December 31, 2004

I Saw This One On Cable Last Week

Its almost a clear cut case of life imitating art. The problem is, I'm just not sure this qualifies as art.

Powerline is reporting the efforts of Stefan Sharkanski of Sound Politics in exposing possible voter fraud in the Washington Governor's recount festival.

Today I did even more extensive analysis based on the precinct vote count that was released by the county late yesterday. Now we can compare ballots counted per precinct with the count of voters who voted in each precinct. There are 600+ precincts with more voters than ballots, a total of about 1,500 ballotless voters. To get to the net discrepancy of about 3,500 more ballots than voters, there must also be about 5,000 voterless ballots...
The questions this raises are, how many of those extra votes were cast by someone named Sabitch? And, is Sharkansky intending to reprise the roll of David Spade or Chris Farley?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:54 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 30, 2004

A Computer For The Rest Of You

I don't often quote an entire news story, but this one is short and sweet. I saw it reported here yesterday as a rumor. Then I saw it reported here. And then I saw this report:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) could decide to sell a lower-priced of its Macintosh computer to attract consumers already enamored of its iPod music player and annoyed by security problems with Windows PCs, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said on Thursday.

“We believe that it is not out of the question that Apple would try to capitalize on this opportunity with a more widely accessible product,” Munster said, noting Apple has made no comments related to market speculation the company may harbor plans to sell a $500 iMac.

Munster, who rates Apple as an “outperform,” cited market speculation that Apple may announce the introduction of a basic, inexpensive iMac at the company's Macworld conference in San Francisco in early January.

Cupertino, California-based Apple, whose shares closed up 36 cents on Thursday at $64.80 on the Nasdaq, was not available to comment.

Munster said he believed Windows iPod owners and personal computer users irritated by security concerns are more inclined to buy a Mac now than in the recent past. He also said the discount iMac could add to a “halo effect” surrounding the iPod and the growing comfort of PC users in switching to the Mac

Virus free for $500. I'm thinking one for each kid.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Laser Problem Continues to Grow

Here is a little background for the the post below. Investigations are currently underway in seven reported incidents of lasers being directed at aircraft in the last five days.

Aviation authorities are investigating the latest in a string of incidents in which laser beams have been directed into the cockpits of commercial jets while in flight. There have been seven such incidents since Christmas, ABC News has learned, but the origin of the beams remains unclear.
According to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, there is “no specific or credible intelligence indicating terrorists intend to use lasers against civilian targets in the homeland.” This satement was part of a bulletin to law enforcement agencies warning that “terrorist groups overseas have expressed an interest in using these devices.”

Terrorists have expressed interest in using lasers as weapons. Terrorists have clearly expressed their desire to attack civilian targets in the homeland. But the FBI and the DHS don't think terrorism is involved in the recent laser incidents such as this one.

...at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the FBI says, a green laser light beam was directed into the cockpit of a Continental 737 that was 15 miles from the runway.

“This plane was targeted,” said FBI special agent Bob Hawk. “It just didn't flash for a moment inside the cockpit. The plane was traveling at about 300 miles an hour, at about 8,500 to 10,000 feet. It followed the plane inside the cockpit for two to four seconds.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:37 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


LASER Update

Further developments is the Lasers targeting airliners have been posted by Michele Malkin.

LaserShoppe.com whom I cited in this post yesterday has issued the following statement

Unfortunately, we have decided to STOP selling these lasers to the general public. Too many people have been doing stupid things with lasers recently, and this product is misunderstood.  This laser DOES NOT pose a threat to airplanes or pilots, but due to the media hype and hysteria, I can't risk being blamed for such a thing. This laser does have the potential to do damage at close range however, and I can't sleep at night thinking that something I sold could fall into the wrong hands and be used to hurt people.  It's unfortunate that that the actions of a few idiots have caused me to take these steps. If you are a responsible adult, and you are willing to fax me a copy of your driver's license, a short essay on laser safety, and sign a waiver, then I will consider selling one of these lasers to you.  Please email me if you want more information.
The statement that the product is misunderstood and poses no threat to airplanes doesn't seem to mesh with the warning given on their site.
A word of caution - This laser can be DANGEROUS. Please NEVER point this laser at a person, a vehicle, an animal, an aircraft, or operate it in an environment where the reflected beam can hit your face. Like all high-power lasers, if the beam from this laser hits your eyes at close range, it can cause blindness.  This laser must be treated like a loaded gun at all times.
These contradictory statements leave me wondering if the product is dangerous to aircraft or not.

