Monday, August 31, 2009

Go-Go Years

http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/adtrack/2009-08-30-real-life-mad-men-were-about-sex-and-booze_N.htm

And Penny Slots, The College Education

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-08-31-penny-slot_N.htm

College, the Lottery Ticket

http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/college/2009-08-30-college-costs-recession_N.htm

Missouri The Warm And Fuzzy

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-08-30-unemployment-funds-unclaimed_N.htm

Gen X Whining Has Nothing On This Misery

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-08-30-chinageneration_N.htm

I'm shocked

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-08-30-rendon-afghan-embeds_N.htm

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Would I Lie To You?

http://www.newsweek.com/id/213575

And, for Jerry:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/213625

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Used To Play Poker With This Guy....

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/politics/story/BA18DC019CDF43F48625761E000EACF8?OpenDocument

One dismal holiday at Ameristar, he was filling out thank you letters to his donors AT THE POKER TABLE. This must have been after his 2006 campaign, I think. One of the oddest things I've ever seen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Read This

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care

Press Releases Of The Damned

http://technologizer.com/2009/08/18/press-releases/

Nobody Wants To Be The Help Desk

Something never addressed by assault rifle carrying town hall attendees:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-08-17-doctor-gp-shortage_N.htm

Town Hall Meetings Show True Character

If I tried this, I would be in prison the rest of my life:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/17/obama.protest.rifle/index.html

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cheney On Bush- I Hated My Electric Shock Collar

Some of my friends may wind up being *thankful* for Bush?!? Bush muzzled Cheney from going Dr. Strangelove....

I would *love* to see the faces of some of my former political board debate opponents now...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32398177/ns/politics-washington_post/

Sources: Cheney uncloaks Bush frustration
‘Statute of limitations has expired’ on many secrets, former VP says

By Barton Gellman
updated 3:50 a.m. CT, Thurs., Aug 13, 2009

WASHINGTON - In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the "far left" agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney's White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.

Cheney's disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.

"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."

The two men maintain respectful ties, speaking on the telephone now and then, though aides to both said they were never quite friends. But there is a sting in Cheney's critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end.

Cheney's post-White House career is as singular as his vice presidency, a position he transformed into the hub of power. Drained of direct authority and cast aside by much of the public, he is no less urgently focused, friends and family members said, on shaping events.

The former vice president remains convinced of mortal dangers that few other leaders, in his view, face squarely. That fixed belief does much to explain the conduct that so many critics find baffling. He gives no weight, close associates said, to his low approval ratings, to the tradition of statesmanlike White House exits or to the grumbling of Republicans about his effect on the party brand.

'Not small issues'
John P. Hannah, Cheney's second-term national security adviser, said the former vice president is driven, now as before, by the nightmare of a hostile state acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists. Aaron Friedberg, another of Cheney's foreign policy advisers, said Cheney believes "that many people find it very difficult to hold that idea in their head, really, and conjure with it, and see what it implies."

What is new, Hannah said, is Cheney's readiness to acknowledge "doubts about the main channels of American policy during the last few years," a period encompassing most of Bush's second term. "These are not small issues," Hannah said. "They cut to the very core of who Cheney is," and "he really feels he has an obligation" to save the country from danger.

Cheney's imprint on law and policy, achieved during the first term at the peak of his influence, had faded considerably by the time he and Bush left office. Bush halted the waterboarding of accused terrorists, closed secret CIA prisons, sought congressional blessing for domestic surveillance, and reached out diplomatically to Iran and North Korea, which Cheney believed to be ripe for "regime change."

Some of the disputes between the president and his Number Two were more personal. Shortly after Bush fired Donald H. Rumsfeld, Cheney called his old mentor history's "finest secretary of defense" and invited direct comparison to Bush by saying he had "never learned more" from a boss than he had as Rumsfeld's deputy in the Ford administration.

