Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When Puppies Go Bad

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Detroit News: Puppies are latest commodity for Internet scams

And now for the latest scam from Nigeria -- puppies.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus and American Kennel Club today will issue a warning about fraudulent Web sites, MySpace postings and print ads asking people to help save puppies who are in desperate straits.
The sites and ads usually show adorable bulldog puppies that have become stuck somehow in Nigeria or other countries and are offered free to new owners. A variation is to offer the purebred, English bulldogs -- a particularly expensive breed -- at vastly discounted prices.
People who responded to the ads eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover expenses such as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations on an ever escalating scale.
Some reported paying fees totaling more $1,500.
"It's like the Nigerian advance fee scams we've been seeing for years, except with the face of a puppy," said Steve Cox, a council vice president.
No matter how much was paid, no puppies arrived.

We've built up our defenses. We know better than to believe all those ads for Viagra...Cheap! We turn our nose up at red hot stock tips, Real Live Girls (thank God they're not Real Dead Girls), and even at flush Nigerian Princes in dire Straits. Now we have to face down adorable little puppy faces in our inbox! How will we do it?

Seriously, though, you have to wonder about anyone who would send money to one of these scams.

Sicko indeed

NYT:‘Sicko,’ Castro and the ‘120 Years Club’
“Sicko,” the talk of the Cannes Film Festival last week, savages the American health care system — and along the way extols Cuba’s system as the neatest thing since the white linen guayabera.

Mr. Moore transports a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film, which is scheduled to open in the United States next month, and he is apparently dumbfounded that they could get there what they couldn’t get here.

....Universal health care has long given the Cuban regime bragging rights, though there is growing concern about the future. In the decades that Cuba drew financial and military support from the Soviet Union, Mr. Castro poured resources into medical education, creating the largest medical school in Latin America and turning out thousands of doctors to practice around the world.

But that changed after the collapse of the Soviets, according to Cuban defectors like Dr. Leonel Cordova. By the time Dr. Cordova started practicing in 1992, equipment and drugs were already becoming scarce. He said he was assigned to a four-block neighborhood in Havana Province where he was supposed to care for about 600 people.

“But even if I diagnosed something simple like bronchitis,” he said, “I couldn’t write a prescription for antibiotics, because there were none.”

He defected in 2000 while on a medical mission in Zimbabwe and made his way to the United States. He is now an urgent-care physician at Baptist Hospital in Miami.

Having practiced medicine in both Cuba and the United States, Dr. Cordova has an unusual perspective for comparison.

“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.

But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets — they have to bring everything.” And up to 20,000 Cuban doctors may be working in Venezuela, creating a shortage in Cuba.

So Mr. Moore passed off as fact a government dog and pony show about how wonderful life is in the Workers' Paradise. Too bad the reality for the workers in Cuba isn't quite so pretty.

First Amendment Follies

CNN:University president recommends firing professor
The president of the University of Colorado has recommended that a professor who likened some September 11 victims to a Nazi should be fired, according to the professor and the school.

Ward Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, has denied the allegations and threatened a lawsuit if he is dismissed.

......Churchill touched off a firestorm with an essay likening some victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, who helped carry out the Holocaust.

University officials concluded he could not be fired for his comments because they were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into allegations that he fabricated or falsified his research and plagiarized.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the First Amendment. No one has a First Amendment Right to a job. If you say or do something offensive in the course of your employment your employer has every right to tell you to get lost. Mr. Churchill has every right to say whatever asinine thing that might happen to flutter between his ears, but he does not have the right to a State funded platform to speak from. It's not censorship to tell you I want my megaphone back.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Food to Die For

Chicago Tribune:Monkfish recalled as 2 sickened in Chicago
A California company on Thursday recalled thousands of pounds of frozen fish from China after two people in Chicago became ill from eating what may have been toxic pufferfish, officials said.

The fish was labeled monkfish, but federal officials found life-threatening levels of tetrodotoxin in the fish. The toxin is typically associated with pufferfish.

....The fish recall is the latest problem food product from China, a leading exporter of food and food ingredients.

In March, chemical-laced pet food ingredients from China were blamed in the deaths of more than 4,000 cats and dogs in the U.S. and Canada. On Thursday, the FDA began monitoring Chinese toothpaste imports because tainted products were found in other countries.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said Thursday that China had agreed to consider upgrading its food safety standards.