They have also edited some of the sell copy on the site. The quote I pulled yesterday read in part:

Compare this to the 3 to 5mW of a good quality regular green laser pointer, and you get an idea how powerful this laser really is.  This laser is not legal to use in public, and while we are not asking for any proof that the buyer is qualified to own this device, we trust that it will be used in a responsible fashion.  This is a Class IIIb laser device. 
The revised copy reads
Compare this to the 3 to 5mW of a good quality regular green laser pointer, and you get an idea how powerful this laser really is.  This is a Class IIIb laser device that has been FDA certified and issued and FDA accession number.  That means this laser is legal to own and operate, but the buyer is advised to check the laws related to lasers to be certain that the intended use does not violate the law.  We will sell this laser to responsible adults only.
I suspect that combined with their new requirement of a waiver or liability and essay on laser safety they are trying to more fully cover their backsides as it is unlawful to use a laser generating more than 5mW in public without a permit. That would mean that you couldn't do something like this without a permit. Which according to the LaserShoppe site is the beam hitting a tree a quarter of a mile away.

While I think it is good thing that a company like LaserShoppe has rethought its sales policy of blind trust unfortunately their efforts seem to be focused only on their liability.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:03 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


Resolution Progress Report

I've always felt that before going through the effort of thinking up resolutions for the new year, its a good idea to take a look at the ones you made last year. For one thing, realizing how badly you did on last year's will keep you from reaching too high this time.

This is I what I wrote one year ago today:

My resolutions for Hold the Mayo in 2004: Obviously better proofing, and updating the link list. I also resolve to check the site meter less often. I resolve to not put my picture on the site. Ever.
So how have I done?

The proof reading has gotten a little better. The system level spell check in OS X works pretty well. I try to always read everything in preview mode before I post. I rush it sometimes though. I've gotten better about adding people to the lists of links, although there are a few in my bookmarks that I haven't actually linked yet.

The site meter resolution went the way of most diet and exercise resolutions. Which is to say it was a complete and utter failure.

I went the whole year without putting my picture up. This is an important one, so I am going to repeat it again for 2005.

Not too bad. Out of four resolutions I made progress on two. Achieved one and failed on one.

For 2005, in addition to the no pictures of me ever resolution, I'm going to do the site meter thing again - with a twist.

My resolution is that before the year is out my daily average visits will equal or exceed my body weight. Since my average today is 33 this means I am either going to have to either become the most shameless link whore in the blogosphere, or give up eating altogether. Actually, I'm hoping for something of middle ground solution because I'm quite fond of eating and not terribly fond of begging. I figure if I am going to obsess about the numbers I might as well get some benefit from it.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:37 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Into the Teeth of the Horse

You can file this story under “You Can't Please Everyone,” “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,” “Its Bush So It Must Be Wrong,” or “Looking a Gift Horse In the Mouth.”

Some utter internationalist Euro Weenie is complaining that President Bush's effort to set up an international coalition to coordinate disaster relief is really just an attempt to undermine the United Nations.

But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”(emphasis mine)

I think the last thing we need is a bunch of U.N bureaucrats descending on the scene and using their moral authority to trade relief supplies for sex with children. To claim that the U.N. has any moral authority is beyond ridiculous. The closest Ms. Short gets to a grasp of reality is that on some level she understands that the U.N. requires the United States support for it to have any legitimacy. If we don't build it up, it will collapse.

I say cheers to the cowboy unilateralist for forming yet another international coalition to deal with the world's problems, and bravo for keeping the kleptocrats at the U.N. out of it.

