may be too young to remember those more innocent times when we all lived in peace and harmony, limited as we were to 10-round magazines. For example when one of the Columbine shooters went on his mass killing spree, all he had was a shotgun and a bag full of 10-round magazines for his carbine, meaning he had to go through the bother and hassle of reloading several times while methodically gunning down innocent people at will rather than being able to methodically gun down innocent people at will in a slightly more convenient manner.
You have President Clinton to thank for that.
(The other Columbine killer had some high-capacity magazines which is really weird seeing as they had been banned.)
Then some years later, after the ban had expired, the Virginia Tech murderer, apparently dissatisfied with his mixture of old-style 10-round magazines and newer 15-round magazines, hit upon a novel solution the magazine banners hadn’t considered:
Regardless, it’s important to note that the Tucson shooting spree was brought to an end when the shooter had to stop to reload.
The only thing that would make that argument more compelling would be if it were true. In fact, after successfully reloading a fresh 31-round magazine, the spring fortunately failed, providing survivors an opportunity to take him down.
None of this is important, what is important is what other things Peggy Noonan might think the hoi polloi doesn’t need:
Top Ten Things Peggy Noonan Probably Doesn’t Think You Need
- High-capacity magazines.
- NASCAR Hot Pass.
- Pabst Blue Ribbon.
- Anything sold on QVC.
- McRib Sandwich.
- Do-It-Yourself oil changes.
- Navel piercing.
- Anything to do with Branson, Missouri.
- Four Loko.
- Shopping at Penney’s.
Because we should all live the way a wealthy 60-year-old woman in New York would.