April 27, 2011

TSA Has Not Caught Even One Terrorist

You read that right, TSA has not caught even one terrorist and yet now, along with the naked body scanners and intimate pat downs, they have released a list of 70 behavioral indicators that help them determine who might be a terrorist.  One item on the list is, of course,

"Very arrogant and expresses contempt against airport passenger procedures."

Yes, if you, like Miss America 2003 (not everyone is selected for additional screening... how interesting that Miss America was selected), express contempt about TSA's assumption of your guilt until you are proven innocent, then you put yourself at risk for further invasion into your rights.


Russia says it will refuse to let unsafe vehicles dock with the International Space Station.  "Unsafe," in this case, means U.S commercial spacecraft... meaning PRIVATE... meaning NOT FUNDED WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY... meaning CHEAPER FOR AMERICA.... meaning.... LOSS OF MONEY TO RUSSIA.

Russia currently has a monopoly on lifeboat services to the International Space Station and next year they will have a monopoly on crew transportation (after the shuttle is retired). Right now Russia is charging us $63 million a seat while SpaceX intends to charge only $20 million a seat.

April 21, 2011

Atlas Shrugged in Action

You don't have to go to the movie-house to see what Atlas Shrugged is all about.  Just read about the National Labor Relations Board suit against Boeing, trying to prevent them from moving work away from Union-locked Washington State to Right-to-Work South Carolina.  Even though not one person has been downsized (in fact, Boeing has added a couple thousand workers in Washington), even though the Union has struck Boeing five times in 30 years, the United States has jumped in to fight for the Union.

April 20, 2011

Do twisty bulbs release carcinogens?

What will it take for Congress to ACT and repeal the incandescent light bulb ban?  How about new studies showing the twisty bulbs release several carcinogenic chemicals when they are switched on and advice that you shouldn't use them in unventilated areas or anywhere near your head?  For crying out loud!

April 16, 2011

Review: Atlas Shrugged Part I

I enjoyed the movie, but entertain no beliefs that it will win any awards. I found it choppy, mostly because the scope of the book covered years and a wide array of characters. When I read the book, I had a Lauren Bacall type of actress in mind for Dagny. Taylor Schilling has that look, but few modern actors have the gravitas of a Bacall who could say so much with just the cast of her eyes. I never liked the descriptions of Hank Rearden in the book because the blonde, tall, powerful portrait Rand wrote, along with his demeanor made him sound a bit nazi-like -- so I was pleased with Grant Bowler as a shorter, darker Hank. As for James Taggart, Matthew Marsden just didn't work for me: he was neither smarmy enough nor experienced enough nor lost-to-culture enough. The casting directory in my head would seek someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman or John Malkavich instead. But those cast performed their parts well. Perhaps Rebecca Wisocky as Hank's wife was the best cast. I'll withhold judgement on Jsu Garcia as Francisco D'Anconia -- his major parts are yet to come.

Sadly, as well, my favorite scene from Part I in the book, the successful maiden run of the John Galt Line, was turned into a rather boring montage of a model train running through barren terrain. In the book, the government threw countless barriers into the path of getting the John Galt Line built, including the false claim that Rearden Metal was dangerously weak. Dagny and Hank brought the Line into existence through their forceful wills and work ethic and they inspired not only the workers on the project, but the whole country. On the maiden run there was fear that the government would sabotage the train or the bridge but as the engine traveled on, people started appearing along the tracks cheering it on, holding guns aloft to show they had been protecting the track. More and more people cheered them on and it became a roaring crowd of success by the time they pulled to a final stop. Nothing like that appeared in the movie. I think something like ten people were shown at a brief distance, celebrating the train as it pulled into the station.

Another scene that affected me when reading the book that's missing from the movie is during the search of the 20th Century Motors factory site. The factory had fallen to ruin years ago (think Detroit) and the whole area around the old factory site was ill-serviced... water, power, govt. services had begun to fall away, leaving the residents to either flee, or survive in a kind of third world life. As I read the book, I found it a powerful reminder of how government and union policies can end up destroying industry and all of industry's attendant economic activity. Shops, stations, roads, etc. are kept in good repair while a factory is churning out goods because raw materials need to be supplied, goods shipped out, workers need to be housed and fed, their children educated. When they searched the factory in the book, the sadness of America's abandoned manufacturing sites filled the pages. None of those scenes were present in the movie... Hank and Dagny find the factory without encountering any of the surrounding population. Their search of the site is accomplished quickly and miraculously. Scenes that could have been powerfully rendered, scenes that hold a mirror up to what's happening in some areas of America, aren't even attempted.

As with other movies made from popular books (Harry Potter comes to mind), one of the nice things about the movie is that you're sitting in an audience of people who know and love the book and who want to love the movie. I think it will make money (what other measure of success could a movie of Atlas Shrugged desire?), if the size of a 2pm Friday showing is any measure. Hopefully, it will make enough of a profit for Part II to appear on Tax Day 2012.

April 12, 2011

Sandy Springs

I think this video about the new town, Sandy Springs, in Georgia needs wider play. I also like that the city planner reminds me of Gilligan, only smart.

April 10, 2011

Energy Consumption

I'm a sucker for an excellent chart... the one above, from 2009 (click on it to make it bigger), is chock full of great information. Facts like 8.3 percent of our energy supply in America is Nuclear and it makes up 22 percent of our electricity is quite interesting. I only wish it had more depth, allowing one to tunnel down further into how energy is used in America. It would be nice, for example, to drill down on the renewable energy sources used in America to find out that burning wood and water dams make up 50% and 35% of our renewable energy respectively while solar power makes up just 1 percent (1% of 7.7% of our energy comes from solar or 0.00077 of our energy) Or that 59% of petroleum used in transportation goes to gasoline, 20% goes to diesel and 11% goes to jet fuel.

72 percent of petroleum used in America goes to transportation and of that 72 percent, 30 percent goes to light trucks, SUVs, etc., 28 percent goes to cars, 19 percent to big trucks, construction equipment, etc. and 9 percent to airplanes.

Update: Another portrait of the same data, with the addition of efficiency loss:

April 1, 2011

Wisconsin Judge Makes her own rules

I would hope it doesn't matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.  When the Judicial Branch rules that the Legislative and Executive Branches cannot pass a law, you should be offended.  Judge Sumi, in Wisconsin, is not ruling that the new law is unconstitutional... she's ruling that the law cannot go into effect because of the procedure being used to pass it.  Question, how can a judge rule on a law if it isn't in effect?  Answer, it cannot even come before the court because nobody has standing until the law is in effect.  John Fund has a nice article about this in the Wall Street Journal:

Legal analysts say it's preposterous for a judge to enjoin publication of a law before it has even taken effect, as citizens don't have standing to challenge a law until they are subject to it. In a similar case in 1943, the state's Supreme Court ruled that a judge had no such authority. In 1977, another state Supreme Court opinion reiterated that under separation of powers "no court has jurisdiction to enjoin the legislative process at any point." Rick Esenberg, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University, says he is "speechless" over the fact that Judge Sumi "has failed to articulate why she has the authority" to issue her ruling.

So just who does this Judge Sumi think she is (besides a tool of the unions and Democrats)?  It appears this is going to head to the Wisconsin Supreme Court which, as Fund says above, has already ruled twice that a Judge does not have this power.  What Sumi is managing to do, though, is delay everything long enough for a Supreme Court election, where the unions and Democrats plan to do their darnedest to buy a friendly judge onto the Supreme Court to break precedent with the past.  We shall see if the Wisconsin voters allow such foolishness to continue.