The depths of Cheney's distress about another close friend, his former chief of staff and alter ego I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have only recently become clear. Bush refused a pardon after Libby's felony convictions in 2007 for perjury and obstruction of an investigation of the leak of a clandestine CIA officer's identity. Cheney tried mightily to prevent Libby's fall, scrawling in a note made public at trial that he would not let anyone "sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder." Cheney never explained the allusion, but grand jury transcripts — and independent counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald — suggested that Libby's false statements aimed above all to protect the vice president.

Last month, an account in Time magazine, based on close access to Bush's personal lawyer and White House counsel, described Cheney's desperate end-of-term efforts to change Bush's mind about a pardon. Cheney, who has spent a professional lifetime ignoring unflattering stories, issued a quietly furious reply. In the most explicit terms, he accused Bush of abandoning "an innocent man" who had served the president with honor and then become the "victim of a severe miscarriage of justice." Cheney now says privately that his memoir, expected to be published in spring 2011, will describe their heated arguments in full.

Decaffeinated lattes
Despite an ailing heart and reduced mobility, the former vice president at age 68 retains a prodigious capacity for work. He rises early, reads voraciously about history and current events, and acquired a BlackBerry in modest recompense for the loss of daily intelligence briefings. He allows himself some indulgences, Liz Cheney said in an interview. She said her father relishes his new freedom to take a morning drive to Starbucks in a black SUV, toting home the decaffeinated latte on which his doctor and his wife, Lynne, insist. He attends the soccer and softball games of his oldest grandchildren, Kate and Elizabeth, and spends more time than he could as vice president fly fishing near his vacation homes in Wyoming and on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

But Cheney passes most of his days at the top of the garage at his new house in McLean, where he built an office under the dormered roof and filled it with books and binders of his vice presidential papers. He kept copies of the unclassified ones and consults the rest on visits to the National Archives. He took detailed notes in the White House, head bobbing up and down as he wrote and sometimes disappearing from the screen in videoconferences. Those notes, according to one person who has discussed them with Cheney, will form the core of his account of the Bush years.

"What impressed me was his continuing zeal," said an associate who discussed the book with Cheney. "He hadn't stepped back a bit from the positions he took in office to a more relaxed, Olympian view. He was still very much in the fray. He's not going to soften anything or accommodate shifts of conscience. There was no sense in which he looked back and said, 'I wish I'd done something differently.' Rather, there was a sense that they hadn't gone far enough. If he'd been equipped with a group of people as ideologically rigorous as he was, they'd have been able to push further."

Some old associates see Cheney's newfound openness as a breach of principle. For decades, he expressed contempt for departing officials who wrote insider accounts, arguing that candid internal debate was impossible if the president and his advisers could not count on secrecy. As far back as 1979, one of the heroes in Lynne Cheney's novel "Executive Privilege" resolved never to write a memoir because "a president deserved at least one person around him whose silence he could depend on." Cheney lived that vow for the next 30 years.

As vice president, according to one witness, Cheney "was livid" when the memoir of L. Paul Bremer, who led the occupation of Iraq, made the less-than-stunning disclosure that Cheney shared Bremer's concern about U.S. military strategy. A Cabinet-level Bush appointee recalled that Cheney likewise described revelations by former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill and former White House spokesman Scott McClellan as "beyond the pale."

"If he goes out and writes a memoir that spills beans about what took place behind closed doors, that would be out of character," said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House spokesman during Bush's first term.

Yet that appears to be precisely Cheney's intent. Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets. "When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him," Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. "Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened. . . . And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views."

Liz Cheney, whom friends credit with talking her father into writing the book, described the memoir as a record for posterity. "You have to think about his love of history, and when he thinks about this memoir, he thinks about it as a book his grandchildren will read," she said.

What the former vice president assuredly will not do, according to friends and family, is break a lifetime's reticence about his feelings. Alluding to Bush's forthcoming memoir, Cheney told one small group recently that he had no interest "in sharing personal details," as the former president planned to do.