Stingy nations of the world unite.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:30 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


December 29, 2004

Terrorist Laser Warfare

Michele Malkin is reporting on a story out of Cleveland of someone using a laser to track a commercial airliner. In September she covered a story of a Delta pilot who was possibly injured by a laser that penetrated the cockpit. She included this statement from the Federation of American Scientists

Anti-personnel laser weapons are inexpensive, sold openly by the Third World, have line-of-sight aiming, and are capable of producing catastrophic results if used against aircrews and sensors in flight (especially during takeoffs and landings). Commercially available laser weapons include the ZM-87, developed by the Chinese and first displayed at the International Defense Exhibition in 1995. In addition, the Russians sell a truck-mounted high-energy laser. And the University of Tasmania in Hobart sells a CO2 laser system for controlling forest undergrowth. The system is used to ignite logging debris from distances of 100 to 1,500 meters. The laser, costing $86,500, is mounted on a gun turret carried in a 2-ton truck and is simple to operate. Similar systems are available commercially throughout the world.

When I read this post I remembered something I saw at The Nap Room.

LaserShoppe.com is selling a 100mW handheld laser for $699. Their description of the product: (emphasis original)

We are offering this laser for sale to responsible adults only.  This laser is not a toy.  This is not a modified laser pointer, or any kind of scam like you may have seen on eBay.  This is a legitimate high-power laser instrument.  It will cast a dot on the clouds and burn a hole through a plastic cup from across the room.  It is guaranteed to be above 100mW in output power, but that is a very conservative power rating.  In actuality, these lasers usually have an output between 150mW and 200mW.  I have one here the measures 191mW!  Compare this to the 3 to 5mW of a good quality regular green laser pointer, and you get an idea how powerful this laser really is.  This laser is not legal to use in public, and while we are not asking for any proof that the buyer is qualified to own this device, we trust that it will be used in a responsible fashion.  This is a Class IIIb laser device. 

This laser takes 2 “C” size batteries.  This is a Diode Pumped Solid State laser operating at a wavelength of 532nm.  The housing is constructed of very thick aluminum with heatsink cooling fins in the front.  It has a very solid feel in your hand.  The power switch is a “click-on” type, so it can be locked in the “on” position.  The whole BEAM is CLEARLY visible (not just the dot at the end of the beam like with weaker lasers).  Since the beam is visible in the air for as far as you can see, it makes for a great way to point out objects in the night sky to other observers, and it will be visible to people for miles around.  You will not see a laser like this anywhere else, at any price.  You may see people selling modified laser pointers on eBay or elsewhere on the Internet.  This laser is in a whole different class.  You cannot even begin to compare this laser to a “laser pointer.”  In fact, this laser makes a terrible pointer, because the dot is so bright it's painful to look at.  If you tried to use it as a pointer to give a presentation, the people watching the presentation would be looking away due to the intense light, and there would be burn marks all over the things you were trying to point out!  This laser carries a six-month warranty. 

A word of caution - This laser can be DANGEROUS. Please NEVER point this laser at a person, a vehicle, an animal, an aircraft, or operate it in an environment where the reflected beam can hit your face. Like all high-power lasers, if the beam from this laser hits your eyes, it can cause blindness.  This laser must be treated like a loaded gun at all times.

It's comforting to know that this device is essentially being offered to anyone with $699 of available credit on their VISA card with the trust that is will be used in a responsible fashion. I'll try to remember that sense of trust the next time I climb onto an airplane.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:56 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Marketing Without Thought

I was out and about doing some errands today and as usual was listening to talk radio, WABC, in the car. Two things stood out. First was that the pace at which the death toll in Asia continues to rise has not slowed at all. The second is that some people execute their marketing plans completely without thought. Less than a minute after the latest reports from the Indian Ocean, I heard an advertisement  for this film
Fon Sneak Miniposter

Forces of Nature is an IMax film from National Geographic. I don't recall the exact words of the radio spot but this description of the film from the web site seems fairly close. The tone and language are quite similar.

OVERVIEW  The ground shakes, mountains explode, the sky turns black and violent — experience our planet’s fiercest powers as “Forces of Nature” delivers the awesome spectacle of earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes. From volcanic eruptions on the island of Montserrat and trembling fault lines in Turkey, to storms ripping through the notorious “Tornado Alley” of America’s Midwest, modern-day disasters from around the globe are witnessed in eye-popping enormity on the giant screen. The film, by National Geographic in partnership with Graphic Films, captures inspiring and terrifying atmospheric and geological events, then takes audiences behind the disasters with scientists willing to risk their own lives to understand these forces and increase our odds of surviving these events.

