Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gate decides to get medieval on car - Car park barrier goes haywire on car

Another flagpole conflict

Homeowners association tells couple they can’t fly American flag on pole: "Admittedly, the Lewtons knew the 20-foot flagpole violated the covenants in their southeast Loveland neighborhood when they installed it in October.

But, the couple said, they didn’t expect any trouble."

Well, if they had asked me, I would have told them to expect trouble.

Friday, April 24, 2009

UIC Doctor removes kidney through belly button

UIC News Release: "Dr. Leslie Deane, assistant professor of urology and director of laparoscopy, endourology and robotic urologic surgery at UIC, inserted a camera and two surgical instruments through a port placed in a one-inch incision in the patient's belly button and remove a diseased kidney the size of an orange."
Not bad for an assistant professor.

Snakehead Fish Cause Concern in Waters

Snakehead Fish Cause Concern in Waters
FORT WASHINGTON, Md. - A certain type of fish is causing concern in local waterways. They call it the snakehead. This week, a fisherman caught a big one, confirming what officials already knew. The invasive species still poses a real threat to the ecosystem.

This is right next to Prince George's County, MD. The fish are in the Potomac River and they seem to have established themselves. It is an invasive species from Asia that has a mouthful of big sharp teeth and an appetite for other fish.

US 'very concerned' about swine flu outbreak

US 'very concerned' about swine flu outbreak: "US medical authorities expressed strong concern Friday about an unprecedented multi-strain swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 60 people in Mexico and infected seven people in the United States."
The 1918-1919 flu epidemic killed at least 20 million people. That's why President Ford authorized a swine flu vaccination program. The CDC is all over this situation because this strain is contagious from human to human, and it is unusual because it has swine, avian, and human strains.

California ponders changes in constitution

California ponders changes in constitution: "SAN CARLOS, Calif. (AP) - Fed up with the budget crises and partisan battles that have paralyzed California for years, some influential voices believe it's time to tear open the state constitution and start anew.

Once dismissed as a hokey gimmick, support for a proposed constitutional convention has been building in the nation's most populous state. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has indicated he would back an effort to retool the document to make state government function more smoothly."

"Function more smoothly" can have many meanings. The organizers of this effort have their own agenda, but you never know where a constitutional convention can lead. The US constitutional convention began as a meeting to propose some amendments to the Articles of Confederation that were to be ratified by unanimous consent of all 13 state legislatures, according to the Articles. The first thing the delegates did was toss the Articles in the trash and start over. The final document was submitted for ratification by special conventions, not state legislatures, and would go into effect as soon as nine state conventions ratified it. So the moral of the story has to be that there is no way to guarantee that a constitutional convention will content itself with "retooling" your existing system.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Americans staying put in record numbers - No place like home as Americans move less: "The number of Americans who moved declined sharply last year, reaching the lowest percentage in 60 years as people grappled with fewer jobs and tighter credit.

Roughly 11.9 percent of the nation's population - or 35.2 million people - moved to a new home, down from 13.2 percent the previous year, according to census data released Wednesday."

Fred Pilot sent this along. Demographer William Frey has some thoughts about reduced migration to the suburbs, but I'm not convinced that this is anything more than the economic downturn. There is no new housing to move to, no new jobs to move for, and no money to afford moving just for the heck of it. This will change when the economy turns around, I think.

The economy made us do it!

Miami News, Fort Lauderdale News, Florida News & Weather Channel 7 Fox Miami WSVN-TV - Residents without power, association blames economy: "The Homeowners Association of Coral Gates Apartments, located at 6980 Northwest 186th Street, said they made the conscious decision not to pay the monthly power and light bill, about $14,000, because of the tough economy. They said all residents were notified of their actions, but now everyone may have to leave. Miami-Dade County buidling and zoning came out Tuesday afternoon, and warned that if they don't get the power turned back on in five days, the buildings will have to be condemned...Residents are upset with the ordeal and the association. "We pay money to the association and everything, and they are supposed to take care of this problem," said George Nagal. "
Another association going down the tubes? Fred Pilot sent this along.