"He sort of spat the word 'personal,' " said one person in the room.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pigs In Spaaaace!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32323401/ns/technology_and_science-space/

Making Money In A Depression

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32289194/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

Funny money no laughing matter in recession
Businesses see rise in counterfeiting as better-quality bills escape detection

By Alex Johnson
Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 2 hours, 3 minutes ago

Nicholas Ostergaard has a new policy at the Jukebox, the deli and pub he owns in Indian Trail, N.C.: “No more hundreds.”

The Jukebox now accepts nothing bigger than a $50 bill after a teenager paid for an $11 order last month with what turned out to be a fake $100 bill and walked away with $89 in change.

“I instantly thought it was fake,” Ostergaard said. But when he checked the bill with a detector pen — a common device that uses iodine to verify U.S. currency — “it came up it was real.”

That made the deli another victim in what the U.S. Secret Service said was an ambitious counterfeiting operation that has spread as much as $60,000 in phony currency at businesses from Hickory to Greensboro, in central North Carolina, just since May.

Law enforcement officials said the operation was probably quashed when Union County sheriff’s deputies arrested two teenagers last month. But before then, they said, the teens were responsible for creating hundreds of fake $100 bills good enough to fool shop owners, bank tellers and even detector pens on initial inspection.

The evidence is only anecdotal at this point, but law enforcement officials and business owners across the country say they have seen a significant spike in the circulation of counterfeit currency since the economy started to sour more than a year and a half ago:

* More than $1,500 in counterfeit bills found its way into the cash registers of businesses in South Strabane Township, Pa., last weekend.
* A counterfeiting ring passed at least 10 fake $100 bills in Collier County, Fla., before three people were arrested last month.
* At least 17 victims were swindled with counterfeit bills over the Fourth of July weekend in Elkhart, Ind., where police recovered roughly $1,500 in fake cash. One of the victims was the City of Elkhart itself, which took in at least 200 phony dollars at municipal installations.

“Sometimes, the economy is related to an increase in crime,” said Randel Henderson, the deputy police chief in DeLand, Fla., near Orlando. “If the economy is bad ... and [people] have the technology to make money, historically they do.”

Scope of losses hard to calculate
There is no way to get a precise measurement of the counterfeiting problem, the Secret Service and other law enforcement officials say. Federal crime statistics for 2008, the first full year of the recession, are not yet complete, and in any event, by definition, a successful counterfeit is never detected and accounted for.

How to spot a counterfeit

The Secret Service offers these tips for spotting counterfeit currency:

Take a moment to look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Things to look for:

• Portrait: The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.

• Federal Reserve and Treasury seals: On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt or broken saw-tooth points.

• Border: The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On a counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.

• Serial numbers: Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.

• Paper: Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often, counterfeiters simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper, which is noticeable on close inspection. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of U.S. currency.

You can find more information at the Secret Service Counterfeit Division Web site.
Source: U.S. Secret Service

The Secret Service, the federal agency responsible for investigating counterfeiting, said it remains a minor issue, estimating that fake bills make up three-tenths of 1 percent of currency in circulation, up from about one-tenth of 1 percent 10 years ago.

That may not seem like much, but with hundreds of billions of dollars circulating at any one time, it’s a lot of funny money — about $2.6 billion, based on Federal Reserve calculations of total paper currency in circulation in June, the last month for which figures were available.

The figure is actually likely to be even higher, because counterfeiters generally prefer the bigger bills. They make $20 bills and larger because the ones, fives and tens that make up much of what is in your wallet simply aren’t worth their time.

That’s how Christopher Paul Runge of Denton, Texas, operated. Runge was charged last month with printing thousands of dollars in fake twenties, fifties and hundreds; in a jailhouse interview with NBC station KXAS of Dallas, Runge admitted running the operation and described how it worked.

Runge and his alleged accomplices would wash $5 bills with a solvent to remove the ink. Once the ink was gone, they would use a computer printer to produce higher-denomination bills. Because the paper under the ink was real U.S. currency, counterfeit-detecting iodine pens would indicate that the bills were legitimate.

Police said they were tipped off when an accomplice goofed and tried to pass some lower-quality $20 bills at a pharmacy, whose cashier called police. The majority of the bills were of much better quality and have yet to be detected, Runge said, boasting that “some of these bills will stay in circulation for quite a while.”

Asked why he did it, Runge said, “We were needing to pay rent — economy’s down.”

Fake bills don’t have to be perfect
The technique is the same one used by the counterfeiters in North Carolina and in most relatively successful operations elsewhere.

Since 1989, when the Secret Service spotted the first of the so-called Supernotes — real U.S. money bleached and reprinted to pass as higher-denomination bills — the U.S. Treasury has made a slew of changes in the design of currency to make it harder to counterfeit: Some bills have changed colors; portraits of the dead white men that grace them have been re-engraved and set off-center; hard-to-mimic multicolor security threads have been embedded in the paper; even harder-to-mimic watermarks have been incorporated.

In the government’s eyes, those measures have largely worked. It is much more difficult to get a fake note past sophisticated tests than it used to be, often when it is deposited at a Federal Reserve Bank, the Secret Service said.

The problem is that the same computer technology that makes bills so hard to reproduce in detail also makes it easier to create fake bills that are just good enough to get by the convenience store clerk, the gas station attendant and — crucially — the iodine detector pen. While the Fed may catch the fake later, the counterfeiter is far away with his profit.

Even the Secret Service acknowledged in its recently released 2008 annual report that “the widespread use of personal computers and advancements in digital printing technology has provided more individuals the opportunity to manufacture a passable counterfeit note with relative ease.”

And because federal law makes no provision for reimbursing the victim of a counterfeiter, it’s the business owner who’s left holding the bag.

Since a bleach-and-print counterfeiting ring began victimizing businesses in Ocean Springs, Miss., last month, Holly Skinner, general manager of Mediterraneo restaurant, has directed her clerks to take “anything above a 50” to the manager on duty for immediate inspection.

“You’re not getting one over on a bank or on the government,” Skinner said. “You’re cheating any local business that’s — especially in this economy — doing their best and struggling through and trying to stay open for the public.”

Misty Koperski, a clerk at Coffins Corner, a convenience store in Grand Island, Neb., was handed a fake $20 bill a few weeks ago by a man trying to buy cigarettes.

“You know, you are just out,” Koperski said. “You might as well have lit up the money and burned it, because it’s gone.”

‘In Dog We Trust’
Law enforcement officials say you should be able to spot most funny money if you’re reasonably observant, even with fake bills that are reprinted over real money.

The telltale clue is often the watermark, which is the shimmery portrait that “reflects back and forth much like a hologram does on a credit card,” said Jeff Kelly, a Secret Service agent in southern Florida. It takes more sophistication than a garden-variety counterfeiter can manage to pull off faking one of those.

The key is that the watermark is supposed to match the portrait on the front — on a $50 bill, they’re both supposed to be the same image of Ulysses S. Grant, for example.

In other words, if you’re handed a legitimate-looking $50 bill but the watermark shows Abraham Lincoln, you’ve actually got a $5 bill. Authorities said businesses would catch a lot of fake bills if their employees would take only a few seconds to make that simple inspection at the time of the transaction. But because they don’t, even obvious fakes regularly slip through.

That’s what happened last week at Lean Bean Espresso in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where a man persuaded an employee to change a $100 bill. Only later did she notice that it was phony.

The signs were pretty obvious: In the portrait, Benjamin Franklin’s name was misspelled as “Franken”; on the back, the motto read “In Dog We Trust.” And on the front was an easy-to-read note: “For motion picture use only.”

It was a Hollywood prop.

The shop’s manager said the employee was being retrained.

Monday, August 3, 2009