LOGLINE Experience on the giant screen our planet’s fiercest powers, as “Forces of Nature” delivers the awesome spectacle of earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes.

The ad I heard was for screenings at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. But the film is also playing in a number of IMax theaters across the country.

I would really like to be able to give the folks at the Liberty Science Center the benefit of the doubt. It is probably difficult if not contractually impossible to change what they are showing, but I know that with a simple phone call they could have pulled the ad. I want to believe that it was all just an error, an oversight. I just don't want to think that they are using the deaths of 80,000 people as a way to fill theater seats.

I've tried to call WABC's Continuity Department, which is the only point of contact I could find on their web site for commenting onadvertising (212-613-3817) but have been unable to get through. I wanted to ask them why they didn't pull the ad out of their rotation.

I have written to the Liberty Science Center:

To whom it may concern,  I heard your radio advertisement for the movie Forces of Nature on WABC earlier today. It was unfortunately played very shortly after a news story on the still rising death toll of the tsunami's in southern Asia. It was overwhelmingly offensive.  I am curious to know if the present tragedy figured at all into your decision making regarding the promotion, and even the continued showing, of this film. I would certainly hope that you did not see a disaster resulting in the deaths of 80,000 people as a hook to sell more tickets.  I understand that your radio buy was probably scheduled well in advance of the earthquake and tsunamis and that you have limited control over when it airs, but I also know that with a simple phone call the ad could have been pulled. I assume due to scheduling and contracts, it is likely not possible for you to pull the film from your theater and put something in its place, and having the theater closed would not be good for the overall facility. Would you consider donating the proceeds of ticket sales since the earthquake to a relief fund?

If and when I get a response, I'll post an update.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:47 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


December 28, 2004

The Year in Laughs

World Net Daily Executive Editor Joe Kovacs has published his list of the funniest news stories of 2004. Heres how it begins:

The fun began when Janet Jackson experienced a “wardrobe malfunction” during January's Super Bowl.

I thought for sure her overexposure would prompt 2004 to be known as “the year of the boob.” Then I remembered it was an election year, so the slogan was golden.

There is quite a bit more following. It really has been an amusing year.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:25 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Cry Havoc!

And Let Loose the Dogs of Politics.

It's going to be a bloody war. There will undoubtedly be a good deal of collateral damage. In the end, the American people will win. The battlefield will be the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The battle lines for a bitter fight over judicial nominations are already being drawn as Bill Frist who proved ineffective in fighting Democratic filibusters has taken strength from the GOP's 4 seat gain in the Senate and is making noise that he is prepared to fight. Frist has indicated that he is prepared to use what has been labeled the “Nuclear Option” of amending the Senate rules to require a simple majority to move a nominee to an up or down vote. He has made this threat before and, of course, it never happened.

Along with Frist's newfound resolve, comes a promise from President Bush that he will re-nominate previously filibustered nominees. After the year-long ordeal of Miguel Estrada, I would imagine that he would need to have a fairly solid commitment of support from both the President and Mr. Frist before trying again.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised that if Frist goes Nuclear, he will make the obstructionism of his predecessor seem like a bipartisan picnic and jamboree. Reid has threatened to throw a procedural monkey wrench into any and every legislative initiative the Republicans put forward.

Some people have noted the Minority Leader's threats with disdain. I say bring it on. Of what use is an opposition party if they do not fight for the things they believe and against the things they oppose? A good bitterly fought political battle in the Senate will not spell doom for the republic. Quite the contrary, this is what the Senate is for.

I wouldn't even have any objection if we returned to the days of the occasional fisticuffs on the Senate floor. We have become too politically delicate. To afraid to give offense when and where offense should be given. Show me a Senator, from either party, being lead out of the chamber in handcuffs for assault, and I'll show you the likely recipient of my next campaign contribution.