Sure, that will work...

RNC faction wants Dems branded socialists - Jonathan Martin - "A conservative faction of the Republican National Committee is urging the GOP to take a harder line against both Democrats and wayward Republicans, drafting a resolution to rename the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party” and moving to rebuke the three Republican senators who supported the stimulus package."
More evidence that the GOP is deeply divided and leaderless.

The Right to Wear Saggy Pants Shall Not Be Infringed!

Saggy pants ban: Riviera Beach's ban on saggy pants ruled unconstitutional -- South Florida "RIVIERA BEACH - Drop that ordinance -- and your pants if you consider it fashionable, Palm Beach County Judge Laura Johnson ruled Wednesday.

The judge overturned Riviera Beach's saggy pants ordinance, which had prohibited anyone from wearing pants below the waist exposing skin or underwear.

A referendum endorsing the ban was supported by 72 percent of city voters in March 2008. Riviera Beach began enforcing the ordinance in July but it was ruled unconstitutional by Johnson, city spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown said."

What an amazing thing a constitution is. To think that all these years the right to wear saggy pants has been there, and suddenly it has been discovered.

Economy drives Troy to privatize bus service | | the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers, Mirror Newspapers and Hometown Weeklies

Economy drives Troy to privatize bus service | | the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers, Mirror Newspapers and Hometown Weeklies: "The Troy school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to outsource transportation services, a move that could save the district $2.5 million over the next three years and give union employees a chance to retain jobs, according to Tim McAvoy, the district's director of community relations. The board approved a three-year contract with First Student, a global company with North American headquarters in Cincinnati. A $10 million budget deficit and the need to borrow from a $28 million fund balance drove the board's decision, according to McAvoy."
At least it's a three year contract, so there is some public accountability. Here in Chicago we think more in terms of 75 years, 99 years...the long haul.

Michigan and Other Cash-Strapped State Schools Look to Privatize - TIME

Michigan and Other Cash-Strapped State Schools Look to Privatize - TIME: "The cash-strapped state of Michigan is looking to save money any way it can, and some political leaders have suggested essentially privatizing the state's flagship university."
Good grief. The proposal is to eliminate the entire $327 million state appropriation to the University of Michigan.

Better at jumping gates than driving around them? | Sports | Olympic hero leaps into more trouble: "Olympic equestrian champion Eric Lamaze may be better behind the reins than behind the wheel.

The Canadian winner of gold and silver in Beijing is facing traffic charges in Florida after a speeding Mercedes crashed onto a property steps away from his $3 million (U.S.) estate in a sumptuous gated community where he flips homes for profit.

Lamaze, who rebounded from a cocaine-laced past to become the world's top-ranked show-jumping rider, was charged with careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving with an expired licence in the wee hours of March 21 in the village of Wellington in West Palm Beach. Police reported $52,000 in damages at the scene, which is in a neighbourhood populated with multi-million-dollar homes and polo fields."

Somehow I don't think Lamaze will elicit much sympathy. When you combine "estate" with "gated community," and throw in "flips homes for profit," the compassion meter drops to about zero.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Third Black Bear Sighting Reported In Weston -

Third Black Bear Sighting Reported In Weston - "For the third time since Saturday, residents of a Weston neighborhood reported spotting a black bear in their back yards.
The million dollar estates in Windmill Reserve border suburban life and wildlife, but what Tomas Fernandez saw Sunday in his backyard was extremely wild.

'I was eating breakfast when I saw the bear behind the house in the lake. He was walking,' said Fernandez. 'I called my dad to see.'

His dad watched as the black bear spent a half hour in the backyard. This was enough time for Tomas to video tape his new neighbor. On the tape the bear is browsing around and then seen walking away toward trees."

Hogs, bears, coyotes, cougars, fires...this is starting to remind me of the Book of Revelation. What's next? A plague of locusts?

The real issue may be that over the last decade or so, many very nice subdivisions and custom homes were built in what were previously remote and uninhabited locations. Nobody told the predators that they should relocate, and they decided that the trash and house pets were easy pickings. And there was no predator for them to fear, because of course you can't use a firearm near a subdivision. End result: you have bears in your yard.

