Archive for May, 2006

A few things from this morning’s news

Interesting | Posted by admin
May 29 2006

Senator Norm Coleman (R-Cargill) doesn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for investigating wheat scandals as he displayed in oil-for-food scandals.

Here’s an interesting headline: St. Paul store blends meal-making and socializing. It’s followed by a story about one of those “Hey mom, here’s a way you can cram even more guilt-inducing stuff into your life and still let the lazy bums in your family do nothing” services. Trouble is, the store isn’t in St. Paul. It’s not even in Minneapolis. Sheesh.

You know those 750 signing statements issued by Our Glorious Leader wherein he explains why his signature on a piece of legislation doesn’t really mean he agrees with it or intends to enforce it? Always seems a bit over the top for me to believe that Bush – a man not known for sweating the details – actually thought about such things. Well, it turns out he didn’t. Cheney did.

I’m getting sick and tired of North Korean Moments:

Bush ‘planted fake news stories on American TV
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Published: 29 May 2006
Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

“We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them,” said Diana Farsetta, one of the group’s researchers. “I would say it’s pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air.”

I’m headed out today to find as many copies I can of It Can’t Happen Here for Spotty’s book collecting on Thursday.

Texas sucks… more of our nation’s fuel supply.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
May 28 2006

Ever wonder why one of the simplest ways to reduce gas consumption isn’t considered by our states’ legislatures or by Congress? Why haven’t they brought up the idea of lowering the speed limit on many highways from those gas-guzzling speeds of 70 or 75 miles per hour to something around 55 to 65 mph, which is the easiest, quickest way to conserve our nation’s fuel supply? I sure have and I think I have found the answer: There’s a counter-intuitive vortex stuck above the state of Texas (and the White House, also, but we already knew of that one) that must be sapping the intelligence and wisdom of state representatives.

Feeling the Need for Speed, Texas Raises Its Limit to 80 (Los Angeles Times):

This week, if all goes according to plan, the posted speed limit on more than 500 miles of West Texas interstates will rise to 80 miles per hour. That will make Texas home to the highest posted limit anywhere in the United States and one that will rival the recommended maximums on Germany’s famous autobahns.

The Texas Legislature fast-tracked the increased speed limit last year and unanimously recommended it; then the Texas Department of Transportation followed suit with feasibility studies that gave the green light. The Texas Transportation Commission gave its approval Thursday.

The first new speed limit signs went up along two flat, rural stretches of Interstates 10 and 20 just in time for Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer driving season.

Texans brush aside such concerns as fuel efficiency or the cost of gasoline.

Engineers calculate that drivers burn 7% more gas per mile for every 5-mph increase in speed above 60 mph. Texans calculate that their Hummers need bigger gas tanks.

“Our mission is to go and seek out whether we can fulfill the requests of the driving public,” said Mark Cross, spokesman for the state transportation department. “And the request from the public is they want to go faster.”

Texas and 11 other states permit drivers on some highways to travel up to 75 mph, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But Texas transportation engineers determined that 85% of drivers on the two segments of I-10 and I-20 were averaging 80 mph, 5 mph above the current 75-mph speed limit, so officials reasoned that raising the limit would simply be a bow to reality.

“We feel it’s always safer to have motorists traveling at a more uniform speed,” Cross said.

Adding insult to injury, here, is the crazy notion that speeders get to determine speed limits on highways. This strongly suggests that energy conservation policy initiatives are sorely lacking in Texas’ legislature. When gas hits $4.00 per gallon nationwide, I guess we can thank Texas for doing their part in driving up the price.

By the way, does anyone know if Bush has violated 85% of the Constitution?

Today’s DSM-IV Moment

Local | Posted by admin
May 24 2006

Oh, goodie… not.
What gift can you give a federal department that has damn near everything (such as V-22 Ospreys that can’t stay aloft, or “missile defense” systems that can’t hit their targets, or control the Central Intelligence Agency)? How about giving them a new bomb to play with?

Boeing unveils lightweight bomb for urban combat (Crain’s Chicago Business):
Company’s defense unit will make 24,000 for Air Force

Boeing Co. on Monday unveiled a line of small, lightweight bombs that the U.S. Air Force will use in urban combat situations like the war in Iraq.