Let them get their blood up. Let us see some passion. These people are there representing us. Lets have them do it with feeling.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:52 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 26, 2004

Modified for Marketing Hype

In a feat bound to delight the marketing department at Toyota, the Toyota Prius has established a land speed record for hybrid cars.

Of course this record was not set with a stock Prius from the showroom for $21,415. Toyota engineers changed the gear ratios and boosted the output of the electric component of the engine, as well as adding a transmission cooling system. They also lowered the car five inches to improve aerodynamics and slapped on a set of custom made Goodyear tires. They gutted the interior to save weight, but added a roll cage for safety so some of the weight savings was negated.

What did all of this modification get them? A whopping 130.793 mph.

I have no doubt, since they are already planning to exhibit the record setting hybrid at the Detroit Motor Show in January that this speed record will find its way into Prius advertising and marketing.

I'm not a gear-head by any definition so I have no realistic basis on which to evaluate how much additional speed was gained by the modifications, but 131 mph doesn't really impress me. Had they hit 131 with a stock Prius, that would have significant.

But apparently some are impressed. The Prius is the European Car of the Year for 2005. I suspect they are talking about “Old Europe.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:46 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 24, 2004

Dress For Safety

Michele Malkin and many others have been rightly calling to task the Transportation Security Agency over the dress code established by the Air Marshal Service. Having a dress code for people who are working undercover that is anything other than dress to blend in with other travelers is patently absurd. But this is a government agency so what else would you expect?

I certainly don't expect them to change this policy that they claim does not exist.

I propose a different tack. A small sacrifice of comfort that we can make in the name of our own security. If you are traveling by air keep in mind the following requirements for your in-flight wardrobe.

Male dress attire will consist of at a minimum, an appropriate sport coat (conservative in nature/style, color and fabric) that is readily available and worn while in travel status...It is not acceptable to carry a sport coat in the travel bag. Appropriate dress also may include collared sport or Polo type shirts or banded type necks (turtle or crew neck).

Pants and or slacks must be clean and pressed and may not include denim of any color, nylon or other similar material, or cargo style pants. Appropriate footwear and socks shall be worn. Athletic shoes, sneakers, sandals or hiker/training boots are not allowed. Likewise, athletic sock will not be worn with dress shoes.

I'm sorry ladies, you will have to interpret this for your own purposes.

I know, its much more comfortable to travel in a pair of comfy jeans and sneakers. Bu look at it this way. The Marshals are trying to do a job. The job of trying to keep you safe. Their efforts are being hampered by a bureaucracy that has them boarding planes with a target on their heads.

To do their job they need to be under cover. Their own agency will not allow them to dress to blend with their fellow passengers so it it falls upon us to give them the cover they need.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:57 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 22, 2004

What One World?

Over at Captains Quarters I found this quote from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan

“The United States needs the United Nations and the United Nations needs the United States,” the secretary-general said. “And we need to find a way of working together.”
One of the biggest complaints about the U.N. and its internationalist supporters is their apparent desire to create a one world government. The questions I have are, what world is Kofi planning to govern and in what twisted parallel universe does it exist?

I certainly know of no world in which the United States needs the U.N.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:46 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


Complaining About The Weather

Here is the National Weather Service forecast for my area for the next several days

Tonight: Chance of Showers low temp of 35

Thursday: Thunderstorms possible High 52

Thurs. Night: rain Thunderstorms low 27

Friday Partly cloudy High 38

Friday Night: Snow possible low 17

Christmas Day: Snow Possible High 28

Personally I think the last two entries are completely bogus. They put that in there for people like me whose kids know that Daddy can check the weather on the computer. This will make the kids more excited in the final run-up to the big day. But after they're done unwrapping presents they will be pissed if they look out the window and see grass. I mean really, Snow Possible? Its late December. Pick any random day and you can say snow possible. (Except of course for the day you're having thunderstorms.)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:35 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 21, 2004

An Embarrassment Of Riches

One of the high points of driving anywhere with my four-year-old son is his enthusiastic proclamation every time we hit an intersection with a green light.