I have an old friend who lives on Kodiak Island in Alaska. She had a nine foot tall brown bear rooting around in the dumpster. That fellow could have dismantled the building if he had been so inclined. In AK you know this sort of thing can happen occasionally, but in South Florida maybe you are surprised.


Dispute over mandatory membership at Kensington heads to court : Courts : Naples Daily News: "NAPLES — Residents are battling over whether to make membership mandatory in the country club at Kensington in Naples.

The fight has pitted neighbors and friends against each other in the private, high-end golf community off Pine Ridge Road _ and it has landed in Circuit Court in Collier County.

Two residents who want to keep membership voluntary have sued the community’s homeowners association and all of its board members, who unanimously support the idea."

OK, it's not Braveheart, but still...

Sorry to boar you, but...

Say hello to my little friend...
I posted this due to questions about the Russian citizenship of the ones we find around us these days. It is a tough call, but this guy looks like a Rooski to me.

60% of Americans: feds have too much money and power

Rasmussen Reports™: "Sixty percent (60%) of Americans say the federal government has too much power and too much money, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Just nine percent (9%) say the government has too little power and money. Twenty-four percent (24%) believe the government has about the right amount of both."

This is the main point the Tea Party folks were trying to make, I think. There were some folks with a more outlandish message, but if you ask what was the bottom line, I'd say that was it. I think if their message catches on they could make quite an impact. When Perot announced his candidacy I thought it was preposterous, and when he dropped out and got back in, I thought he was a joke. He picked the worst VP candidate ever--a heroic POW who himself had no idea why he was in the VP debate. Then Perot got 19% of the popular vote and handed the presidency to Bill Clinton. That's when I decided never again to underestimate the power of populism. The Tea Parties are all about populism.

And to confirm that, it seems that the favorable/unfavorable rating of the Tea Parties is 51/33. So watch out, political class

Jenner & Block Lights Bother Trump Tower Resident | ABA Journal - Law News Now

Jenner & Block Lights Bother Trump Tower Resident | ABA Journal - Law News Now: "The owner of a pricey 37th floor condominium at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago is complaining that bright lights from a building across the street are keeping her up at night.

The culprits, according to the president of the company that owns the brightly lit building, are hardworking lawyers at Jenner & Block, the Chicago Tribune reports. Jenner & Block occupies 10 floors and operates 24 hours a day, Jeff Patterson, president and CEO of Prime Group Realty Trust, told the Tribune."

Thanks to Gwen Osborne for sending me this link.

Acting Freddie Mac CFO commits suicide -

Acting Freddie Mac CFO commits suicide - "VIENNA, Va. -- David Kellermann, acting chief financial officer of Freddie Mac, committed suicide in his Hunter Mill Estates home Wednesday morning."
He had been with Fannie Mac for 16 years and was made CFO in September of 2008.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Privatization in Indiana--rolling it back?

Indy's News Center - 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis - Live. Local. First.: "Legislators could soon order a freeze in the privatization of food stamp eligibility determinations. Social services advocacy groups want them to go farther.

A coalition of labor-backed groups and advocates for the poor and senior citizens has opposed the privatization from the beginning. Now those groups want legislators to roll back the privatization in the 59 counties where it's already taken effect, and order an audit of the IBM-led consortium.

Former Vigo County welfare director Glenn Cardwell says one in five people denied food stamps the last six months shouldn't have been, the fourth worst rate in the country."


People's Weekly World - Coalition demands greater transparency of Chicago city finances

People's Weekly World - Coalition demands greater transparency of Chicago city finances: "Chicago – With public outrage mounting over the privatization of the city’s parking meters, a coalition of labor and community groups and progressive aldermen called for greater transparency of the city budget and an accounting of the city’s privatization deals. The groups staged a protest in Chicago City Hall on April 20.

They claimed a $2.1 billion budget surplus exists including money from the parking meter and Chicago Skyway deals and funds hidden in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) accounts. After big one round of layoffs last fall Daley now says a new $300 million deficit has opened. He is demanding concessions from the city’s workforce or has threatened another 1,600 layoffs and service cuts."

