Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh, Yes, You Will Testify


Re-regulation drips closer every day with events like this.

Luggage system breakdown delays JFK flights

Backup has left American's terminal brimming with hundreds of bags

Baggage glitch forces delays, waiving of fees
July 30: A computer error crippled American Airlines' entire baggage handling system Wednesday, creating flight delays and forcing the airline to waive its baggage fees for the day. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Nightly News

updated 3:32 p.m. ET, Wed., July. 30, 2008

NEW YORK - A software glitch crippled the baggage handling system in an American Airlines terminal at Kennedy Airport on Wednesday, delaying some flights and causing a luggage pileup at the ticket counters.

The malfunction created big problems throughout the day for passengers flying out of Terminal 8, one of the newer buildings at JFK.

Thousands of customers had to leave their luggage behind and hope it would be delivered later. The breakdown was galling to some passengers already steamed over the airline's recent decision to start charging fees for each checked bag on flights within the United States and Canada.

"I'm just not happy. I think it's crazy," said Mike Howell, who was en route to San Diego after visiting New York City. "If they do charge people 15 dollars per bag, they should get it right."

The problem developed at around 4:45 a.m., when a piece of software failed in the computer that reads the bar code on each piece of tagged luggage, and then whisks the bag via conveyor belt to the proper gate.

With the automated system out of service, airline employees were forced to sort each bag by hand. They quickly became overwhelmed by the task.

The airline tried delaying flights for 60 to 90 minutes, hoping that would be enough extra time to get them loaded, but lots of luggage still didn't make it aboard.

The airline's engineers and technicians from the system developer were still working to diagnose the software problem Wednesday afternoon, said airline spokesman Tim Wagner.

Because of the crisis, American waived its fees Wednesday for travelers checking fewer than three bags at JFK. Starting in June, the airline, like most of its competitors, has charged $15 for one checked bag or $40 for two bags. Passengers may still carry on luggage for free.

The best luggage for getaways
With airlines now charging more for checked bags, many travelers are cramming too much into their carry-on bags. Lifestyle expert Elizabeth Mayhew joins NBC’s Lester Holt to discuss how you can save space without sacrificing your stuff.

Today show

Wagner noted, however, that a majority of the flights affected by Wednesday's baggage problem were international, and thus not subject to the fees in the first place.

The airline had about 67 scheduled departures at JFK on Wednesday.

Some bags were being diverted to nearby LaGuardia and Newark airports and put on alternative flights.

Wagner said he could offer no immediate estimate on how long it might take the airline to sort through the backlog and get each bag to its proper destination.

Look Familiar?

This is where we are headed.,8599,1827371,00.html

" But the 300 million or so Indians living in acute poverty are being crushed by inflation. If they thought washing the floors, driving the cars and cleaning the windows of the middle class would open the doors to a better life, they know now that they were wrong. With prices rising, their savings are being eaten away. Higher food and fuel prices are being driven by big changes in the global economy that look set to continue. Even the most cheerful optimist in the past decade has seen the huge divide between the haves and have-nots, but the hope has persisted that it would somehow go away. Inflation has set like cement into that divide, solidifying the gap between the two Indias. The future for the country is two futures: rosy and grim. Indian companies will buy more foreign businesses and more Indian children will starve. In economic terms, India has become neither the U.S. nor Sudan, but something in between — a Latin American republic with an entrenched class chasm. Higher levels of crime and social unrest are almost certain to follow. For years or decades to come, we will not be able to talk of one destiny for all the people of the country."

Your Tax Dollars At Work In Iraq.

"One example in the report is that the U.S. authority in Iraq decided the Iraqis needed a financial management information system but never considered the host country's requirements. As a result, the program was stopped because the Iraqi government did not support it and, more troubling, because the project leader was kidnapped."

Lost Another Bird

This adds to the B-52 lost off Guam. The birds are getting old.

Navy's Turn

Another confirming 4T sign: The captain and exec held accountable. When you can't hide, or blame your failures on somebody else, it's a 4T.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Little Primal Scream Therapy

They at least got one hearing. After being shit on for eight years, they needed the vent. This will probably be the last we'll ever hear of it, save for scattered confessions, prosecutions, and deathbed confessions.

Somebody's Bitter Already

Sticking it to unfriendly media has been an art since before Rome.

Yeah, he's (Obama) got his share of arrogance. If he wins, we'll just have to see what he does.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ted Stevens Indited!

One more Senate Seat.

Homes Drop 16% in May

DOJ Scandal Continues

A Democrat Makes Sense

Besides, he likes doggies.

Driving Declines, Gas Tax Revenues Shrink.

Looks like I'm not alone in trying to reduce my driving.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Generation Marker?

The shooter was a leading edge Boomer. If other incidents like this occur, it may mark the end of the Conservative Religious movement, as it is a de facto admission that they've lost.

Last Week Was Worse For McCain Than Thought

Now, he's confined to reacting to Obama's moves. I remember from my military training that once the other guy has forced you to react to him, and made it impossible to get inside the enemy's decision/ops cycle, you've lost.

So, You Have Found How Much Money In The Basement?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Super Lame

Media Outlets are businesses, and they have to sell product that is fresh. This administration is setting new records for lame-duck collapse.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Would Never Be Misused

A continuing feature: Information and security measures being abused by humans. You give them the tools, damn skippy they'll be abused. Today's episode is the guy who reported air marshal security lapses being put on the terrorist watch list.

Hospital Zone

Failure To Communicate

Every advance in communications technology was supposed to break down the barriers to true, human understanding. Books, the telegraph, radio, television, and now, the internet.

And each time, the Utopian vision has failed. Human beings do not change their world views voluntarily; they only do so after those world views/mindsets have failed. And some do not, even when utterly crushed (see: American Civil War).

So what do you say to an NCO (who you have met through the miracle of the internet), who can quote you chapter and verse on almost all military history, but cannot see the irony of his last assignment: Training AF and Navy support personnel to be light infantry and convoy drivers? How do you tell him that stripping the other services because the politicians won't start a draft is a sign of desperation? How do you tell him that the other services will suffer (see: AF screwups) because they are being overextended? Facts? Figures? Logic?

Never bring them to an opinion fight. This guy has been subject to the most insidious effect of the post-Viet Nam military: politicization. Not only has the society been warped during the Third Turning, much of the NCO and officer corps has been warped further. A military that can't see straight is doomed. We've created a corps of Imperial Grunt/Martyrs, who wonder why they are not winning, despite being God's Chosen/Gideon's Band. (Heinlien's Starship Troopers?)

All they want is a little ego stroking on the level of The Pope (thank you, Tom Wolfe).

Note: this is not a blanket thing, but it describes the worst effects of the Great Push Right. 80%+ of officers described themselves as Republicans.

As a conservative, this scares me. We're screwing up our military.

We lose half of the brightest, and most gifted warriors before enlistment. If the military is seen as an appendage of one political party, it loses all credibility. Such a military will also pursue a failed policy until it's own destruction (because it means The End for the politicians who ordered it). Iraq has gone on longer than WW 2, and has cost more than Viet Nam, even adjusted for inflation. We've already fought WW 3 in equipment usage.