We're rich!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:48 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 18, 2004

The Sky Is Not Falling

I have been a skeptic on the subject of global warming since the day it replaced the prospect of a new ice age as the man made ecological disaster de jour. (I never bought into the whole ice age thing either.) In fact I don't think I ever bought into any environmentalist driven prophecy of doom. I have always believed that such prophecies are driven by a political/social agenda and have little to do with the environment and nothing to do with science. I have written about this on numerous occasions in regards to the Kyoto Climate Control Protocol. I have never handled the topic as well as Tom Deweese in this commentary at Intellectual Conservative.

There is no scientific evidence to back claims of man-made global warming.  Period. Anyone who tells you that scientific research shows warming trends -- be they teachers, newscasters, Congressmen, Senators, Vice Presidents or Presidents -- is wrong.   In fact, scientific research through U.S. government satellite and balloon measurements shows that the temperature is actually cooling -- very slightly -- .037 degrees Celsius.
The rest of the article presents an excellent summary of the arguments against Global Warming theory and Kyoto. From scientists who work to find the data that fits their political objectives to their media cohorts who take their findings as gospel.
There are those who look at facts and make their judgments based on what they see and know. Their findings can be matched by any other scientist, using the same data and set of circumstances to reach the same conclusions.  It's an age-old practice called “peer review.”  It's the only true science.

And then there are those who yearn for a certain outcome and set about creating the needed data to make it so.  Usually you will find this group of scientists greatly dependent on grants supplied by those with a specific political agenda who demand desired outcomes for their money.
[...]
And so too is it an outrage for the news media to tell you that most true scientists now agree that man-made global warming is a fact.  What it doesn't tell you is that roughly 500 scientists from around the world signed the Heidleburg Appeal in 1992, just prior to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, expressing their doubts and begging the delegates not to bind the world to any dire treaties based on global warming.  Today that figure has grown to over 4000 scientists.  Americans aren’t being told that a 1997 Gallop Poll of prominent North American climatologists showed that 83 percent of them disagreed with the man-made global warming theory.

Deweese does an excellent job outlining the costs to the United States and to individual Americans under Kyoto, and it is not a very pretty picture. Essentially the function of Kyoto is to put the breaks on the economies of the developed nations i.e. the U.S. so that we don't continue to pull away from the corrupt economically stagnant autocracies of the world. Needless to say you should not only read the whole thing, but send it to your friends and make them read it too. I'll close this with Deweese's finish:
Don’t think this devastation can’t happen. The UN and the European Union have exposed their hatred for the United States. They envy our wealth and think that legalized theft, rather than sound economic policy, is the way to obtain it.

The fact is that one person now stands between the global warming jackals and economic sanity -- George W. Bush. Will he stand firm in his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol? Or will he capitulate to massive international pressure and sell America’s soul?  

UPDATE: Ronald Bailey covering the COP-10 Climate Change Confrence for Reason makes this bold pronouncement, “The Kyoto Protocol is dead. There will be no further global treaties that set binding limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) after Kyoto runs out in 2012.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:05 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment


December 17, 2004

These Things Have To Start Somewhere

I got an idea for a new meme while reading this post at the Volokh Conspiracy. It seem that spell check software has renamed Civil War figure Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, “Lighthouse Harry.” I guess if they made him an Admiral as well it might be o.k. Eugene Volokh's name changed to Moloch

To the untrained spell-checker my name translates to Maudlin. (How sad)

Does spell check mangle your moniker?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:35 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


December 16, 2004

Wanted: Blogger For Hire

Do you know any bloggers, like this guy, who are looking for a job?

Do you know anyone who might be interested in the emerging field of professional blogging.

Maybe you know someone who is a talented writer who might want to score a little extra cash.

Or maybe you just know someone who only seems to have enough to do to keep him busy 22 hours a day and is looking fill the void.

Well, the opportunity exists. Jennifer Rice, the author of one of the marketing blogs I visit daily, has posted the following about a job opportunity.

Freelance Blogger Wanted

One of my clients is starting a blog but doesn't have the internal resources to maintain it. This company is also launching a blog tool that they're reselling.

If you're interested head on over to What's Your Brand Mantra and check out the rest of the details.