Privatization is often associated with secrecy, and that gives rise to suspicion. Daley is an elitist to his bones and he is a master at centralizing control of every function and all information in his own office. He is trying to amass some sort of war chest to bolster his bid for the Olympics. And Chicago has a record of corruption going back to the 19th century. I don't know if there has been any funny business with the parking deal, but I am sure that it is time for some sunlight on the city budget and the role of privatization in trying to balance it.

If he checks out OK, send him back for dinner

Woman attacked by 200-pound wild hog in her yard: "ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Officials said a wild hog attacked a woman in the back yard of her home. St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue reported that a 26-year-old woman was told there was a pig in her back yard Monday afternoon. When she went outside to investigate, the 200-pound animal charged her, cutting the back of her left leg.

Rescuers were able to treat the woman for her injury at the scene. An animal control officer lassoed the hog and transported it to the Pinellas County Animal Control Office for rabies testing."

These wild piggies are not particularly afraid of people, they have two litters per year, and they eat everything that grows while leaving a trail of destruction behind them. And they taste great. A solution suggests itself...

And he's running for mayor

Detroit councilman walks away from his mortgage - Sacramento Bee: "The former residence of Detroit City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta is seen on April 15, 2009. Kenyatta, an advocate of neighborhoods, and his wife packed their belongings, locked the doors, mailed in the keys and simply walked away _ leaving another vacant house among the thousands standing empty"
His explanation: "We're already underwater when it comes to what we're paying on the house versus what the house is worth," Kenyatta said.

But he doesn't seem to have lost his job, nor does he seem unable to repay the money he borrowed to buy this house. He just thinks it is a bad deal now. And all his expressed concerns about neighborhoods and blight seem to have vanished suddenly. Well, commitments like that can be expensive.

I guess he still might be a step up from the previous Mayor, who was also named Kwame (Kilpatrick). He resigned and was convicted of a crime.

Chicago Cancels $2.52 Billion Deal to Privatize MidwayAirport -

Chicago Cancels $2.52 Billion Deal to Privatize MidwayAirport - "The city of Chicago said Monday it had canceled the planned $2.52 billion sale of Midway airport, dealing a blow to efforts to attract more private capital for U.S. infrastructure projects.

The showpiece deal collapsed after the winning consortium failed to line up funding amid tight credit markets and competing prospects, notably the planned sale of London's Gatwick airport.

Midway had been expected to open up a new asset class for investors in the U.S., joining existing privatization deals for toll roads, parking and other publicly owned facilities."

Consolation prize: Chicago gets to keep the deposit, which was a cool $126 mill.

But I'm sure Mayor Daley will find something else to sell. The parks, maybe.

Monday, April 20, 2009

HOAs: Man May Lose Home Over Refusal To Pay Dog-Walking Fine

HOAs: Man May Lose Home Over Refusal To Pay Dog-Walking Fine: "A Florida man who won't walk his dog on a leash now seems set to lose his $380,000 home, all because he refuses to pay a $1,000 'leash violation' fine to his Homeowners Association. And he's ready to kill over it.

Robert Wirth, Jr., now owes around $100,000 in legal fees following the seven-year epic battle with his HOA, which foreclosed on his home (actually owned by his wife) to collect the debt incurred after he was caught walking his black lab, Cole, without a leash in the deed-restricted subdivision."

This is from Mystery Reader--and what a story.

Southern California office market is hammered by recession - Los Angeles Times

Southern California office market is hammered by recession - Los Angeles Times: "Layoffs, tight credit and other fallout from the troubled economy have battered Southern California's office market, leading to vacancy rates as high as 30% in some areas."
They say the economy may be starting to turn around, but it looks like there is some more rocky road ahead.

