Thursday, August 31, 2006

Some good reads

Nothing really to say today. Just wanted to point out that I've added some links in the sidebar to three blogs that are good reads. I call them "Girl in the big city blogs". Stuff about working in a NYC bar, being a public defender, and going to Starbucks for fancy expresso drinks are among the topics.

All well written and more fun to read over the morning espresso than most newspapers.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lock him up

They're having a debate on Hannity and Colmes about how we can lock up Karr for the rest of his life. That he doesn't appear to have commited any crime doesn't seem to matter to these clowns.

Hannity thinks that the things he's said are just creepy and the only explanation is that he's possessed by evil itself. I guess it's not enough to have an exorcism for Hannity. We have to contain the devil by locking him away for ever.

That'll really show the devil who's in charge here.

These religious right wing nutcases are really, really scary. They actually beleive this nonsense about devil possession and they actually think they are the true soldiers of the true god.

They keep calling Karr a pediphile. He's not. There's no evidence that he is. Not any. He's nuts, that part is clear, and he might be a pediphile, but it's really doubtful that theres many 41 year pediphiles running around loose that the cops want to find evidence against but can't find any. That's really strong evidence that he's not a pediphile.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

more ribbons

A couple months ago I made a post about ribbon inflation in the armed forces.

Seems I missed one from Vietnam.

Not every body was eligible, but he Combat Action Ribbon was authorized in 1969, and the authorization was backdated. It was after I was released from active duty, and I wasn't in active reserves, so I didn't know about it.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, August 27, 2006

No more first amendment

I don't know what to say about this reuters story.

Only approved television programming is allowed? What does terrorism mean when we label a political party in a country that is an ally and which forms a part of their democratic government can't offer television programming in this country?

Praise God if you love freedom brother.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, August 21, 2006

Payday loans

Steven Dubner at Freakonomics made a recent post about payday loans. It seems Congress is thinking of passing a law stopping military from getting payday loans even in those states that regulate the service. Dubner seems to think that the fees that such loan companies charge is usery. I think otherwise. Here's my comment.

You can get a $100 withdrawel at an ATM with a credit card for a couple of bucks (it’s usually going to be more than $1.38) but you can’t get a cash advance on a credit card at a teller window for that. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s more like $12—plus interest charges.

The transaction cost for the payday lender is fairly high, and the period of the loan is usually less than a week.

She’s right, it’s a bad law.

The ones they should pass a law about is the furniture rental places—not for their overpriced stuff and rentals which are essentially usery disguised as rental agreement, but to stop their ability to use criminal laws to collect payments. If you default on a rental agreement it’s treated as theft if you don’t return the merchandise, where default on a secured not requires civil action to recover the merchandise. That should be outlawed.

But, very small short term loans have high transaction costs and should not be treated as usery. Lenders should be allowed to recover transaction costs.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, August 14, 2006


I still havn't seen an explanation of exactly where the capture of the Isreali soldiers that started the Isreal/Lebanon war happened. Was it in Isreal or in Lebanon?

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The flock of sheep

The Chicago Tribune has a story about how easy it is to fleece religious types.

I guess it's not surprising. If you can believe in magic beings who live in the clouds then you can pretty much swallow anything.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's all about the hype

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) winner got $12 million this year. Up from $7.5 million last year. They didn't have that many more entrants, so to make that number that big they had to actually cut the prize money of some of the lower in-the-money finishers (prize money is distributed among the final 10%).

Some of the finishers complained that this year they had to beat 3,000 more people than last year to finish in the money but they won less money this year than last year.

A really big number to the first place finisher is very valuable hype for the WSOP. Last year they juggled things around to make sure the last table gave everybody a million dollars. It's about the hype. Rationality, or consistency, has nothing to do with anything.

We elected a president because he was able to generate hype that convinced enough people that he could "protect us". Every piece of available evidence was that his war in Iraq didn't make the world, or us, safer at all. He was screwing things up over there so badly that it was actually fueling the growth of terrorism throughout the world. We weren't "fighting over there so we wouldn't have to fight here". We continued to reduce liberties here and to spend more and more money buying police officers GI Joe outfits so they could strut around airports "protecting us". We re-elected Bush based on the hype, not the substance.