Personally I think its a great opportunity and I would be pursuing it myself if I felt that the reality of my existence would allow me to keep my end of the bargain.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 14, 2004

An Act Of Congress

I received a viscously nasty email from a reader who was upset that I had deleted his comment to one of my posts. The comment in question was an invective filled off-topic rant whose sole purpose was to call me as many names as possible. I can take name calling and insults, they don't really mean al that much to me. The need to be insulting generally arises from a subconscious understanding of the utter weakness of one's argument. Alas, there was no attempt at argument or debate. It was abuse for the sake of abuse and I deleted it without hesitation.

He discovered that the only response his comment got was a quick deletion and tried to leave another. It really pissed him off when he discovered that he had been banned. So he emailed me.

Much more of the same lunatic rambling and hurling of epithets ensued. I mean the language was so foul you would have thought it was the script for a Democratic Party fund raiser. Somewhere toward the end (no I'm not going to reproduce any of it here) he slipped up. He actually tried to make a point. He should have just stuck with lunatic ranting. Actual thought was not his strong suit.

His argument, of course, was that my deletion of his comment and banning of his IP address represented a violation of the “free speech rights granted to him under the First Amendment.” I don't think this guy has ever actually read the First Amendment. Somewhere in his past, probably the third grade, his teacher told him that the First Amendment granted him the right to free speech and that is all he really knows on the subject. So I'm going to do him a favor. Not only am I going to quote the entire First Amendment, I'm going to put the parts relevant to our discussion in bold.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
New flash my friend: I AM NOT CONGRESS. My deleting your comment is not act of congress. An act of congress could not compel me to put it back.

Now if I really wanted to educate this character I would also explain at length that the First Amendment does not grant the right to freedom of speech. The First Amendment assumes that you have that right, and prevents the government from taking it away. (Or at least its supposed to if you don't count campaign finance reform.) But I suspect that the effort would be wasted.

Here's a note to anyone who thinks they have a right to free speech in my, or any other blog's, comments. YOU DON'T. If you want space to spout whatever idiocy crosses your mind I invite you to head on over to BlogSpot, start a blog of your own, and leave me the hell alone.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:41 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment


December 12, 2004

The Lies We Are Told

Politicians lie.

That is not really a new revelation I know. They tell you whatever they think you want to hear in the hope that will convince you to vote for them. If we accept the fact that individual participants in the political process can be less than forthright, would it come as any shock that when you get a group of them together the result is even bigger lies.

Currently, one of the hot topics of debate is how to reform the Social Security System. Now a post detailing all of the lies the government tells us about Social Security might put too big a strain on Mu.Nu's bandwidth so I'm just going to focus on the Big Lie of Social Security.

Your employer pays part of your Social Security.

Currently you are taxed 6.2% of the first $87,000 of income and your employer contributes another 6.2% The Big Lie is revealed when you look at where the employer's 6.2% comes from.

Assume you are a business owner and business is good. So good that you need to hire additional staff. You look over the numbers and you figure out that you can budget $30,000 for a new hire. But before you make an offer, you have to factor in what it will cost you to hire that employee. First, there's worker's comp insurance. If you have employees, you have to be insured against something happening to them. I would guess that the cost varies depending on the industry, but for our case, lets say adding this new hire to your policy is going to cost $1,000. Then you factor in the payroll taxes - FICA is the big one 6.2% of $29,000 is going to cost $1,798. Your medicare contribution for your new employee is going to cost you another 1.45% or $420. There are going to be administrative costs associated with this employee lets call that another $200. This leaves you with 26,582 in your budget for salary. You're going to make someone an offer at $26,500.

The bottom line is the “employer's contribution” has already been deducted from your bottom line. You are being taxed the full 12.4% for Social Security. It's just that half of it is done so that you can't see it.

It's a simple reality that most people probably don't take the time to examine. The costs of having an employee on the payroll are factored into the business decision of when to hire and what salary to pay. And the employer's contribution to your payroll taxes is deducted from what you are paid before the check is written.

Why do they do they tell you this lie? Take out your most recent pay stub and take a look at what you've paid for FICA for the year to date. How do you feel about that number.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:20 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


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