Dissing the Tea Party protesters

Terry Mancour: The tea party protests failed to fire up Republicans | Comment is free |
This is typical of the snarky media coverage of the Tea Party protests. They keep up the pretense that there was no message, these people are confused and stupid, they make the same dirty joke over and over, etc. From the Obama administration we hear that Obama didn't know it happened, which is obviously a lie. Then David Axelrod said the protests were potentially dangerous. From the far left we hear that it was all racially motivated.

The people who say these things have been telling us for eight years that protest was the highest form of patriotism. But that was when the left was protesting Bush. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly protest is dangerous.

So I have to conclude that the Tea Parties were a tremendous success, from the standpoint of the organizers and participants. The left is terrified that this is the start of a grass-roots movement. Obama and the Democrats understand the power of mass movements, and now they are scared to death that they are seeing a mass movement on the right. All their public disdain of the Tea Parties is just fueling more activism, I think.

As for the message of the protests, I think it is simple. These folks don't buy the Obama administration's claim that all the dramatic policy shifts are designed to save the nation in an emergency. They think that is a pretense, and the real agenda is to move the nation irretrievably toward a European-style social democratic economy with massive spending, high taxation and massive top-down federal control of all arenas of life.

They don't believe Obama's campaign claims that he wants to cut spending and keep taxation low. These folks were triggered into action by the stimulus bill, the Obama proposed budget with massive deficits, and the economic actions (re GM, banks, etc.) that they think are authoritarian. In short, they are protesting what they see as a revolutionary transformation of their nation's political economic system.

Maybe they are wrong--I don't know at this point, so early in the game--but the message seems pretty clear to me. And it certainly has the Democrats scared, because there is an election coming up next year. If the Tea Party activists repeat this protest on July 4, it would suggest that they may be able to sustain their momentum. That could lead to a nationalized election in 2010, and we know what happened when that occurred in 1994.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Spengler" comes out of hiding

Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy.: "I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive. I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing."
The mystery man who has been writing provocative columns for Asia Times over the last decade under the pseudonym "Spengler" reveals his true identity--David P. Goldman, who was one of the main suspects. That photo is of the original--Oswald Spengler--whose name Goldman adopted for the columns about the major geopolitical and cultural currents of our age. | EMS officials push security-override systems at gated communities | EMS officials push security-override systems at gated communities: "At about 9:23 p.m. April 7, emergency personnel were dispatched to Bluffton's Baynard Park to respond to a 62-year-old man suffering a massive heart attack.

Though Beaufort County Emergency Medical Services paramedics arrived at the neighborhood's security gate in about four minutes, they were held up for two to three minutes because they couldn't open the unmanned gate, according to a report provided by the county Friday afternoon. Responders arrived at the patient's home nearly nine minutes after leaving the station.

They took him to Hilton Head Hospital, where he died Saturday afternoon, his son, Matt Smith of Rock Hill, said.

In emergency medical situations, each minute counts, county emergency officials say.To prevent delays like the one that occurred that night, the county will consider new policies to make sure responders are not slowed down at unmanned gates, county administrator Gary Kubic said this week. The discussion is a result of the episode at Baynard Park, which Smith recounted at last week's Beaufort County Council meeting.

Kubic said Friday he would like to consider requiring gated communities to install override systems for emergency responders"

But that would violate the freedom of contract of the residents. They moved into a community that locked out ambulances because that's what they wanted. They hate ambulance rides. They don't want those zapper thingies clamped to their chests when they are dying of heart attacks.

I say privatopia doesn't need all this oppressive state regulation. The market will solve this problem, just like it solved the housing bubble and rescued the savings and loan industry. Government regulation, fie on thee. Who needs it?

Am I right, or am I right?

Dog fight --

Dog fight -- "Baltimore dog lovers are at war with people who are tired of dealing with the messy or sometimes frightening consequences of walking where dogs run free. These victims persuaded the City Council last year to raise the fine for walking a dog without a leash to $1,000. That's ridiculously high - 10 times the previous fine for first-time offenders. Even the original author of last year's legislation agrees. Councilman Edward L. Reisinger is promising to co-sponsor legislation to be introduced Monday to lower the fine to $250 for first-time offenders."
That is a hefty fine. What do they do if your dog bites somebody--cut off your big toe?