The pufferfish poison "is really one of the most toxic things that you can find in food," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It really illustrates the weakness in the U.S. program for overseeing imports."

Imagine for a moment a US company poisoned a customer due to poor quality control and after the fact regulators announced the company had agreed to consider upgrading its food safety standards. Allowing Chinese companies to skip the most basic food safety standards is not only bad for American consumers but it is unfair competition for American producers.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stupidity: The New Extreme Sport

CNN/Sports Illustrated: Hancock's father files suit

The father of Josh Hancock filed suit Thursday, claiming a restaurant provided drinks to the St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher even though he was intoxicated prior to the crash that killed him.

The suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court by Dean Hancock of Tupelo, Miss., does not specify damages. Mike Shannon's Restaurant, owned by the longtime Cardinals broadcaster who starred on three World Series teams in the 1960s, is a defendant in the case along with Shannon's daughter, Patricia Shannon Van Matre, the restaurant manager.

Other defendants include Eddie's Towing, the company whose flatbed tow truck was struck by Hancock's sport utility vehicle in the early hours of April 29; tow truck driver Jacob Edward Hargrove; and Justin Tolar, the driver whose stalled car on Interstate 64 was being assisted by Hargrove.

The Cardinals and Major League Baseball were not listed as defendants.

Authorities said the 29-year pitcher had a blood content of nearly twice the legal limit for alcohol in his system when he crashed into the back of the tow truck. He was also speeding, using a cell phone and wasn't wearing a seat belt, Police Chief Joe Mokwa said after the accident. Marijuana also was found in the SUV.

I hope they not only lose but are successfully countersued for property damage and endangering the tow truck driver and motorist's lives. Come to think of it, really they could actually have saved the estate millions. Had the dearly departed drunkard hit a pedestrian or a smaller vehicle with his Speeding SUV they could be the ones on the receiving end of the lawsuit (and the victims would actually have a case). As it is, the stopped tow truck provided a way for Mr. Hancock to win his Darwin award without harming anyone else, a public service if you will.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

China: Free Trader

Financial Times: China's Unbalanced Economy
In the meantime, China's extraordinary economic energy and its deep supplies of cheap capital and labour continue to make it an ever more formidable competitor.

China has been happy to facilitate this trend through protectionism. In a little noticed decision, China in March ended tariff exemptions for nearly 200 kinds of industrial equipment, such as smelting and mining machinery and packing materials, imported for use by local companies. The finance ministry said the 30 per cent tariff had been restored to "create a fair environment for domestic equipment makers to compete with foreign rivals through innovation".

Tut tut! We can't have protectionism interfering with the US-China trade relationship.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why improve what you do when you can rebrand?

Jeff Masters: A New Name for the National Hurricane Center

Administrators at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) are making moves to promote their "Corporate Identity" by renaming the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service, according to an article published yesterday in the Miami Herald. The new organizations would be called the "NOAA Hurricane Center" and the "NOAA Weather Service". The proposed changes are being vigorously opposed by new NHC director Bill Proenza, who said, "what's happening is scary."

........Proenza also complained that NOAA is spending between $1.5 million and $4 million on a "bogus" 200-year NOAA anniversary celebration (NOAA was founded in 1970, although some of its component organizations are 200 years old). I do believe that NOAA has a name recognition problem, and that it needs to spend some public relations money to get their name more recognized by the public. Public relations campaigns are essential for any organization to succeed in today's world. However, I think NOAA is going about their public relations campaign the wrong way. The amount being spent on the 200-year anniversary celebration is excessive, given NOAA's stinginess in funding important hurricane research. Furthermore, NOAA should leave the names of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service alone. Departments of NOAA should be named, recognized, and funded based on their individual missions and function, not based on those of their parent organization. NHC and NWS have worked hard to earn their name recognition, and it would be wrong for NOAA to change their names.

Well W certainly has made government more like business. Idiotic "rebranding" exercises that do not create value (other than for the contractors tasked with designing the new corporate "identity". Add on to this the agency spending millions for a celebration when they are cutting money for hurricane research proves Washington can be just as short sighted as Wall Street.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Throw the Deputy Off the Train

CNN: Number 2 Official at Justice Resigning

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, has resigned, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced Monday.

McNulty cited personal reasons for his resignation, which he said will be effective at an unspecified date in late summer.

.......His resignation comes amid a controversy over the department's firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year, a move that has sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill. He was one of the key figures in meetings and discussions about the shakeup, and investigators from the House and Senate Judiciary committees grilled him for more than eight hours in April.

I guess they're still trying to save Alberto by throwing McNulty under the bus. He should be able to hit the ground running though, I understand there will probably be an opening at the World Bank soon.

Apocalypse Soon

NY Times:Iran Is Stepping Up Nuclear Work

Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency’s top officials.

The findings may change the calculus of diplomacy in Europe and in Washington, which aimed to force a suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities in large part to prevent it from learning how to produce weapons-grade material.

In a short-notice inspection of Iran’s operations in the main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the United Nations Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts here.

So the Iranians are working up to their own bomb. Bush, having expended trillions to remove WMDs from Iraq (if only we could find them) now seems to be getting in touch with his inner Jimmy Carter. Diplomacy has failed, but having pissed away America's options in an Iraq obsession worthy of Cap'n Ahab, he's standing like a deer in the headlights stammering to the Iranians "or else! or else!". Well, Mr. President, the Iranians just asked "or else what?"

PBS bowing to La Raza

CNN: Latinos give PBS a History Lesson

There is an ongoing battle between filmmaker Ken Burns and a coalition of Hispanic veterans, organizations and lawmakers over plans by Burns and the Public Broadcasting System to release a documentary on World War II that ignores the 500,000 Hispanics who fought in the war.

Now there could be a truce. After initially insisting that he wouldn't make any changes, Burns said last week that he would re-edit the film to add stories about Hispanic soldiers -- not as an addendum as was suggested earlier in a lame compromise, but as part of the film itself.

This is what the "multiculturalism" (i.e. anti-European culture) revolution has wrought. Once PBS fellates this vocal minority, who's to say who should be left out? Over 16 million Americans Served in the Second World War, so this documentary is being derailed because advocacy groups think 3% of those who served should get marquee placement. I would wager a hell of a lot more folks of Scot, Irish, and German heritage fought. Should each of these groups get their 15 minutes? What bout Poles? Why not slice it by Religions? We could spend time lauding the achievements of Mormons, Pentecostals, Catholics, Presbyterians, etcetera. We could even work in Social Clubs: Knights, Masons, and Elks. Oh my! I hope Mr. Burns didn't have any plans for his screen time beyond giving gold stars to all of the very, very, very special subgroups.

The folks pushing for the political rewriting of history are the same ones who claim we are helpless to deal with 12 million illegal immigrants. They are unworthy of those they pretend to defend, who took on the greatest challenge of the century and prevailed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Kick em all out

Sirotablog:The Secret Bush-Democratic Trade Deal & What It Means
hursday, May 10th was a whirlwind day on the political frontlines in the War on the Middle Class, as a handful of senior congressional Democrats and the White House - cheered on by K Street lobbyists - joined forces today to announce a "deal" on a package of trade agreements that could impact millions of American workers and potentially calls into question the entire election mandate of 2006 (I say potentially because the full details are still being concealed by both Democrats and the White House).

And I looked from pigs to men, men to pigs, and I could not tell the difference.

Dodge is Dead

Detroit News: Cerebrus has agreement to buy Chrysler Corp

Cerberus Capital Management has reached agreement to buy the Chrysler Group in what would be a landmark acquisition of a major automaker by a private-equity firm, according to people close to the sale process.
The deal follows marathon negotiations between New York-based Cerberus and DaimlerChrysler AG, and is expected to be formally announced as soon as Monday.

The private equity craze (much like the corporate raiders of the 80s memorialized in Wall Street ) exists to extract wealth, not create it. Ah-nuld must be dancing with glee.

One interesting thing about the Democratic frontrunners

One thing that struck me yesterday listening to a newscast is the ties all three Democratic frontrunners have to the medical field.

Hillary Clinton is of course was involved in the failed Health Care reform plan in her husband's administration.

Elizabeth Edwards is a patient with a Chronic disease

Michelle Obama just resigned her role as a Hospital Executive (granted, in Community Relations) to help with her husband's campaign.

I wonder how their perspectives on three sides of the Health care debate will shape their policies.

Good Clean Fun

The Evangelical Outpost:A Lesson in Web Etiquette for the Huffington Post

The Family Research Council caught one of the Huffington Post's loony-left bloggers swiping bandwidth, so they didn't get mad, they got even. Aforementioned loony left blogger, shown by subsequent events to be incapable of learning from his mistakes, reacts by calling everyone involved racists and muttering darkly that they haven't seen the last of him before stomping off to cry in the corner. One of the first lessons I learned in school was if you think you're being picked on making a big scene complaining about it doesn't make it go away. Of course, one could also note the loony left's propensity for character assassination even as they condemn it.

One of the depressing things about the likely Democratic Victory is the Kossacks are going to be sure that it represents an endorsement of their ideas and style. The upside is the inevitable backlash will be epic. Some of the out there Liberal bloggers have some decent things to say, but they haven't learned yet that calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist Christofascist has the same charm value as calling everyone who disagrees with you a Socialist Defeatocrat. Hopefully the grownups will eventually rise to the fore.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Comparative Dissonance

David Sirota with a heavy duty assist from Byron Dorgan, takes on "comparative advantage"

The fact is, those pushing for basic labor, human rights and environmental standards are the ones most interested in respecting Ricardo's theory of "comparative advantage." If global trade had basic standards, then we would be closer to a situation where natural advantages (soil, geography, minerals, etc.) or even human-supported positive investments (education, infrastructure, etc.) would create real comparative advantages, rather than today's situation where artificial negative problems (bad labor, environmental, or human rights protections) create manipulated advantages.

The other issue is that improved communications and transportation has led to much freer flows of information. So American researchers might do the basic research, Indian engineers may work out the details, and Chinese factory workers assemble the product: all under the umbrella of a European multinational. Ricardo's model is not as directly applicable to 21st century mercantilist corporations as it would be to 18th Century agricultural trade. That isn't to say that free trade may not be a good thing, but the current invocation of Ricardo whenever the trade debate heats up sounds more like tokenism than a really strong argument.

The Terrorists Work for the Airlines now

ABC News:California Man May Go to Prison for Kissing on a Plane

A California man may pay with prison time for a public display of affection on a plane.

Carl Persing was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members after he and his girlfriend, Dawn Sewell, were seen "embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable," according to a criminal complaint.

According to assistant U.S. Attorney John Bowler, Persing will likely serve jail time for the federal felony conviction, the Associated Press reports. He was convicted after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Va.

.......Persing's conviction is the latest example of how in the wake of 9/11 and new security regulations, many airlines have become increasingly vigilant -- perhaps even uptight -- about minor infractions. And many passengers realize they need to be on their best behavior when they take a flight.

......Although it usually covers serious criminal activity, the Patriot Act can apply to minor infractions on flights.

"You can't make any threatening gesture to an attendant because it does violate the Patriot Act," explained Slepian. "They don't want you getting out of your seat except to go the lavatory. The whole idea is to keep control. If you react to the attendant, you're going to get locked up."

.....One passenger on a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was arrested for leaving his seat to go to the lavatory less than 30 minutes before landing (due to the incident, air marshals ordered all passengers to put their hands on their heads for the rest of the flight).....

Who is stupid enough to fly anymore? I didn't sign up for the Abu Gharab treatment as a citizen of a "free" country. This kind of horsecrap is what you get when Political correctness (we can't focus on the people most likely to be suspects)combined with authoritarianism (security through terror!).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A parting gift from "El Presidente"

Reuters:Mexico sees full U.S. access for truckers in 2008

Mexican and U.S. cargo trucks will likely have unlimited access to highways in both countries from July 2008, ending a 25-year restriction on cross-border trade, the Mexican government said on Tuesday.

Mexican officials said 100 trucking companies chosen from each country would be able to roam freely from July 15 this year in a year-long program that should precede a full opening of the borders to freight haulers.

"We expect trucks to be able to travel freely throughout North America by the summer of 2008," said Beatriz Leycegui, Mexico's deputy minister for international trade negotiations......

Deputy Transport Minister Manuel Rodriguez acknowledged that there was substantial U.S. opposition to relaxing limits on cross-border traffic. He said Mexican truck companies could operate more cheaply than their U.S. counterparts.

Asked how the two countries had overcome the opposition, he said: "The government of President (George W.) Bush has given us the necessary assurances that they are on board, because they believe in this."

This is what we have to look forward to for the next two years. Bush doesn't have to face the voters again and is going to ram through every item on his rich buddies' nasty little wish list. Somebody's gotta pay the green fees....and it sure ain't gonna be him (kinda like the whopper of a deficit he's leaving behind)