The absurdity of it was just funny. Fox news talked about how much you could trust Bush to sit on the front porch with a shotgun to protect the family and the other guy (Kerry) didn't know how to do that. My Gawd, Kerry had actually taken a shotgun and killed bad guys when he was a young man. And we swallowed that hype that "Kerry doesn't know how to use a shotgun". (Our VP turned out to be a real champ with a shotgun).

That's more hype -- for the gun ownership nutcase lobby. Cheney is a "hunter". He doesn't hunt. He kills pets. In Pennsylvania he shot birds that were released on the spot by the paid provider of the "hunt". Skeet shooting with pigeons instead of clay pigeons. In Texas he hunted on a ranch that raised birds for exotic hunts and they had cowboys to take him right out to where the birds were raised and flush them out for him to shot. At least they weren't being released from a cage, but these were not wild birds that he "hunted". He didn't find them. They gave him a map and a guide to find the spot. They called him to the line when it was his turn to "shoot" according to ranch owner Armstrong, not to hunt. Hype. Just hype with a shotgun, no hunting.

There's a recent Business Week article about AT&T. This is a company that touts itself as an innovative technology company. But they spend more effort on blocking competitive innovation from other's than actually innovating themselves.

A senior engineering project manager is quoted in that article as saying "marketing dreams it up, and then I have to design it." Product or technology has nothing to do with anything -- they do consumer studies, not product development. If left up to AT&T we'd still not have cell phones.

The security at the airport is not protecting us. If the recent arrests in England, Italy, Pakistan have proven anything it should be that we need more and more cops out on the street blending with the people, being Officer Friendly, cultivating informants. That's how that case was broken. Instead we give them dogs, machine guns, and cool para-military uniforms to prance around airports throwing away lipstick and toothpaste. Hype. Image. Security is irrelevant.

The problems with the WSOP, and with America, has nothing to do with who is in charge, it has to do with the way the public responds to hype and simply ignores substance. We don't care. We just want platitudes and nonsense. It provides comfort.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, August 11, 2006

War Crimes

Slate has an interesting articles about war crimes

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Short your stock in America

What the hell are we doing?

We've never caught a terrorist at the airport. Not once.

The terrorists in England where caught by traditional undercover police work. The police infiltrated a group and kept track of their plans.

Security at the airport has never done anything to thwart a terrorist attack. But, now you can't drink water past the security checkpoint (not just carrying water on a plane), you can't carryon a tube of toothpaste in case the airlines lose your bags, and we have soldiers running around with automatic weapons. The biggest crime threat in airports is theft of laptops. So, (to improve security?), we are required to remove laptops from any bags and wave them around saying, "Lookee here, here's a valuable piece of electronic gear".

We've just gone completely nuts.

Airport security isn't about security. It's about pretense and bullshit.

Even the original information about the plot came from classic sources, an informant.

No secret wire taps, no blanket survalience, no warrentless searches. Just ordinary police work.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, August 10, 2006

amazing incompetence

When I first started a site on the internet, long long ago, I had an affliate account with Amazon. One of the problems with it was that they only paid a commision on books that customers clicked to directly. If they clicked to the amazon site from an icon that went to a page for Gary Carson's The Complete Book of Hold'em Poker and they ended up buying instead they didn't pay a commission.

Then Barnes and Noble came along and paid commissions on anything the customer bought that trip. Much better. So I quit using Amazon for a long time.

Then recently I got more serious about actually using the internet to try to generate some income and since so many more buyers prefer Amazon to Barne's and Noble I got a new Amazon affiliate account.

That was a few weeks ago. I haven't sold anything.

I got an email from Amazon this morning pointing out that I needed to do some work, make some sales. They included the html for a box banner ad.

The html had an error in it. I mean it didn't work.

Instead of iframe width="180" etc etc
they had xiframewidth="180" etc etc

Easy enough for me to fix once I got it through my head that these people actually didn't know what the hell they're doing. This is one of America's top internet retail companies. And they can't get simple html code right before they send it out to customers.

No wonder Windows crashes. American industry is just incompetent.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Misrepresentation and the news

It's common for newspaper headlines to misrepresent the story, simply becuase headline writers sometimes don't really read the story, they just skim over it quickly, and they value cute more than accurate at times.