The small-diameter bombs weigh 250 pounds and can be used by all Air Force bombers, according to Boeing. By using the smaller bombs, planes can carry about four times as many bombs and fire them from farther away. A B-2 Stealth bomber can carry as many as 80 of the small-diameter bombs.

The bombs also will help limit civilian casualties during airstrikes in urban areas, Air Force Col. Richard Justice said at an unveiling ceremony. Boeing said its own tests show the bombs hit within 4 feet of their target.

Justice said Boeing’s development of the bomb was one of the speediest and most successful weapons development in Air Force history. He said the bomb should be used in combat as early as this summer.

Boeing, based in Chicago but whose defense operations are based in the St. Louis area, said it will make 24,000 small-diameter bombs for the Air Force, which has contracted to buy them through 2015.

The small-diameter bomb contract is valued at about $2.5 billion, but Boeing has only won the first phase of the whole project.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office – the investigative arm of Congress – found that Boeing’s contract for the bombs had been influenced by an Air Force official who was sentenced to nine months in prison for giving Boeing preferential treatment.

You have to love this. Bombs “designed” for urban combat, corrupt companies and government officials, and a couple of billions more to inflict death and destruction.

War is, indeed, a racket.

Twisting in the wind is not a “turning point.”

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
May 22 2006

I’m just saying…

Bush Says Iraq War at ‘Turning Point’ (Washington Post):

President Bush said today the war in Iraq has reached a “turning point” with the formation of a unity government Saturday in Baghdad, but he suggested the conflict may be far from over.

“Our nation’s been through three difficult years in Iraq. And the way forward will bring more days of challenge and loss,” Bush said in an address to a restaurant trade group in Chicago. “The terrorists did not lay down their arms after three elections in Iraq and they will continue to fight this new government. And we can expect the violence to continue.”

Three years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives lost, hundreds of thousands of lives affected, and hundreds of billions thrown into the money pits we call the Department of Defense and arms manufacturers. Attacks still take place. Our troops still have extended tours of duty in the sun and the sand. Iraq still teeters on prolonged sectarian violence at best and civil war at worst. If there is any turning point in this sad situation, I don’t think we have seen it yet.

Warning: Nasty “class warfare” rant ahead.

Interesting | Posted by admin
May 22 2006

It may have been good to be king, as the old-time historians would tell me, but it seems pretty darn nifty to be a CEO in Minnesota.

Median pay for state’s top 100 CEOs rose 59 percent (Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

Minnesota CEOs still make less than their peers nationwide. But they’re catching up — fast.

Median pay for the 100 highest-paid CEOs in the state jumped 59.3 percent in 2005, to $1.79 million, far above the 15.8 percent gain in April’s national survey of 350 CEOs conducted by the Wall Street Journal and Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The Minnesota figures, compiled by the Star Tribune based on securities filings made this year, include salary, bonus and long-term compensation.

The median total CEO pay package in the Journal’s national sample is $6 million compared with $1.79 million in Minnesota, but Minnesota is gaining both in percentage terms and number of corporate heads pulling down seven figures or more. In 1999, at the peak of the tech bubble, 46 Minnesota CEOs were paid $1 million or more per year. As of last year, the figure was 66. Stock-option gains accounted for the biggest part of total compensation for the 100 Minnesota CEOs — 46 percent — which translated into $202.5 million worth of shares split among 43 company heads in 2005.

Tougher regulatory scrutiny and tax-law changes are making stock options less attractive. That was driven home this month when UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire, who earlier this year held unexercised options worth $1.6 billion, suddenly swore them off.

But the waning interest in options doesn’t mean CEOs are about to take pay cuts. Instead, many companies have turned to a simpler yet still lucrative way of rewarding their top brass: restricted stock. The dollar value of restricted stock granted to Minnesota’s 100 highest-paid executives jumped from $18.1 million in 2003 to $70 million in 2005, a 280 percent jump, according to a Star Tribune review of Securities and Exchange Commission documents. Thirty-nine Minnesota CEOs got restricted stock last year, up from 26 in 2004.

I hope they get to enjoy that new Twins Stadium with the spiffy sky boxes we residents of Hennepin county will be buying them.

(Okay, this wasn’t much of a rant, but… jeez-looeez! …a 60% increase in income?)