So what do you say to the lifer? Nothing. You are not going to convince him.

All you can do is fire the politicians who have created the mess. Even if it means swallowing your pride, and crossing political lines to do so. Let the lifer rave and scream from his trailer park. He's had his chance, and his time. Time for America to stop being Imperial Rome, and start being America again. With citizen-soldiers, not centurions. (Cylons?)

It will take two generations to recover. Let the healing begin.

Cultural Turning Change Marker

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Giant Leap For Wally's Health and Finances

I bought a bike yesterday.

I'm over six feet tall, with long arms and legs. Store-bought bicycles (Wal-Mart, etc) available in the last decade simply do not fit, and are tiring and muscle straining to ride. My Schwinn's that I owned when I was a child had to be special-ordered, because of my height. Now, that legendary company is no more.

So, reluctantly, I went to a specialist bike shop.

They took videos , and measurements, ran it all through a computer, and came up with a bike for me. I was expecting a Macho Grande huge frame- but this bike has a twenty inch/fifty cm center post. It used to be 22 inches. Every setting was customized, seat, handlebars, stroke length, everything. I got a back rack, and saddle bags capable of full bags of groceries, each. By the time I got the lights, helmet, and other accessories, my cheap Scots-Irish side was about to have a stroke (a half-year's worth of gas!!).

It's worth it. The bike has 24 speeds, has shock mountings, and maneuvers magnificently. I can now climb hills without dismounting (albeit slowly). Since most of my missions are for less then 5 klicks, and carrying less than twenty kilos, this will save much fuel. It will also build up endurance with low-impact exercise. I hate gyms.

The only bummers are that I cannot carry Max, and that I can't carry huge equipment loads in IFR conditions. The bike is VFR-only. Riding in Cat 1 IFR is possible, but suicidal because of the humans driving. Traffic loads have more than doubled since I last rode a bike regularly.

Work is 22 km away. City streets can carry me there. It will take a few months to build up the endurance. That's a gallon of fuel a day, and I don't have to depend on the bus/Metro Link. If the weather is really bad, bikes are allowed on many buses and Metro Link. The best I can hope for is a 40% reduction of vehicle travel. The car will last longer...

The estimated payback time, in fuel alone, is about 206 working days. Time is the tradeoff, of course. Welcome to a 4T.

I was shocked at how quickly riding came back. Bikes are the closest thing to flying in terms of a kinesthetic experience. Quite the rush. The helmet isn't nearly as cool, though... :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lamer still.

Drunk On Drunks

What President Bush said:

It is uncertain, there’s no question about it.

Wall Street got drunk, it got drunk, (it’s one of the reasons I asked you to turn off your tv cameras.) It got drunk and now it’s got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up, and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.

And now we got a housing issue, not in Houston, and evidently, not in Dallas, because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today. (laugher.. Crawford!)

I like Crawford, unfortunately after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I’m now no longer the decision maker. She’ll be deciding, thanks for the suggestion! I suggest you don’t yell it out when she’s here. Later, telling her “Hey honey, we’ve been on government pay now for 14 years... so go slow!"

It’s uh.. caused me to lose my train of thought. Anyway.

The entire video runs about 2 minutes, the portion with the President runs just around a minute.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blow Back For Forty Years Of Market Religion


11 reasons America's a new socialist economy

How free market ideology backfired, sabotaging capitalistic democracy

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last update: 11:47 a.m. EDT July 22, 2008
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Welcome to the conservative's worst nightmare: The law of unintended consequences. Why? Nobody wants to admit it, folks, but the conservatives' grand ideology is backfiring, actually turning the world's greatest capitalistic democracy into the world's newest socialist economy.
A little history: The core principles of conservative economic ideology are grounded in Nobel economist Milton Friedman's 1962 classic "Capitalism and Freedom." Too late to stop President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, those principles became the battle cries energizing conservatives since Reagan: Unrestricted free markets, free enterprise and free trade; deregulation, privatization and globalization; trickle-down economics and trickle-up wealth to an elite plutocracy destined to rule the new American capitalist utopia.
So what happened? Are you guys nuts? Hey, I'm talking to all you blind Beltway politicians (in both parties) ... plus the Old Boys Club running Wall Street (into the ground) ... plus all you fat-cat CEOs (with megamillion parachutes) ... and all your buddies scamming everybody else to get on the Forbes 400. You are proof of Lord Acton's warning: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
It's backfiring! You folks turned our America from a great capitalistic democracy into a meddling socialist economy. Still you don't get it. You're acting like teen addicts tripping on an overdose of "greed-is-good" testosterone while your caricature of conservative economics would at best make a one-line joke on Jay Leno.
Here are 11 reasons your manipulations are sabotaging the great principles of leaders like Friedman and Reagan:

1. Dumber than a fifth grader with cognitive dissonance
Kids know what it means. They know most adults today can't see past the end of their noses. Liberals tune out candidate McBush for being lost in the past. Conservatives can't hear Obama without seeing that turban.
Cognitive dissonance simply means most brains cannot see past their own narrow ideologies. They dismiss any data that contradicts their old ideologies. Whether you're a conservative Republican or liberal Democrat, you only hear what you already know is "true." All else is tuned out.

2. Where did all the leaders go with their moral character?
Friedman's economics requires leaders of moral character. Did it run into Lord Acton's warning: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely?" Former Ford and Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca said yes in "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?"
Friedman's great conservative principles have been commandeered by myopic ideologues whose idea of leadership is balancing the demands of self-interest lobbyists with the need for campaign donations. Unfortunately, a new "change" president won't be enough; there are 537 elected officials in Washington controlled by 42,000 special interest lobbyists.

3. Fed and U.S. Treasury adopted Enron accounting tricks
Bad news: Enron failed several years ago because of its off-balance-sheet accounting scam. The Fed's doing the same thing: Dumping Bear's $30 billion liabilities onto the taxpayer's "balance sheet." Next Treasury proposes adding $5.3 trillion more from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Unfortunately clever accounting tricks by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke aren't going to fool foreign lenders analyzing America's creditworthiness. Worse-case scenario: U.S. Treasury bills with less than a triple-A rating.
With 90 banks on the brink and already too many bail-outs, our so-called leaders are running out of magic bullets. So now the taxpayer's "balance sheet" has become the all-purpose "dumping ground" and it's overcrowding fast as our leaders raise the white flag of socialism.

4. Deregulation creating new socialist housing system
Back in 1999 a Democratic president and Republican Congress were in love with a fantasy called the "new economics." Enthusiastic lobbyists invented the brilliant idea of dismantling the wall between commercial and investment banking: They killed the Glass-Steagall Act that was keeping the sleazy hands of short-term hustlers out of the pockets of long-term lenders.
Flash forward: We lost 85-year-old Bear Sterns and $32 billion IndyMac. Lehman's iffy. And 90 banks. With the virtual takeover of Freddie and Fanny, Wall Street's grand experiment with free-market ideology is backfiring, having socialized the housing market. They have nobody to blame but their self-centered greed.

5. Trade deficits outsourced more of America's wealth than jobs
One look at Forbes lists of fat cats and you know the 21st Century doesn't just belong to Asia, it belongs to everyone but America. Why? Once again, remember Warren Buffett's famous "Farmer's Story" in Fortune: "We were taught in Economics 101 that countries could not for long sustain large, ever-growing trade deficits ... our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4% more than they produce -- that's the trade deficit -- we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own."
Friedman was right: Congressional spending is the biggest cause of inflation, and, wow, those conservatives sure did love blank-check deficit spending the past eight years!

6. Banking system in meltdown, minting penny stocks
The Friedman conservatives apparently understand Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction." Yet, our free-market ideologues can't seem to accept that America is now on the "destructive" downside leg of the cycle, in the economy, markets, trade, politics and, yes, sadly, even with their conservative ideology.
You don't have to be smarter than a fifth grader to figure out that our leaders are clueless about the reality of our crumbling banking system, with many banks trading as penny stocks, while the Fed still panders to conservative pre-election politics rather than getting serious about inflation.

7. Ideologues preach savings, but still push spending
A core principle of conservatism is frugality, saving for the future. Grandparents raised me, struggled during the Depression, passed on strong ideals.
Somewhere over the past generation conservatives forget frugality. This distortion peaked in 2003 when consumers were told to spend, not sacrifice, and fuel the economy even as government spent excessively on war. That was a clear breach of every conservative leader's position in earlier wars.
As a result, in one brief generation, as the power of conservative ideologues grew, America's savings rate dropped precipitously from 11% in 1980 to less than zero today.

8. Warning, the market's under 2000 peak, losing money
Imagine you're on Jeff Foxworthy's fabulous show competing to see if you really are smarter than a fifth grader. Question: "If you put $10,000 in the market in March of 2000 when the Dow peaked at 11,722, how much money would you have today if the market's 10% under 11,722?" So you guess $9,000.
But then two fifth graders raise their hands: One asks if the CPI inflation rate should be considered? If so, maybe $5,000 is closer to the right answer. The other kid wants to know if you're buying stuff in Chicago or Singapore.
The truth is, the best answer for most adults is: "You've lost a hell of a lot of money in the market under the grand conservative ideology the past eight years."

9. Inflation and dollars: Is Zimbabwe the new model for the U.S.?
The Los Angeles Times ran a photo of a Zimbabwe $500 million bank note, worth $20 at noon, less at dinner. Why? Inflation's there is running 32 million (yes million!) percent annually. The German company printing their banknotes finally cut them off.
Things may be worse in America, psychologically. Our ideological obsession with "growth" is not working because there is too much collateral damage, namely inflation. Our dollar has lost substantial value to the euro because our dysfunctional leaders are convinced that a trade policy funded by debt makes sense.
Now we owe China $1.3 trillion, sovereign funds want equity not cheap dollar IOUs, and still our clueless Treasury and the Fed continue debasing our currency, printing money like Zimbabwe.

10. Free-market health care failing 47,000,000 Americans
Big Pharma loves free-market conservatism and no-compete Medicare drug programs. Nobody else is happy. Taxpayers get stuck with the bill.
"The Coming Generational Storm" tells us that without massive reforms and big lifestyle changes for taxpayers (especially retirees), within a couple short decades America's entitlement programs will eat up the entire federal budget. Medicare is the biggest cost item in your future, over $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Conservative ideologues naively believe the answer is more pay-out-of-pocket insurance plans, even with 47 million already uninsured because they can't pay. Here as in so many areas of our economy, free-market junkies really are suffering a severe case of cognitive dissonance, as blind to the facts about the uninsured as they are to their outdated free-market fantasies.

11. Conservative free-market policies inflated oil 300%!
Yep, oil inflated 300% in eight short years under the "leadership of two oil men." But, you can't blame them. We put the foxes in the henhouse, knowing full well "real" oil men love digging holes on the supply side, supporting ethanol subsidies and blaming speculators -- it's in their genes! Talk about cognitive dissonance; real oil men thrive on cowboy images of Marlboro Men in Hummers, Navigators and F-150 trucks.
Net result? Another perfect example of "creative destruction" in action as conservative ideology meets "law of unintended consequences," driving GM, the symbol of America capitalism, closer to bankruptcy ... while turning America into a socialist economy.

3T Style Corporate Fraud In STL

The Dark Lord's Apprentice

One College Gets It Right

Brooks On Debt

Man the Senate Lifeboats

Even Saxby Chambliss...

Jefferson County, Next

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Damn That "Reply All" Button!

We Could Be The Next Millionaires!

Bye, Phil Gramm.

Gramm is a Silent/Boomer cusper.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pity Generation X- A Little.

Warning: Heretical opinion follows.

For those of you who are not familiar with generational theory, I recommend Strauss and Howe's "Fourth Turning":

That theory states that there are four generational periods that shape economic and social attitudes on a *general* level. They are, in order, the High, the Awakening, The Unraveling, and The Crisis. We are now in the fourth turning, the crisis. For example, persons born and brought up during a high experience prosperity and stability (usually) as norms during childhood. The leading edge of a generation makes the "first impression" that shapes it's image forevermore when it comes of age (thier teens and early twenties). The most notorious example in this current cycle is the group that was born just as WW 2 ended, and came of age in the mid-1960's: The infamous Baby Boomers.

Remember that these are generalizations for generations, and individuals vary all over the scale. Persons born near the beginnings or endings of generations are hybrids called "cuspers", with traits of both generations. The boundary points are the source of much contention. I was born quite late in the Boom gen, and a frequent reaction of X'rs and Millenials who I meet, when told my age, is this:"You're a Baby Boomer?!? You're too *nice* to be a Baby Boomer!"

Each generation preceding or following another normally (and pretty accurately) calls out the failings of the subject generation.

It is exactly like an alcoholic family.

The The Lost Generation, the last analog for Generation X from the last cycle, was well known and excoriated for it's failings by the Missionary Generation that preceded it (the "Boomers" of that cycle), and by the following generation, The GI"s (Millenials/Generation "Y"). The Lost, with acid wit, returned fire. Or maybe *they* started it when they started dissing the Missionaries for the idealism/hypocrisy that marked their gen. In turn, The Lost were steamrollered out of the (all too brief) limelight by the Greatest Gen, who got all the credit, and took all the rewards.

Remember the word "cycle"?

Gen X was born into a time of social upheaval, but not material destruction on the scale of a crisis. What happens is that they got shorted by Boomers plucking the plum jobs, getting all the attention, and being forced into paying higher costs for housing, tuition, and social disorders. This has left them abused children with little empathy. Everything's Darwinian. Do not explain your woes to an X'r; they will say, with a schadenfruede smirk: "Your point?"

This makes them easy to love. :)

When a recessive/"Nomad" generation reaches midlife, for them there is a brief calm, then a horrible realization. Having had to pick their way through the blasted cultural heath left behind by the failed Idealist generation, and developing into The Greatest Smart Asses On The Planet, they have to focus on the outer world instead of themselves.

In short, they've turned forty, and are forced to grow up, and give a shit about others. They will soon replace the Idealists, and they, the Nomads, have no ideals.

Oops. Guess what happens when sociopaths discover the words "social contract" apply to *them*.

There is a brief moment of shock, in the darkened silence.

Then the nuclear detonations of the crisis, and realization the generation behind them will reap the rewards for their thankless job of providing the pragmatism to survive the crisis illuminate the X'r Sunrise.

The last Nomad Sunrise (read: super-clusterfuck-crisis) was The Great Depression, and WW 2. Nomads, and especially Nomad cuspers, had to provide the pragmatic leadership so that the entire society could survive. Ike is the defining example, along with other notables.

X will have to restrain and moderate the excesses of the Boomers, and the Millenials. Just as the Lost had to do with the Missionaries and GI's.

Almost a Darwinian selection for a generational role, is it not? :)

Any bets that they will be yelling "get off my damn lawn, you damn kids!" when they reach elderhood?

Binary Brooks

Doggies Are Cool- Waaay Cooler Than Humans

NASA Moon Woes

NASA moon capsule running late, full of problems
San Jose Mercury News 07/17/2008
Author: Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Money problems will likely force NASA to abandon its ambitious internal goal of having a new moon spaceship ready by 2013, a top space agency official told The Associated Press Wednesday. The agency should still be able to meet its public commitment to test launch astronauts in the first Orion capsule by March 2015, the official said, unless national budget stalemates continue.

But the agency's own hurry-up plan to get the job done even earlier - with a first crew launch by 2013 - will "very likely" be changed during meetings this week in Houston, said Doug Cooke, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration.

"We're probably going to have to move our target date," Cooke said in a phone interview. An actual astronaut moon landing is still set for 2020.
Orion initially will just orbit Earth before attempting a more complicated moon launch that also will involve unmanned rockets.

Cooke acknowledged the slipped launch target date during an interview about an internal NASA report leaked to the Web site, Nasa Watch. The document shows that the space agency's overall moon plan has encountered financial and technical problems, which NASA says it can overcome.

The leaked report reflects typical problems of a program this early in the running, Cooke said.

"What you're seeing is sausage-making," he said. "I'm really satisfied with the work that's getting done."

The 117-page report, posted Wednesday at href="">, shows an $80 million cost overrun this year for just one motor and a dozen different technical problems that the space agency put in the top risk zone, meaning the problems are considered severe. The report put the program's financial performance in that category.

Technical problems included software that may not be developed on time, the heat shield, a dangerous level of shaking during launch, and a hard-to-open hatch door. The report also said NASA's plans would shortchange astronauts' daily water needs, giving them only two liters a day when medical experts say they need at least 2.5 liters.

The report showed technical problems in operations for Orion nearly doubling from May to July, with 24 items now on the most worrisome list.

Outside experts say it's too early to be too worried, but they have some concerns.

"It doesn't surprise me that there are these kinds of pains given the early stage (of development) and the long time since we did anything like this," said John Logsdon, director of space policy at George Washington University. "NASA is trying to do this with inadequate and uncertain funding."

The problem is mostly the political system for not coming up with budgets that are passed and signed by the president so that NASA can go ahead with its financial plans, said W. Henry Lambright, a technology and public policy professor at Syracuse University. The budget for next year still has not been passed.

"We have a government that is dysfunctional," Lambright said. "I'm not blaming NASA. I think NASA is a victim of a political situation we have in this country."

But Nasawatch's Keith Cowing, a former engineer for the agency, said the problem is poor design and planning, repeating some of the problems of Apollo without learning the lessons of such disasters as the Apollo 1 fire.

A group of NASA engineers, working on their own time, and other experts have come up with an alternate moon rocket design that they contend is cheaper and could be ready earlier. NASA has rejected their proposal.

Russian Quality Woes

the spy network reports:

Russia cannot meet arms contracts - state company
Reuters News 07/17/2008
Author: Alexander Gelogayev
(C) Reuters Limited 2008.

MOSCOW, July 17 (Reuters) - Russia's defence industry lacks the resources to meet all its arms export contracts, the head of Rostekhnologii state corporation said on Thursday.

"The Russian industry cannot meet some of the signed contracts," the corporation's press office quoted Sergei Chemezov as saying at the Farnborough air show in Britain.

"A growth in the number of government orders and export contracts has overloaded defence enterprises whose productivity has not changed," he added.

The arms trade, which brings Russia annually around $7 billion, is a major source of income for the country and a source of national pride.

In the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Russian armed forces were struggling to survive on austere budgets, export contracts helped the defence sector.

However, a chronic lack of funds for modernisation and problems with retaining qualified staff have badly hit the defence industry over the years.

The problems became more acute after an economic boom allowed the government to place new orders for the armed forces.

In 2007, Russia said it would have to delay the modernisation of aircaft carrier Admiral Gorshkov purchased by India and Algeria after they refused to take up the MiG-29 fighters they ordered because of their poor quality.

Rostekhnologii, a corporation which groups most of the state-owned defence enterprises except for those engaged in aviation and shipbuilding, was created to channel state resources into modernising the industry.

But Chemezov has been forced to fight criticism at home after some officials accused him of grabbing too much money.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UBS In Senate Gunsights

Poor Phil Gramm. It must be all in his head...

Naaah, We're Not Repeating 1929...

Nobody Wants To Be The Help Desk- So Go Away and Die

Another situation report from the front lines of medicine:

Taken To The Cleaners

Gave up on sports long ago. Yet another reason why:

There Is No Commodity Inflation

Max Update

Max's next visit with the vet is , appropriately, on my birthday. He's doing well, with only minor discomforts yet (an ear infection due to a weakened immune system, some loss of agility). His appetite has recovered. Water intake/output is still high.

Max's illness has provoked some reflection. I've been working two job slots for nearly eight years (with only one salary), and it is affecting my own health. Inflation is grossly outstripping my pay.

And my body is telling me I'm not 26, I'm almost fifty.

Do I die, or do I take my chances in this bad economy? I have, of course, been pursuing my opportunities. My GI tract has paid a steep price for my loyalty. No one has lasted eight years in this position (or earned the service awards for doing the job that I've gotten). I've set a record. Death is not a fiscally responsible option. Better to go bust, than die.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Well, At Least The Doggies Got Something

Never, ever, ever, depend on inheritances. They are cursed. And especially never sacrifice your own life for one.

The Shriners pounced on my uncle's estate like anorexic wolves. Good thing I was expecting zero, anyway. My mom did years of caring for him, and got the dregs of the tip jar.

The Brits On Thier Bad Leaders

Channel 2 Sold

It's Going To Be A Restrained Campaign Season

Memory Problems

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Reason I Got Out Of Aviation

The crews and controllers are too tired and stressed out (they need traffic lights!):,0,1897017.story

Half Price Off?

We pity the stations who just bought electronic displays that only go to $9.999

There Is No Recession, There Is No Credit Crisis

City Of St. Louis, Next.

Can We Get Rock Hill, Shrewsbury, and St. George To Fess Up Too?

Don't Print Anything, Citizen.

Back to cassette tapes and basement presses...

WASHINGTON — The affordability and growing popularity of color laser printers is raising concerns among civil liberties advocates that your privacy may not be worth the paper you're printing on.

More manufacturers are outfitting greater numbers of laser printers with technology that leaves microscopic yellow dots on each printed page to identify the printer's serial number — and ultimately, you, says the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the leading watchdogs of electronic privacy.

The technology has been around for years, but the declining price of laser printers and the increasing number of models with this feature is causing renewed concerns.

The dots, invisible to the naked eye, can be seen using a blue LED light and are used by authorities such as the Secret Service to investigate counterfeit bills made with laser printers, says Lorelei Pagano, director of the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.

Privacy advocates worry that the little-known technology could ensnare political dissidents, whistle-blowers or anyone who prints materials that authorities want to track.

Japanese Missile Test At White Sands

Reported by the spy network:

Japan to test missile interceptor in US Associated Press Newswires 07/12/2008 Copyright 2008. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

TOKYO (AP) - Japan will conduct its first test-firing of a land-to-air missile interceptor in the United States in September to ensure that a missile shield for the Japanese capital will function properly if it falls under attack, the Defense Ministry said.
The PAC-3 Patriot interceptor will be fired at White Sands Missile Range in the state of New Mexico during the week of Sept. 15, according to a ministry statement obtained Saturday.
The test comes as Japan and the U.S. accelerate their joint missile defense program following North Korea's missile and nuclear tests in 2006.
The planned test "aims to confirm the functions of the Patriot system that has been upgraded with ballistic missile defense capabilities," the ministry said.
Japan has deployed four PAC-3 systems - each including several launchers, a radar vehicle and a control station - around Tokyo to protect the capital region, including the country's largest naval base in nearby Yokosuka, also the homeport of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
Japan has been aggressively augmenting its missile defense capabilities amid concerns about a possible threat from North Korea. Japan plans to deploy the PAC-3 defense system at several more bases around the country
by March 2011.

Two To Tango

Yet here, in the aftermath of a financial crisis brought on by what were once called American virtues — financial engineering and risk management — Washington may bail out Fannie and Freddie for the simple reason that they are too big to fail. If they go down, so do whole neighborhoods. So, perhaps, does the global financial system.


Note to non-Texans: FM stands for FarM road, not Frequency Modulation. Essentially, a county road.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Bush Administration Access Charge.

How "24" Is Playing Out In Real Life

Winning Gamblers Are Rarer Than You Think

The Prescient Are Few

Published: July 13, 2008

HOW many mutual fund managers can consistently pick stocks that outperform the broad stock market averages — as opposed to just being lucky now and then?
Countless studies have addressed this question, and have concluded that very few managers have the ability to beat the market over the long term. Nevertheless, researchers have been unable to agree on how small that minority really is, and on whether it makes sense for investors to try to beat the market by buying shares of actively managed mutual funds.

A new study builds on this research by applying a sensitive statistical test borrowed from outside the investment world. It comes to a rather sad conclusion: There was once a small number of fund managers with genuine market-beating abilities, as judged by having past performance so good that their records could not be attributed to luck alone. But virtually none remain today. Index funds are the only rational alternative for almost all mutual fund investors, according to the study’s findings.

The study, “False Discoveries in Mutual Fund Performance: Measuring Luck in Estimating Alphas,” has been circulating for over a year in academic circles. Its authors are Laurent Barras, a visiting researcher at Imperial College’s Tanaka Business School in London; Olivier Scaillet, a professor of financial econometrics at the University of Geneva and the Swiss Finance Institute; and Russ Wermers, a finance professor at the University of Maryland.

The statistical test featured in the study is known as the “False Discovery Rate,” and is used in fields as diverse as computational biology and astronomy. In effect, the method is designed to simultaneously avoid false positives and false negatives — in other words, conclusions that something is statistically significant when it is entirely random, and the reverse.

Both of those problems have plagued previous studies of mutual funds, Professor Wermers said. The researchers applied the method to a database of actively managed domestic equity mutual funds from the beginning of 1975 through 2006. To ensure that their results were not biased by excluding funds that have gone out of business over the years, they included both active and defunct funds. They excluded any fund with less than five years of performance history. All told, the database contained almost 2,100 funds.

The researchers found a marked decline over the last two decades in the number of fund managers able to pass the False Discovery Rate test. If they had focused only on managers running funds in 1990 and their records through that year, for example, the researchers would have concluded that 14.4 percent of managers had genuine stock-picking ability. But when analyzing their entire fund sample, with records through 2006, this proportion was just 0.6 percent — statistically indistinguishable from zero, according to the researchers.

This doesn’t mean that no mutual funds have beaten the market in recent years, Professor Wermers said. Some have done so repeatedly over periods as short as a year or two. But, he added, “the number of funds that have beaten the market over their entire histories is so small that the False Discovery Rate test can’t eliminate the possibility that the few that did were merely false positives” — just lucky, in other words.

Professor Wermers says he was surprised by how rare stock-picking skill has become. He had “generally been positive about the existence of fund manager ability,” he said, but these new results have been a “real shocker.”

WHY the decline? Professor Wermers says he and his co-authors suspect various causes. One is high fees and expenses. The researchers’ tests found that, on a pre-expense basis, 9.6 percent of mutual fund managers in 2006 showed genuine market-beating ability — far higher than the 0.6 percent after expenses were taken into account. This suggests that one in 10 managers may still have market-beating ability. It’s just that they can’t come out ahead after all their funds’ fees and expenses are paid.

Another possible factor is that many skilled managers have gone to the hedge fund world. Yet a third potential reason is that the market has become more efficient, so it’s harder to identify undervalued or overvalued stocks. Whatever the causes, the investment implications of the study are the same: buy and hold an index fund benchmarked to the broad stock market.

Professor Wermers says his advice has evolved significantly as a result of this study. Until now, he says, he wouldn’t have tried to discourage a sophisticated investor from trying to pick a mutual fund that would outperform the market. Now, he says, “it seems almost hopeless.”

Mark Hulbert is editor of The Hulbert Financial Digest, a service of MarketWatch. E-mail:

Goodbye, Brewery.

There Is No Recession. There Is No Housing Bust. There Is No Credit Crisis.

Time Magazine Discovers Flamewars

Or, High School Never Ends:,9171,1821646,00.html

"The horribleness of commenters isn't really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it's based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic. They're part of the things that make online publishing work. enables comments on its blogs, including mine.) It's just hard to tell whether they're ruining the Web faster than they can save it.

Commenters tend to respond with surprise--they're shocked, shocked!--when people call them on being not nice. In their social universe, this kind of rhetorical slap-fighting is just how you do business, and anybody who feels otherwise is thin-skinned and humorless. As lame and self-serving as this excuse is, we can learn something from taking it at face value. Maybe commenters are just on one side of a cultural disconnect between two incompatible ideas of what the social conventions of the Internet should be. One is based on the standards of real-world, off-line politeness. The other is a kind of communal game in which whoever is cleverest and pushes the most buttons wins.

This disconnect is probably just temporary. In another decade or two, one side or the other will have won out, and then we'll all be on the same page, and we won't have this kind of misunderstanding anymore. But I know which side I'm rooting for. I'm sure Foxy Brown is with me."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

TV DX'ing

I have an odd habit: I like to listen to distant radio stations, and watch distant television stations. In amateur radio, this is called DX'ing, for distant receiving.

With the coming of digital television, an era is ending, and a new one is beginning. Currently, most television stations are broadcasting both an analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) signal. This makes for lots of interference. The problem with digital TV is that it is an all-or-nothing affair: No puzzling out station ID's from snowy pictures or fuzzy audio. And I'm pickier than the usual ham, who is happy with an S1 signal. I need sustained contact, and a near local quality of reception (S3+). This highlights the differences between digital and analog. My furthest analog capture has been 980 km/610 statute miles, while my furthest digital capture has been 387 km/241 statute miles.

These results have been over years.

I have excellent outside antennas, mounted high, and guyed for support. I've optimized my rotation for conditions, minimized my signal losses inside my system, etc, etc. Living in an urban area, noise is the main culprit. Better digital receivers of late have helped, but I suspect that the new DX'ing environment is going to be a more difficult one, even when analog transmitters are shut down next year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Karl Rove Theater

The kabuki dance continues.

There Is No Chance Of A Second Great Slowdown

Generational Sign: Jesse Jackson Remarks

Looks like 1968 is dying a bit more, again.

Phil Gramm Goes Mental

There Is No Housing Or Finance Crisis


Why I Went Back To Broadcast TV

Desk Rage

4T indicator?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Getting Ready For Iraq- The Movie

This Should Make Some People Happy

Templeton's Dead. Let the Crash Begin!


"Could it have been different? Countless commentators have tried to replay history from the hinge year of 1968, wondering if a surviving Robert Kennedy could have beaten Nixon and salved an angry culture.

Perlstein, whose next book will chronicle the '70s, will have none of it.

"I don't like that magic thinking. I'm very suspicious of it," he says. "Martyrs seem to get 100 extra bonus points in the annals of history, and that's a bias. By the same token, nostalgia systematically cheats the past.

"I think that it pulls around to one of the huge themes of my book and my work, which is that we really want to believe that somehow magically we can transcend our differences in American and as Americans without working hard at it.
"If only this person had lived; if only this event hadn't gone the way it did. But the fact of the matter is, we are a deeply divided nation, and transcending those differences isn't the work of an afternoon or a single person. It's something we all have to fight for."

Just In Case You Missed The Fine Print At The Pump

Think I've posted this before, but it's no suprise.

IT Risks In Political Campaigns

This could be the year that people discover just how dangerous all those portable devices are.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

There is no recession. You're not getting less for the money.

MSNBC stories tend to disappear:

‘Shrink ray’ hits consumers’ wallets

‘Short-sizing’ saves manufacturers money but gives you less for same price

Same price, smaller package
Consumer reporter Asa Aarons explains why food packaging is getting smaller and the price is staying the same. Then, TODAY’s Matt Lauer talks with Tod Marks, senior editor of Consumer Reports.

Today show


Send Herb Weisbaum an e-mail and he may answer your issue in his upcoming column on

Send an e-mail | ConsumerMan home

10 Tips

Got your own favorite tips? Or do you have a question? Send them to columnist Laura T. Coffey.

Send an e-mail | 10 Tips home

By David Ushery and Alex Johnson
NBC News and MSNBC
updated 5:59 p.m. ET, Mon., July. 7, 2008

With fuel and delivery costs rising, food manufacturers are faced with raising their prices or giving you less, and it seems that less is the growing trend.

To Dean Smith, the two containers of Breyers ice cream looked exactly the same at his supermarket in Evansville, Ind. Then he looked closely and figured out that the old package was 1¾ quarts, while the new package was just 1½ quarts.

“You can’t tell at all,” Smith said.

Tod Marks, senior editor for retailing at Consumer Reports, says you’re not imagining things. What the consumer protection Web site calls the Grocery Shrink Ray is hitting products all over the store.

The practice is called short-sizing, and it’s becoming increasingly common to shrink how much stuff goes into the same old box to keep costs down.

“Years ago, I think the first product we saw with the incredible shrinking package had to do with coffee,” Marks said.

“You remember the can of coffee, used to be typically one pound? Some of them are down to 10 ounces now for your pound of coffee,” he said. “Then it started spreading.”

Like that ice cream.

“We’ve gone from a half-gallon to 1¾ quarts to now as little as 1½ quarts,” Marks said. “That’s a tremendous, tremendous short-sizing of a package [at the] same time the price is rising.”

Less bang for more bucks
When inspectors for the Nassau County, N.Y., Consumer Affairs Office went looking around last month, they found that all sorts of products were being short-sized, none more so than breakfast cereal.

“We’re seeing it more and more given the high cost of flour and wheat,” said Roger Bogstead, the county’s consumer affairs commissioner. “Consumers are trying to get the best bargain they can, and the manufacturers don’t want the consumers to know that they’re raising the prices.”

Inspectors found two boxes of Stop & Shop brand shredded wheat cereal in supermarkets. One was 19 ounces. The newer one was 18 ounces. The boxes were identical, as were the prices.

Likewise Cocoa Magic, which Bogstead said had shrunk from 18 ounces to a bit more than 16 ounces.

The Grocery Shrink Ray catalogs products hit with what it calls the Grocery Shrink Ray, complete with pictorial proof. Among recent examples:

• Mini Babybel Cheese discs
Was: 132 grams
Now: 120 grams
• Pampers Cruiser diapers
Was: 84 per box
Now: 80 per box
• Yoplait yogurt (selected varieties)
Was: 6 ounces
Now: 4 ounces
• Jimmy Dean sausage rolls
Was: 16 ounces
Now: 12 ounces
• Sun Chips Garden Salsa snacks
Was: 11½ ounces
Now: 10½ ounces
• Dawn Plus Ultra Concentrated Dish Detergent With Bleach
Was: 740 ml
Now: 650 ml
• Glad Tall Kitchen garbage bags
Was: 96 per box
Now: 80 per box
• Edy's Ice Cream
Was: 1¾ quarts
Now: 1½ quarts


And it’s not just food. Inspectors picked three-packs of Irish Spring and Dial soaps and found that they had been short-sized, too.

Nationwide, Kellogg Co. hiked its cereal prices last month for the second time this year. A spokeswoman acknowledged that it had reduced the sizes of Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies and Apple Jacks, among other brands.

General Mills made a similar move earlier this year. NBC News found two boxes of the company’s Cheerios cereal on sale in a New York supermarket. Both were $3.39. One was 10 ounces; the newer one was 8.9 ounces.

A price of $4.89 used to get you 32 ounces of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Now it gets you 30 ounces. Unilever PLC, which makes both Hellman’s and Breyers, told NBC News that its products had been reduced to offset increasing energy costs.

Lesser of two evils?
Manufacturers said they were being pummeled by the high cost of both fuel and raw ingredients. Faced with disappearing margins, these and other manufacturers said in general that they had a choice: shrink the product or increase the price. Short-sizing, they believe, is a legal way to save money without giving consumers sticker shock.

An News special report

David Ushery is a correspondent for WNBC-TV of New York. Alex Johnson is a reporter for The following NBC affiliates contributed to this report: KNSD of San Diego; WBBH of Fort Myers, Fla.; WFIE of Evansville, Ind.; WPMI of Mobile, Ala.; and WTVJ of Miami.

But Marks said the practice was just a way to hike prices under the radar of consumers.

“It’s a shell game, call it what you will,” Marks said in an interview on NBC’s TODAY. “In these tough economic times ... the worst thing that can happen for a manufacturer at this point is to raise prices. So they use this sneaky tactic of giving you less and charging you more.”

And consumers do notice.

“When you find out you’re paying more but getting less, you’re left to believe somebody is doing something wrong,” Randy Compton said on a recent shopping trip to an Apple Market in Mobile, Ala.

Of a can of corn he pulled off the shelf — previously 14 ounces, now 11 ounces, and costing the same — he said: “The size of the can is the same, but the net weight of the actual corn is smaller. They’re magicians, and they’re pulling an illusion over your eyes".

Leah Ransohoff of Evansville was more blunt. “It’s like a rip-off,” she said as she strolled the aisles of her local market.

For retailers like Pat Locurto, owner of Pat’s Meat Farms in Farmingdale, N.Y., short-sizing is a monumental headache. Locurto hears his customers’ complaints, but he says there’s really nothing else he can do.

“A lot of packaging is getting smaller for the same price. The weights are getting changed,” Locurto said. “A lot of people don’t notice, but a lot of people do, and they’re mumbling and grumbling.

“They think it’s us, but it’s not us,” he said. “It’s coming from the company.”

Angelo Lucarelli, manager of De Cicco Food Market in Ardsley, N.Y., said: “It’s almost like I’m the middleman. I’m between what’s going on with the manufacturer and what’s going on with the consumer. But I’m the one who’s got to answer to the people.”

The best advice, consumer affairs experts said, is to keep a sharp eye out in the store.

Look for the “unit price,” which is usually right on the store shelf alongside the full retail price. It will show you how much you’re paying per ounce or per pound. And save your supermarket receipts for several weeks so you can compare them over time.

Paul Dholakia, a management professor at Rice University in Houston, said manufacturers were banking on customers not noticing changes in quantity unless they changed significantly.

“I think it’s important for us to us to teach people how to make good decisions,” Dholakia said. “My advice to consumers is that you have got to be vigilant and not be driven by habitual decision-making, but instead, pay attention to the actual quantity information.”

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

Situation Normal In Clarksville TN

While I was browsing for other stuff, I noticed this item. Every military station in the US has it's own reputation. Ft. Polk has a bad one, for example.

One of the posters on a board I participate on just retired to Clarksville, praising his own frugality (he posts from a public library, so he does not have to have a computer and ISP fees).

Looks like he's getting his money's worth. There are lots nicer, military-friendly, places to retire to in TN, let alone the rest of the US.

New Export: Cell Phone Towers! Sort Of.

Even Crooks Think the Dollar Is Toliet Paper

Another Responsible Gun Owner

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Paying Attention To the Master Caution Light

Sometimes, you only get one chance. Tim Russert's example saved this man.

The Dark Lord's Scissors.

What Fourth Amendment?

Don't try exercising your Second amendment rights, as the state now has the right to sieze everything- and you can't blame the liberals this time.

Curiosity- An endangered species

You used to be able to walk out onto the ramp of any airport in the US to admire the planes- thirty years ago.

I'm *Shocked* That the Lottery Would Do This :)

Channel 5 Screws Up, Again

This is why ABC and FOX chose 720P over 1080i. Not only does progressive scan catch moving sports better, it gives you the bandwith for two good SD sub-channels.

They could have moved Wimbledon to WRBU-46, or, if they were not 1080i, put it on KSDK-3 (assuming they keep Weather Plus as KSDK-2).

If the Roberts brothers moved their stick (transmitter tower) closer in, and bumped up the power, they could be cleaning up.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Max's Specialist Visit

Max had an expensive, thorough, and very professional exam from the specialists today. It confirmed the bad news. Growths were found on both thyroids, and the right adrenal was quite suspect. This is linked with his Cushing's Disease. Additionally, he had serious hypertension, probably driven by the multiple growths. Hypertension ,while fully sedated, is a *bad* thing.

Surgery is probably not an option with the adrenal gland. There was a considerable risk to the vena cava. Additionally, the left adrenal might not be able to take up the load, if the surgery were successful.

The vets say this kind of multiple jeopardy case is quite rare. They pulled no punches in the post-op debrief. Also, unlike the human vets, they recommended medication, instead of heroic efforts. Treating the hypertension is now Priority One. This should help Max out.

No prognosis was given (It wasn't needed). Max could live quite some time, with medication. So, that's what I intend to do. Make him as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

The Human Vets Are In Trouble

My vets have been better and more professional than the MD's I've encountered recently. I personally corrected two successive errors (in a teaching hospital!) the examining resident AND the senior attending missed.

They admitted the mistakes, sheepishly, when it was pointed out to them. Never mess with a sergeant. Especially one who functions as GP and specialist in his own right, in his own field.

I know of at least one medical professional on one of the discussion boards who could learn something from the vets, too. The vets still care about their patients.

Note to Queen Bee: The vets were better looking than you, too.

No VP For Jim Webb

Disappointed, but Webb may be smart in not wanting to be VP. Think of having to clean the bodies out of the safe... :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

NBC Buys the Weather Channel!

Which brand dies? Probably not NBC Weather Channel?

Note that the original owners are getting the hell out of broadcasting (see: Pulitzers).

A Look At The War On Drugs,0,3205714.story

The NYT Want's Me For President!

"Americans should see it to appreciate just how much things are out of joint on an Independence Day when a cartoon robot evokes America’s patriotic ideals with more conviction than either of the men who would be president."

The guy knows me.

Welcome To A Fourth Turning

Two Wars For The Price Of One

Perfect. One failed war meets another...

Latest Shopping Insult- You get to save a whole twenty cents!

As an engineer, I understand the wasted space/cube problem. Having help plan operations a gazilllion times, this is an eternal headache for military planners.

As a consumer, not only do I have to pay more, the shape sucks. And the companies will pocket the savings.

A Great, Objective, Political Site

This is one of the best, and easiest to digest, sites covering electoral politics.

Here's today's log for 6 JUL 08:

News from the Votemaster

The AP has a good analysis of the presidential campaign. Basically, John McCain is not well organized yet and doesn't have a clear message of why people should vote for him other than he has a lot of experience. But if experience were golden, George H.W. Bush would have beaten Bill Clinton in 1992 and Bob Dole would have beaten him in 1996. McCain is also short of cash and has to spend a lot of time in red states raising money whereas Barack Obama is campaigning in swing states and even red states. He spent the Independence Day holiday in Montana, a state that has voted consistently Republican for President for years (although the governor and both senators are Democrats). McCain has been calling himself the underdog pf late, something a bit odd considering he is also touting his long government experience and his opponent's lack thereof. Still, summer is a sleepy time and McCain's new de facto campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove pupil, has at least two months to turn things around before the campaign starts for real in September.

Rasmussen ran a poll asking voters if they were conservative, moderate, or liberal on fiscal issues and on social issues. The largest group, fiscal conservatives/social conservatives, amounted to 24% of the sample. They favored McCain 82% to 13%. The largest six categories are as follows (Rasmussen didn't report on the others).

Fiscal Issues Social Issues Group size Obama McCain
Conservative Conservative 24% 13% 82%
Moderate Moderate 20% 59% 30%
Moderate Liberal 15% 80% 13%
Conservative Moderate 10% 25% 67%
Moderate Conservative 10% 40% 51%
Liberal Liberal 9% 91% 6%

Probably the most startling result is how conservative the country has become. The conservative/conservative group is almost three times as large as the liberal/liberal group. In the 1960s, under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, few people identified as conservatives and the main thrust of government was on civil rights legislation and Johnson's ill-fated war on poverty. In the sense of changing the nation's mindset, the Reagan revolution has been a resounding success.

No polls at all today.

-- The Votemaster

$100.00 Tank Of Gas Common

With gasoline prices high and rising, a new financial milestone has arrived: the $100 tank of gas.

Bryan Carisone, a heating and air-conditioning contractor in Raritan, N.J., “absolutely loves” his new GMC Denali XL, an extra-large sport utility vehicle with televisions built into the leather seats. But in June, one week after he bought it, he pulled into a station on a near-empty tank and watched the total climb higher and higher — to $109.

“It just about killed me,” Mr. Carisone said.

For decades, the $100 barrel stood as a hypothetical outlier in doom-and-gloom conversations about future oil prices. And nobody could even imagine an American family paying $100 to fill the tank.

But the future is here. Oil passed $100 a barrel in January and now seems headed toward $150 a barrel. Gasoline prices surpassed $4 a gallon on June 8, stalled for a while, and have been rising again in recent days, setting a record Saturday.

By late spring, owners of pickups and sport utility vehicles with 30-gallon tanks, like the Cadillac Escalade ESV and Chevrolet Suburban, started paying $100 or more to fill a near-empty tank. As gas prices continue to rise — the national average stood at about $4.10 a gallon Saturday — membership in the triple-digit club is growing. Now, even not-so-gargantuan Toyota Land Cruisers and GMC Yukons can cost $100 to fill up.

Data on exactly how often people pay $100 for a tank of gas are scarce, given price variations from market to market and day to day. But during the first five months of 2008, about 11 percent of American drivers said they bought 24 gallons or more at their last fill-up, according to a survey of 81,000 drivers by the NPD Group, a market research firm — which at today’s prices would place many of them at or around $100.

For people who love their big vehicles, the pain is acute.

Members of the Chevy Avalanche Fan Club of North America prize the Avalanche, a large sport utility vehicle, for its versatility, including a rear cab wall that slides forward for a larger pickup bed or backward for more passenger room.

But the Avalanche also has a 31-gallon tank, which would cost $127 to fill at Saturday’s national average price. Even the truck’s most dedicated fans find that galling. David H. Obelcz, who founded the club in 2002 and is still a member of the board, sold his Avalanche because he could not afford gasoline for it.

Thirty members of the fan club’s Arizona chapter used to attend off-roading and other events three times a month. But now that Avalanche owners pay more than $100 per tank, the club is lucky to attract 10 members once every two months, said Eric Tolliver, a chapter leader.

“Everybody’s trying to save money on gas, so now we mostly chat online instead of driving,” Mr. Tolliver said.

Eric Laugen, a firefighter in Seattle, is administrator of the Chevy Avalanche Fan Club of North America. For a trip to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, he wanted to drive his truck because it has enough room for his fishing and camera gear, as well as space in the back to sleep. But he rode his motorcycle instead. That means pitching a tent every night, and no fishing.

“Motorcycle touring is a pain,” said Mr. Laugen, talking on his cellphone from a park in Alaska. “But then I looked at how much gas would cost in the Avalanche. It just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Hummer clubs are hurting, too. In Nebraska, Ric Hines of the Omaha Hummer Owner Group — known as Omahog — stopped doing off-road trips this summer and started riding his recumbent bicycle instead.

“I get to camp either way, and biking pushes me to save a few hundred dollars on gas,” Mr. Hines said.

Mark R. Price, founder of the Illiana Hummer Club in the Chicago area, owns three Hummer H1s, which get about eight miles per gallon. “A lot of our members won’t travel 70 miles just to support a parade anymore,” Mr. Price said. “People wait for something a little closer.”

Families that were accustomed to the convenience of sport utility vehicles are having to cut back as well. Colleen Hammond of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, loves packing her three kids and all their soccer gear into her 2000 GMC Yukon XL. But she hates paying $160 to fill the 38.5-gallon tank. Last month, she parked the Yukon in her driveway and borrowed her friend’s Toyota Land Cruiser.

“I don’t know if it gets better gas mileage, but I like her car because it costs $100 to fill it,” said Ms. Hammond, 40. “I think $100 for a tank of gas is cheap now.”

Steve Burtch bought a Dodge Ram truck last year, when gas cost $3.75, because he thought gas prices had peaked and would start coming down. Instead, he pumped his first $100 tank in June. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to keep this up,” said Mr. Burtch, 43, who lives in Marion, Ohio.

It seems that plenty of other drivers are sharing his dismay. An automotive information Web site and market research firm,, compiled sales data showing that in the last seven model years, Americans have bought 25.4 million vehicles with tanks 24 gallons or larger — the point at which three figures is now a real possibility. A few big trucks and sport utility vehicles have tanks exceeding 30 gallons.

But people who try to pump $100 worth of gas often find that they cannot, since most pumps that take credit cards shut off at $75 to prevent someone with insufficient funds or a stolen credit card from running off with gas. In addition, some older pumps still are not capable of registering triple-digit bills.

“It’s a huge inconvenience,” said Dr. Walter Bahr, a chiropractor in Cape Coral, Fla., who drives a Dodge Ram 2500 pickup and pays $130 per tank.

Many consumers whose tanks would easily swallow $100 worth of gas refuse to pump that much at once, just to avoid the trauma.

“Usually I don’t let it get real empty so that I don’t have to see that $100 on the pump,” said Bob Hammond, 61, of Chesterland, Ohio, who drives an Avalanche. “It’s a mental thing.”

Gary Chamberlain always pays cash for gasoline, so the pump kept right on spinning two weeks ago when he made his first triple-digit fill-up of his Ford conversion van.

“The bill was $104.98, which was a real shock,” said Mr. Chamberlain, 71, of Marion, Ohio. “I never thought I’d see the day.”