But in this article the story writer uses a lead sentence that misleads, I can only assume it's intentional.

People left homeless after their trailer park is closed by the city, he says.

But the story says the city is putting them up elsewhere. There're being relocated and given a month to find a new residence. That's not homeless. Maybe some of them will end up being homeless in a month, maybe not, maybe the city will put some of them up longer than a month. We don't know. But they aren't homeless now.

It makes you wonder what kind of agenda that newspaper has.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, August 07, 2006

To protect and serve

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

What does that mean?

I was watching CNN last night and they had a report of a "new government study" that found that most people convicted of a violent felony have a prior conviction.

It was announced as if it was something important, something meaningfull.

But I don't understand what it means. I think I know what the report writer (or at least the writer of the press release that CNN got it's information from) wants us to think it means. But I somehow doubt that's what it actually means.

I think what they want us to beleive is that if we lock more offendors up, and lock them up for longer times, that we won't have as much violent crime. But, of course the quoted statistics imply no such thing.

The full report can be found by following the links here.

The report itself isn't funded research, its not a policy analysis, it's just 12 pages of descriptive statistics with no analysis at all. It's just empty numbers presented as if they have meaning. And CNN fell for it.

Of course people who are convicted of violent crimes tend to have prior conviction records. That's becauause the ones accused of violent crimes who are actually prosecuted for those crimes are the ones who have prior convictions. Those without prior convictions will be more likely to be convicted of a misdimeanor on a plea bargin.

And it may be that 90% of those who are treated leniently if they don't have a prior conviction never commit another crime. That's perfectly consistent with what I saw of the data (maybe I missed something)

THe report is just meaningless drivel.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A clip blog

I really like this blog stuff. I started a clipping blog at, Police in the News.

It's newspaper clippings on one of my favorite topics, police and prison guard misconduct.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Evil Criminals

America arrested another evil criminal the other day. (BBC story, CNN story, Yahoo news

And, of course, other bloggers have had a lot to say about it.

The indictment

I was reading about the history of SWAT teams the other day. The first SWAT was formed in California as a tool to use to put down labor protests. It grew around the country as a tool to use to control student protests against the war. It's grown into a tool for government seizure of citizen assets by force.

That's the way America reacts to citizens who 1. don't like the way things are done or 2. Don't have the power to fight back. And it's been going on a long time. What you're seeing now is the result of your having been happy with a country that imprisons a bigger pecentage of it's residents than anybody else in the world. The arrest of an operator of a foriegn website is just part of the process. It's not new.

When I hear people complain about the feds arresting gamblers by saying they should "go after real criminals" I want to puke. It's because we allow the government to define criminals in very arbitrary ways -- drug users, people who defend themselves when their home is invaded, women who don't follow an approved health regime while pregnant, people who have too many cats, etc -- that they aren't going after "real" real criminals. We've accepted the nonsense that a "real criminal" includes just about everybody.

The position of the US government is that a bet transaction did occur on US soil, at the site of an american customer and the crime the Brit committed was facilitation of that illegal bet.

I read the indictment of the owner of betonsports. It's at the Justice Department website.

One thing I noticed in the indictment though, that I think calls for a cool head about rushing to cash out of online sites.

BetonSports took bets over phone lines.

There have been two wire act convictions of interent gambling operators in the last few years. One in Texas and one in New York. Both convictions were appealed.

In Texas the conviction was overturned because the deposit transaction and the bet transaction were seperate transactions and the bet transaction took place out side the US.

In the NY conviction it was upheld because they took a phone bet form NY. That was a clear violation of the wire act.

Don't do business with anybody that takes phone bets and I think you're okay for now.

This stuff isn't new.

One US appeals court (the 5th circuit in New Orleans) has ruled that the bet did not occur in the US, that a deposit was made and that transaction was in the US, but the bet was a seperate transaction. Another US appeals court (the 1st) heard another case and was able to rule on that one without addressing the issue of where the bet occured.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cops kill. Cops cover it up.

About a month ago someone was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Williamson County in Texas, just North of Austin. It seems that the primary reaction of the sheriff and the county attorney is to just clam up and stonewall questions about it, even to the extent of violating state law to keep the details from the public.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs