Monday, October 31, 2011

Having a computer run my car ? NO THANKS.....

This cartoon states a simple truism. I really, really, really don't want a computer running my car.

I am not against technology as I adore the gadgets and whizz-bang new things we have now that allow us to have a computer in our pockets BUT does it really need to be in control of my car?

It became an issue for me when they pushed the ONSTAR feature for GM cars. I understood early on that this gave someone else control over where I was, where I was going and how fast the car was being driven. Not only that, but they can remotely disable your car and bring it to a stop ( the feature was designed to stop a car thief but it doesn't have to be used for that reason only.)

Now, I understand that there are real practical uses for this technology. Businesses can keep track of their workers, salesmen can have a mobile office and work from their cars, etc., etc. The key issue is that they have not publicized the "negative" aspects of the features, only the positive ones. It is not honest and there should be a full overview of how they can also control your vehicle whenever they want to and you will not be able to override it.

This also covers the HYBRID cars....aren't we great ?? We are saving the world.

Not so fast. Hybrid use less gas BUT the factories that produce the batteries needed create 10 times the pollution that a normal car would produce over it's life time. I may be no math whiz but that formula doesn't work....the Toyota Prius is worse for the environment than a regular vehicle. And here's the other surprise.

The battery pack in that hybrid lasts about 100,000 miles - then it must be replaced. Guess what ?? If you don't, you can't drive the car. It won't work.

Cost for the replacement ?? $4000. That means you own the car, you can drive the car BUT to continue past a certain point, you must cough up and additional FOUR GRAND to keep driving it, along with all the other normal maintenance.

I may not be Albert Einstein but this makes no sense what so ever.

I say keep the computer where it needs to be, separate from my vehicle, and I'll be just fine. I am sure like anything else the auto manufacturers make, the computers will break down after 7-9 years and good luck when that need to be repaired. The extra cost associated with having all this whiz-bang in your vehicle far outweighs any benefit you gain. I can get a low-cost iphone and it will do all the things the car's computer can do and more.....and an upgrade is cheap (in comparison to what the auto dealers will want to upgrade your car.)

It is an individual choice but I feel that having a computer run your car is a bad decision. Stick with what works and pull the plug on " HAL " running your wheels. We all saw what happened in the movie 2001 when they put the computer in charge of the vehicle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hire a VETERAN

The news for Veterans in the job market is not good. This article simplifies the issue to a question of how VETS present their experience but it also comes down to companies not making a concerned effort to give VETS an interview as you can always learn more in person than by just scanning a resume. Our military VETS have served the country, and companies need to make an effort to give them a chance to land a job.

Veterans are mission driven and dependable. You will find that hiring a VET is one of the best moves any company can make.

Vet jobless rate 2.6 pct higher than general population
As wars wind down, lawmakers and groups focus on issue
By Roy Strom / Reuters



NAPERVILLE, Ill, Oct 29 (Reuters) - When Matthew Burrell left the U.S. Army after eight years of service, he landed a job as a public relations contractor in Iraq. With a salary of $170,000, he figured military experience had finally paid off.

But five months after returning home to Chicago, 33-year-old Burrell is unemployed and his search for a job in the private sector has left him disheartened.

Despite having six years of experience as a public relations officer in the Army, he said he is treated as though he had just graduated from college.

"I can tell you for a fact that definitely in my field in public relations and marketing, private-sector companies do not value (military experience)," Burrell said.

Burrell, along with many of what the Department of Labor says are 235,000 unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has run into a vexing problem.

Many U.S. companies, and sometimes veterans themselves, do not know how to translate military experience into civilian skills. There is a disconnect between companies demanding a college degree and veterans giving confusing descriptions of their military experience to civilian employers.

That disconnect has contributed to veterans having an unemployment rate 2.6 percent higher than the general population, according to September's Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report.
As U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down, lawmakers and organizations are starting to address the issue.

The Obama administration this week announced steps that include encouraging community health centers to hire 8,000 veterans over the next three years, and improving training opportunities for military medics to become physician assistants.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it hopes to get 15,000 veterans hired through 100 job fairs around the country for veterans this year. One of those job fairs was held recently in Naperville, a Chicago suburb, giving 86 companies the chance to meet more than 600 veterans.

'TONE THAT DOWN'

One problem is that veterans need to explain more clearly to companies the value of their experience, said Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of veterans' employment programs at the Chamber of Commerce.

Hiring managers who have not served in the military are often bewildered by the jargon used by soldiers and weapons specialists, said Becky Brillon, who heads a program at the Community Career Center in Naperville.

A military job title might be listed like this: "25 Romeo visual and media equipment operator and maintainer."

"If somebody was artillery, or a sharpshooter or a sniper, you have to tone that down in the civilian world. It's more about being detail-oriented, precise and focused," she said.

On the flip side, private employers should give more credit to the experience and skills veterans acquire in the military, Schmiegel said.

Some military jobs, like a mechanic or technician, are fairly easily adapted to the private sector. But military credentials and certificates for other forms of training do not seem to carry much weight.

Rick Combs, a 27-year-old who retired as a sergeant in the Army, says he was given management training in the military. So far that training has not translated into a comparable private-sector job.

"You can come in, and slap something down that says, 'Here, the military says I can lead people. Give me a department and I will make it dance for you,'" Combs said. "I haven't had the opportunity on the civilian side yet."

Sunday Musings

While there are news stories worthy of note, I felt like posting some Sunday Musings:

- We are losing the WW2 Vets at an alarming rate. Do the math - as WW2 started 70 years ago (70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in December 2011), if you were in WW2, you have to be at least 85 years old.

- Occupy Wall Street and other cities have made a fuss but no real change in the political landscape. The movement has been beset with negative actions of individuals who have given them a black eye. The Tea Party protested but went home and went back to work. The Occupy movement needs to produce something substantial besides a major mess in each city where they reside.

- The NFL rules. NFL games have gotten the highest ratings this fall of any TV shows. Today we have PATRIOTS vs. STEELERS. An awesome contest and the game of the week as far as I am concerned. PATS by 7.

- The Presidential Election in 2012 is about one year away and Americans see the POLS (on both sides of the aisle) as inept, ineffective and largely the cause of our problems. Incumbents will be dumped in record numbers, starting with the President and his minions. Start packing Mr. President as there is nothing you can attempt to do in the next 12 months that will change people's opinions that you are the most inept of all POLS.

- Snow hit the Northeast and as expected, those living inland in PA, NY, MA & CT got the worst of it. Those along the coast got wind & rain but little snow. Living near the ocean has always been the best place to be regardless of the season. The mountains are beautiful and I enjoy visiting, but the coast is the place to be.

- The Bruins are off to a slow start. The Stanley Cup champs need to get in the game and prove that 2011 was not a one-off. Boston will do better.

- Enjoy the day. Time is the one item we cannot get back as much as we would like to and it is the item we need to spend wisely.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Man & Dog have been together a lot longer than we ever imagined....

By all accounts, man & dog have been living together for about 15000 years, since the end of the last ice age. Man has altered dogs to serve our needs and due to man, the dog is the most genetically altered species in the world. We have bred dogs to serve the needs of hunting, farm duties and for vanity.

Now, researchers have found that the partnership between man & dog may go back as far as 33,000 years ago based on new evidence found in cave dwellings in France.

All I know is our lives would not be the same without our 4 legged friends. I am glad to say that the three that reside with my family are valued for their companionship, attentiveness and that they make sure no one comes near our home without us knowing about it.


From the Cave to the Kennel

What the evolutionary history of the dog tells us about another animal: ourselves. From a cave in France, a new picture has emerged of canines as our prehistoric soulmates.
By Mark Derr - Wall Street Journal

Chauvet Cave in southern France houses the oldest representational paintings ever discovered. Created some 32,000 years ago, the 400-plus images of large grazing animals and the predators who hunted them form a multi-chambered Paleolithic bestiary. Many scholars believe that these paintings mark the emergence of a recognizably modern human consciousness. We feel that we know their creators, even though they are from a time and place as alien as another planet.

What most intrigues many people about the cave, however, is not the artwork but a set of markings at once more human and more mysterious: the bare footprints of an 8- to 10-year-old torch-bearing boy left in the mud of a back chamber some 26,000 years ago—and, alongside one of them, the paw print of his traveling companion, variously identified as a wolf or a large dog.

Attributing that paw print to a dog or even to a socialized wolf has been controversial since it was first proposed a decade ago. It would push back by some 12,000 years the oldest dog on record. More than that: Along with a cascade of other new scientific findings, it could totally rewrite the story of man and dog and what they mean to each other.

For decades, the story told by science has been that today's dogs are the offspring of scavenger wolves who wandered into the villages established by early humans at the end of the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago. This view emphasizes simple biological drive—to feed on human garbage, the scavenging wolf had to behave in a docile fashion toward humans. And—being human—we responded in kind, seeking out dogs for their obsequiousness and unconditional devotion.

As the story goes, these tame wolves bred with other tame wolves and became juvenilized. Think of them as wolves-lite, diminished in strength, stamina and brains. They resembled young wolves, with piebald coats, floppy ears and shorter, weaker jaws. Pleading whiners, they drowned their human marks in slavish devotion and unconditional love. Along the way, they lost their ability to kill and consume their prey.

But it was never clear, in this old account, just how we got from the scavenging wolf to the remarkable spectrum of dogs who have existed over time, from fell beasts trained to terrorize and kill people to creatures so timid that they flee their own shadows. The standard explanation was that once the dump-diver became a dog, humans took charge of its evolution through selective breeding, choosing those with desired traits and culling those who came up short.

This account is now falling apart in the face of new genetic analyses and recently discovered fossils. The emerging story sees humans and proto-dogs evolving together: We chose them, to be sure, but they chose us too, and our shared characteristics may well account for our seemingly unshakable mutual intimacy.

Dogs and humans are social beings who depend on cooperation for their survival and have an uncanny ability to understand each other in order to work together. Both wolves and humans brought unique, complementary talents to a relationship that was based not on subservience and intimidation but on mutual respect.

It seems that wolves and humans met on the trail of the large grazing animals that they both hunted, and the most social members of both species gravitated toward each other. Several scholars have even suggested that humans learned to hunt from wolves. At the least, camps with wolf sentinels had a competitive advantage over those without. And people whose socialized wolves would carry packs had an even greater advantage, since they could transport more supplies. Wolves benefited as well by gaining some relief from pup rearing, protection for themselves and their offspring, and a steadier food supply.

The relationship between dogs and humans has been so mutually beneficial and enduring that some scholars have suggested that we—dog and human—influenced each other's evolution.

The Chauvet Cave "dogwolf"—the term I use for a doglike, or highly socialized, wolf who kept company with humans—is controversial, but it cannot easily be dismissed. Over the past three years, it has been grouped convincingly with a number of similar animals that have been identified in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia, dating from 33,000 to 16,000 years ago.

Identification of these early dogs, combined with recent genetic evidence and a growing understanding of animals not as stimulus-response machines but as sentient beings, has broken the consensus model of dog domestication—leaving intact little more than the recognition of the grey wolf, Canis lupus, as progenitor of the dog. Everything else, it seems, is up for grabs.

According to the old view, the dog arose around 15,000 years ago in the Middle East. (Or in China, south of the Yangtze River, an alternate possible origin point added in the last decade in an attempt to reconcile archaeological evidence with emerging DNA evidence.)

The first major challenge to the consensus came in 1997, when an international team of biologists published a paper in the journal Science placing the origin of the dog as early as 135,000 years ago. Their date was based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on to offspring through females and is believed to change little from generation to generation; it allows scientists to calculate the time when populations or species separated genetically. This analysis suggested that wolves could have become dogs wherever in Eurasia they associated closely with early humans, and that even after the split was made, dogs and wolves continued to interbreed.

In short, because of their natural affinities, wherever and whenever wolves and humans met on the trail, some of them began to keep company. Often, when socialized wolves died, there were no others immediately available to replace them. But sometimes several socialized wolves would mate or a socialized female would mate with a "wild" wolf and then have her litter near the human camp. The pups would stay or go, according to their natures. This kind of arrangement could have continued for a considerable period. Any number of them could ultimately have produced dogwolves or dogs. Most of those lines would have vanished over time.

The DNA evidence remained controversial for years, even as most major studies placed the genetic separation of wolf and dog at earlier dates than those favored by archaeologists. Hard proof was slow to appear. The Chauvet Cave paw print once provided the only physical evidence for the existence of dogs before 15,000 years ago—and it was, at best, an indirect piece of support.

Then in 2008, Mietje Germonpré, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science and the leader of an international team of scientists, re-examined fossil material excavated from Goyet Cave in Belgium in the late 19th century and announced the identification of a 31,700-year-old dog, a large and powerful animal who ate reindeer, musk oxen and horses. The dogwolf from Goyet Cave was a creature of the Aurignacian culture that had produced the art in Chauvet Cave.

Last July, another international team identified the remains of a 33,000-year-old "incipient dog" from the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia. This month, Ms. Germonpré confirmed another find, this one in the Czech Republic, of the remains of a 26,000- to 27,000-year-old dog that had been buried with a bone in its mouth—perhaps to fuel it as it accompanied its human companion to the afterlife.

While the old consensus model held that the first dogs were small, these and other recently identified early dogs are large animals, often with shorter noses and broader faces than today's wolves. These early dogs appear in the camps of hunters of horses, reindeer, mammoths and other big game. From all appearances, they were pack animals, guards, hunters and companions. They are perhaps best viewed as the offspring of highly socialized wolves who had begun breeding in or near human camps.

Our view of domestication as a process has also begun to change, with recent research showing that, in dogs, alterations in only a small number of genes can have large effects in terms of size, shape and behavior. Far from being a product of the process of domestication, the mutations that separated early dogs from wolves may have arisen naturally in one or more small populations; the mutations were then perpetuated by humans through directed breeding. Geneticists have identified, for instance, a mutation in a single gene that appears to be responsible for smallness in dogs, and they have shown that the gene itself probably came from Middle Eastern wolves.

All of this suggests that it was common for highly socialized wolves and people to form alliances. It also leads logically to the conclusion that the first dogs were born on the move with bands of hunter-gatherers—not around semi-permanent pre-agricultural settlements. This may explain why it has proven so difficult to identify a time and place of domestication.

Taken together, these recent discoveries have led some scientists to conclude that the dog became an evolutionary inevitability as soon as humans met wolves. Highly social wolves and highly social humans started walking, playing and hunting together and never stopped. The dog is literally the wolf who stayed, who traded wolf society for human society.

Humans did wield a significant influence over dogs, of course, by using breeding to perpetuate mutations affecting their shape, size and physical abilities. Recent studies suggest that the dog has unique abilities among animals to follow human directions and that its capacity for understanding words can approach that of a two-year-old child. To various degrees, humans appear to have concentrated those and other characteristics and traits through selective breeding.

Since the advent of scientific breeding in the late 18th century, humans have altered the look and temperament of the dog more than they had over thousands of preceding years. A team of gene-sequencers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated that the dog lost 4% of its genetic diversity during its initial separation from the wolf. Much greater losses have occurred as a result of modern breed formation, one result of which is the more than 400 inheritable diseases to which purebreds are uniquely vulnerable.

Recent genetic evidence has confirmed that certain basic types—pariah dogs, sight hounds, mastiffs, spitz-type dogs and small dogs—arose very early in the transformation of wolf to dog. These dogs adapted to their homelands and often had special talents as hunters, guards and eventually herders. These characteristics were often perpetuated over time.

Scientific breeders believed they could improve on nature by consolidating several similar types into one breed or isolating a few prize specimens from a larger population. In both cases, they relied on inbreeding to create and perpetuate the look and talents they wanted. With the advent of kennel clubs in the mid-19th century, the pace of breed creation picked up.

Breeders began to create dogs to fit the needs of the wealthy—from sporting dogs that could point and retrieve fowl, to little puppy-like lap dogs. The dog proved to be a wonderful animal for testing the skill of breeders, since it could be stretched in size from two to 200 pounds.

Purebred dogs were expensive commodities until after World War II, when they became symbols of arrival in the middle class. Increased demand led to increased breeding, often in puppy mills. The resulting dogs had health and behavior problems from bad breeding and the poor care of pregnant females and newborn puppies.

In some cases, the traits that breeders desire are inherited along with unwanted, debilitating conditions—such as when blindness and epilepsy accompany particular coat styles and eye colors. In many regards, the original, naturally occurring breeds were healthier and better at their appointed tasks than their purebred heirs.

But this is just the most recent chapter of a long tale. The tableau in the mud of Chauvet Cave is a stark reminder that dogs and humans have traveled together for tens of thousands of years, from ancient hunting camps to farms, ranches cities and suburbs—from the tropics to the poles. The relationship has endured not because dogs are juvenilized wolves but because they are dogs—our faithful companions.

—Mr. Derr's most recent book is "How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends."

Let the games begin....Boston area will get its first real taste of winter

Mother Nature is not playing fair. We here in the New England area will be treated to the first real snow of the winter and the weathermen are hyping it as usual.

Luckily, those of us who live in SE Massachusetts will see more of a slush mix but the residents of Massachusetts & NH who are west & north of Boston could be in for the real deal. On top of that, the trees are still holding their fall colors which means many could find tree limbs taking out power lines....that is not something you want to hear this early into the fall.

We will see what Sunday holds for all here and hopefully it won't be a major headache. This is not what most want to see at the end of October.

State could see up to foot of snow
By Martin Finucane, Jaime Lutz and Amanda Cedrone
Globe Staff Globe Correspondents / October 29, 2011

A rare October snowstorm could dump up to a foot of snow today in western parts of the state and in Central Massachusetts toward the New Hampshire border, the National Weather Service warned yesterday.

Two to 6 inches of snow are expected closer to the coast, the weather service said.

In addition to weighing down tree limbs and power lines with heavy, wet snow, the storm will also rake the state with strong winds and pound the coast with moderate flooding, forecasters warned.

Communities as close to Boston as Stow and Littleton could get up to 6 inches. Boston itself could get 1 to 3 inches. Weather officials have the “lowest confidence’’ in forecasting the precipitation in the Boston area, however, as today’s temperatures are crucial in determining the amount of snow.

The Boston area will start seeing cold rain at about 4 p.m. today, but it is not expected to change to snow until about midnight, said Joe Dellicarpini, a Weather Service meteorologist. Early risers may see snowflakes tomorrow morning, as snowfall is expected through about 8 a.m.

Snow is expected to form in the afternoon in higher interior areas of Central and Western Massachusetts between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., with the heaviest snowfall expected just in time for dinner. The snow should be clear of the area at about 5 a.m. tomorrow.

Forecasters say this storm has potential to be a record-breaker. The biggest October snow ever recorded in Boston was 1.1 inches on Oct. 29, 2005. The biggest October snow in Worcester was 7.5 inches on Oct. 10, 1979, the weather service said.

In Eastern Massachusetts, the snow will be teamed with strong winds, forecasters said. They issued a warning of winds gusting between 45 and 55 miles per hour in and around Boston. On the Cape and islands, gusts could reach 60 miles per hour.

After the storm moves out early tomorrow, conditions will be dry, and Boston will see increasing sunshine. Temperatures will reach the low to mid-40s.

Halloween will be similar to yesterday: sunny and cold. Temperatures will reach around 50. Each day after that, said meteorologist Bill Simpson, there will be a gradual warming trend through Thursday.

Officials around the state are preparing for the snow.

“All of our district highway directors are preparing their staff,’’ said Cyndi Roy, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. “The staff is inspecting equipment to make sure it’s ready to go.’’

The DOT has also enlisted contractors to help out with the salting, sanding, and plowing.

She added that the MBTA and Massport both have plans ready for the snow and ice.

National Grid is preparing for potential outages, with crews scheduled to work, and additional contract crews reserved if response is needed to hard-hit areas, according to spokeswoman Debbie Drew. NStar will be activating an emergency response plan this afternoon, said Mike Durand, a spokesman.

The company will open regional service centers as storm response headquarters, add extra line crews and support staff, and also add staff to the customer call center, he said.

Globe correspondent Taylor M. Miles contributed to this report.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time

Time.....the one item we cannot buy more of, create more or get more than is given to us.

Time for the weekend....and some great music from Pink Floyd. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cons work on Classic Cars while in prison....

I am a firm believer that Prison is punishment for criminals and should not be glamorized. Popular media has made reality shows and even hit TV series glamorizing prison life. At the same time, we see celebrities and sports figures (Wesley Snipes, Plaxico Burress, Martha Stewart, etc.) all go to prison and come out like it was something to be "proud" of doing...I don't get it as being a "convicted felon" should not be a step to getting more celebrity or adoration from others. There used to be a thing called " shame" and "remorse" when it came to being a criminal.

That being said, there are things that prisoners are doing behind bars that show they can redeem their past behavior and hopefully find a new life. There are programs for prisoners to train service dogs for the disabled. That to me is something useful for prisoners to work at while incarcerated. Prisoners should have to work at redemption not be given a free pass.

Today, the Wall Street Journal published a story that in Nevada, prisoners help restore classic cars and provide a useful service and profits for a victims fund. This is the type of stories we need to show, not stories glorifying the bad behavior of those in prison or prison culture which is popularized by hip-hop music and the media. The inmates in Nevada have to earn the privilege of working in the classic car shops and will also learn a useful skill for when they are released back in to the public.


These Inmates Have License To Tool Around With Vintage Cars
A Nevada Prison Revs Up a Niche; Old Chevys 'Built With Conviction'
By JOEL MILLMAN - Wall Street Journal

INDIAN SPRINGS, Nev
.—Some people may question whether prison can truly be a place for rehabilitation. Michael Levi Fuller doesn't.

Inmate #46565 here at the Southern Desert Correctional Center, Mr. Fuller has watched some hard cases come into his institution for years, then leave practically reborn.

The cases in question are cars—very cool vintage cars. They come in rough and battered, and inmates restore them to their original glory. It may be the penal system's most unusual workshop.

"We've got a '56 Jaguar, a '48 Rolls Royce and a Studebaker pickup," says Mr. Fuller in a phone interview. The 51-year-old Mr. Fuller joins 32 fellow medium-security inmates at the prison's auto shop every weekday.

It's quite an operation and perhaps the most creative use of captive labor in a multibillion dollar business-behind-bars archipelago that stretches from New England to Hawaii.

The inmates restore vehicles for a unit of Silver State Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of another "holding" institution, Nevada's Department of Corrections.

At the Southern Desert Correctional Facility outside of Las Vegas, a program employs inmates to restore classic cars. Their motto? "We have the time to do it right." WSJ's Joel Millman reports.

."We Have the Time to Do It Right," is one of the mantras on the unit's corporate website; "Built with Conviction" is another.

Although 40 of 50 states still produce license plates behind bars, prison businesses have diversified. Inmates at Arizona Correctional Industries at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye fix diesel tractors.

In the U.S., prison industries—correctional facilities with for-profit ventures that sell goods and services to the public—will have sales of over $2.2 billion this year, according to the National Correctional Industries Association, a Baltimore-based trade group. Silver State's auto-restoration shop here in Indian Springs brought in $130,000 of the facility's $6 million in fiscal 2010 revenue.

Besides auto-restoration, Silver State Industries also has a shop that packages old playing cards into souvenirs for Nevada casinos, and others that print books and make clothing.

But the auto shop "is not like any old prison job," says Mr. Fuller, five years into a 12-year bit, who blames a drug problem for a crime career that has him in his third stretch behind bars.

As "inside" jobs go, this has qualities that are hard to find in prison—an intellectual challenge, prestige and a real sense of accomplishment in a job well done.

The auto shop's present inventory includes 32 cars in some stage of restoration. Among them: two 1960s-era Corvettes, two 1960s Mustangs, a 1959 Thunderbird, a 1965 Malibu, a 1935 Chevy pickup and two 1969 GTOs.

All kinds of customers bring their cars in. Barry Becker, a Las Vegas realtor, has had nearly a dozen cars restored by prisoners.

"I just keep buying stuff I don't need," he says. Among his prison-rescued treasures are a 1937 Dodge sedan convertible, a 1937 Dodge "Woody" wagon, a 1956 Nash Metropolitan and a 1941 Plymouth pickup truck

A Las Vegas couple recently agreed to pay the prison $19,000 for a re-do of a 1973 Datsun 240Z, with a V8 engine installed. "Mom's going to go to the store really fast," says the shop's director, Carl Korsgaard.

Inmates, including a few murderers and lifers, have been trained to do everything from sanding steel bodies down to sewing upholstery. One upholsterer was born in Cuba, where Mr. Korsgaard believes he absorbed his countrymen's talent for keeping vintage U.S. vehicles on the road.

As with any jailhouse job, there are regulations. Silver State's chief executive, Brian Connett, a corrections-department official, insists each auto restorer have a high-school diploma or equivalent and be six months free of any disciplinary infraction. For inmates who have to pay them, 5% of their wages—which top out at $5.15 an hour, according to Mr. Fuller—are garnisheed for deposit into Nevada's victims-compensation fund. It's the kind of give-back strict law-and-order voters insist on.

"Crime victims have an interest in good prison work programs," says Susan Howley, public policy director for the National Center for Victims of Crime. Aside from providing marketable skills, "they give offenders an opportunity to earn money to pay victim restitution," she says.

The prison declined to allow a reporter to visit, citing disruption of operations.

Mr. Fuller, who started in general repairs, works now in customer service. Mainly his job consists of hunting vintage parts, calling dealers who trade in engine components or pieces of car bodies, then negotiating a price.

Contact with the outside world is a penitentiary perk—as is befriending affluent civilians who someday may pen a favorable letter to a parole board.

"Just being involved in a program like this in prison, well it's amazing," says Mr. Fuller.

Bill Koning and his son, Ryan, sank almost $30,000 into a 1948 Ford F-1 pickup they delivered to Silver State Industries in 2005. They discovered the truck on eBay, rotting in a Nebraska barnyard. The former Massachusetts electrical contractor, now retired in Nevada, trucked the heap to the prison, where the pickup began what turned into a four-year stretch behind bars.

"You realize right away you're not the priority," Mr. Koning says. "It's a prison. Those prisoners may get locked down and not see your car for weeks."

The Konings' F-1 gleams today in a southwest Las Vegas garage. From running boards trimmed in red oak to windshield visors to dashboard instruments, everything looks as if the truck just rolled off a Detroit assembly line. "We just love it," Mr. Koning says.

One problem: Some customers have been springing their cars early. Mr. Korsgaard says he's had three cars hauled away recently midrestoration by customers who couldn't raise the cash to finish, like the owner of a 1955 Bel Air who suspended work after sinking $21,000 into the project.

While other parts of the local economy may be suffering, there's virtually no chance Silver State Industries will run out of steam, or job applicants. "I have hundreds" who want in, says Mr. Connett.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Technology sees what is unseen......Thermal Images show "Occupy" camp is mainly empty overnight

Police in London used a thermal imaging camera and found that at night, 90% of the tents in the "Occupy" camp set up outside London's St. Paul's Cathedral were empty.

That means that the protesters who vowed to stay until things were fixed mainly go home for the evening and "occupy" at home. This is not unusual as many like to protest but a much smaller number will give up their comfort for long stretches, especially in the colder temps that have become the norm this time of year.

I would be interested in seeing what a similar survey of the other "occupy" camps like NYC & Boston showed....likely we would see very similar results.


The thermal images that prove 90% of tents in St Paul's protest camp are left empty overnight - 'The time has come for the protesters to leave,' says the Bishop of London

By Tom Kelly and Damien Gayle - UK MAIL
26th October 2011

These are the damning images that prove the anti-capitalist protest that has closed St Paul’s Cathedral is all but deserted at night.

Footage from a thermal imaging camera taken late at night reveals just a fraction of the makeshift camp was occupied.

An independent thermal imaging company, commissioned by the Daily Mail, captured these pictures after similar footage from a police helicopter found only one in ten tents were occupied after dark.

In these shots, taken late on Monday night, the presence of body heat from humans is represented by yellow and red inside the tents.

The tents that are coloured purple indicate they are colder and thus empty. The buildings behind are also yellow and red because of the higher temperatures inside.

The images suggest the vast majority of the demonstrators who gather around the cathedral to denounce capitalism during the day go home or to a hotel to stay warm at night.

But despite being an almost entirely part time protest, the activists last week forced St Paul’s to shut for the first time since the Blitz, and the cathedral appears unlikely to reopen for months


The Bishop of London this morning also stepped into the row over the occupation, saying it is 'time for the protesters to leave'.

Richard Chartres, the third most senior cleric in the Church of England, said in a statement: 'This demonstration has undoubtedly raised a number of very important questions.

'The St Paul's Institute has itself focused on the issue of executive pay and I am involved in ongoing discussions with City leaders about improving shareholder influence on excessive remuneration.

'Nevertheless, the time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp's presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fixing the economy....

This gentleman from California pretty much sums it up. He has a bit of an advantage over others as he will be eligible for some pensions and union membership gives them access to affordable healthcare. In many respects, the issue he describes is the key issue of why things are off track.

Workers who have a job haven't seen a decent raise in years, the costs of everything has gone up and the uncertainty of the whole system makes one not want to spend or increase your debt load. Until this aspect of things change, the POLs in Washington can bleat on about things but things won't get better.

What we need is for businesses to get people back to work and go back to giving people a decent increase in pay for the hard work & effort they provide the businesses. Many companies have seen record profits but the workforce who provides that is not given their share as workers who complain can be replaced by others very easily. Companies have been hording cash for the past few years and not enough has been given back to the workforce in lower costs for healthcare and raises.

Until this paradigm shifts back to normal, consumers will be hesitant to spend their meager incomes and the economy will remain morbid. The answer is a simple one if the businesses will listen as they need consumers otherwise who will buy their products?


Why we quit spending ...
Postcards from the recession
... and how our cautious consumption, and that of many others, creates a drag on the country's economy.

Cautious spending by consumers slows down the economy.
October 23, 2011By Scott Martelle - LA TIMES


I may owe the nation an apology. It turns out I'm a prime reason why the U.S. economy can't regain its footing. Because as a wage-earner, and as a consumer, I'm not what I used to be.

My full-time newspaper job was cut in September 2008, and since then I have worked as a freelance journalist, the author of history books, a part-time university instructor and an occasional writer-for-hire for various non-journalistic projects. My wife, an elementary school teacher, has faced furloughs and stagnant wages, but (thanks to her union) we have healthcare coverage we can afford.

It's how we and others in our situation are living now that helps explain the persistence of the economic crisis, and hints at the troubles of the future.

Our household income is less than two-thirds what it was when I had a full-time staff job, and at my age — 53 — I'm unlikely to land another job with wages and benefits similar to the one I had (ageism in this jobs marketplace is pervasive, but that's another issue).

With one son in college and another in his senior year of high school, we're treading financial water in the short term. Better off than others, yes; we're not at risk of losing our home (we bought in 1997, far ahead of the bubble). Yet we're spending significantly less than we once did, forming an incremental drag on the economic recovery. Ironically, we have more money salted away in our savings account now than before my job was cut. That's what financial fear does; it makes you hoard cash.

So we patronize fewer restaurants, buy fewer books (a painful cutback for an author; if I'm not buying their books, are they not buying mine?), and rarely contemplate a weekend train getaway to Santa Barbara or San Diego. Take in a professional hockey or baseball game with the family? Um, no.

But a recovery needs us to spend. So we're not helping. And that's why the future is worrisome. We never were high-debt spenders (at the moment, mortgage, car payments and a small credit card balance are our only outstanding debts), but it's highly unlikely our household spending will ever again be what it was.

Part of that is a personal refocus on frugality — that financial fear thing again. Part of it is financial reality. Less money coming in necessitates less money going out. And looking ahead, what once promised to be a comfortable retirement is now a big question mark. I will get checks from Social Security (if it, and I, are still alive), small pensions from two former jobs (nine years' credit in each) and the proceeds from a 401(k) that, unfortunately, mirrors the economy, and to which we're no longer adding money at exactly the point in our lives when we should be.

My wife will also qualify for a pension as a teacher, but if she works until age 65, she will have 28 years in the California system where we live. Because of state laws, she will not be able to collect Social Security from her previous jobs. Given the ongoing assault on public employees — and on Medicare — we don't know what shape our medical coverage will take then. Our house will be paid for, but we'll still be on the hook for property taxes.

What all this means is that we both probably will need to work until we are closer to age 70, taking up slots that younger workers — like our sons — will be anxious to fill. And in the interim, our impulse will be to save rather than spend.

Three years ago we were part of the consuming class that helped drive the economy, thinking nothing of spending a couple of hundred bucks on a new piece of stereo equipment, dining out a couple of times a week, throwing patio parties for our friends or going to concerts. And we made regular investments in a 401(k) that both put money in Wall Street and offered the promise that we would be able to continue spending in retirement.

Now, we're an anchor on the economy, adding little to the national investment pool and quicker to save a buck than to spend one — personal patterns that are likely to continue for years, if not decades.

We're just one little choke point in the national recovery. But extrapolate our spending decisions across the millions of others who have lost their jobs, many of whom have had less luck managing these doldrums than we have. Add in a generation — our sons, having witnessed this at an impressionable age, are not likely to become profligate — and the macro problem comes into focus.

A consumer economy without consumers does not make for a robust future.

Scott Martelle, an author and former Los Angeles Times staff writer, lives in Irvine. http://www.scottmartelle.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

Let the Trash Talking begin......

Navy has had a rough season this year but we will take the Army down....


GO NAVY ! BEAT ARMY !

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rhode Island...The Little State with a Big Public Employee Pension Problem

Rhode Island has always been in Massachusetts' shadow. The citizens of the "Little Rhody" have always competed with the Bay State.

Both States have been a haven for the Unions and each has had a mainly Democratic make-up. Massachusetts is the bluest of Blue States but RI has been Union Heaven for decades.

Well, now we have one category that RI has beaten MA to the punch on....Rhode Island is going broke.....mainly because of all the public pensions it owes to the union members who worked for the towns/state. How about hearing that 10 cents of every dollar RI takes in goes to pension payments ?? Sounds scary, eh??

Read the NY Times story enclosed and be scared....this is what the rigged game our public employees and their union cohorts have foisted on us. The RI Legislature had the courage to propose rolling back benefits for public employees, including those who have already retired...Can RI be saved from itself ?? We will see.


The Little State with a Big Mess
By Mary Williams Walsh - NY TIMES
CRANSTON, R.I.

ON the night of Sept. 8, Gina M. Raimondo, a financier by trade, rolled up here with news no one wanted to hear: Rhode Island, she declared, was going broke.

Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But if current trends held, Ms. Raimondo warned, the Ocean State would soon look like Athens on the Narragansett: undersized and overextended. Its economy would wither. Jobs would vanish. The state would be hollowed out.

It is not the sort of message you might expect from Ms. Raimondo, a proud daughter of Providence, a successful venture capitalist and, not least, the current general treasurer of Rhode Island. But it is a message worth hearing. The smallest state in the union, it turns out, has a very big debt problem.

After decades of drift, denial and inaction, Rhode Island’s $14.8 billion pension system is in crisis.


Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers. Before long, Ms. Raimondo has been cautioning in whistle-stops here and across the state, that figure will climb perilously toward 20 cents. But the scary thing is that no one really knows. The Providence Journal recently tried to count all the municipal pension plans outside the state system and stopped at 155, conceding that it might have missed some. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions, including the big one: Are these numbers for real?

“We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of this state,” Ms. Raimondo said in a recent interview. And if the fight is lost? “Either the pension fund runs out of money or cities go bankrupt.”

All of this might seem small in the scheme of national affairs. After all, this is Little Rhody (population: 1,052,567). But the nightmare scenario is that Ms. Raimondo has seen the future of America, and it is Rhode Island. As Wall Street fixates on the financial disaster in Greece, a fiscal wreck is playing out right here. And the odds are that it won’t be the last. Before this is over, many Americans may be forced to rethink what government means at the state and local level.

Economists have talked endlessly about a financial reckoning for the United States, of a moment in the not-so-far-away when the nation’s profligate ways catch up with it. But for Rhode Island, that moment is now. The state has moved to safeguard its bond investors, to avoid being locked out of the credit markets. Last week, the General Assembly went into special session and proposed rolling back benefits for public employees, including those who have already retired. Whether the plan will succeed is anyone’s guess.

Central Falls, a small city north of Providence, didn’t wait for news from the Statehouse. In August, the city filed for bankruptcy rather than keep its pension promises to its retired firefighters and police officers.

Illinois, California, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Michigan — the list of stretched states runs on. In Pennsylvania, the capital city, Harrisburg, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month to avoid having to use prized assets to pay off Wall Street creditors. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie wants to roll back benefits, too.

In most places, as in Rhode Island, the big issue is pensions. By conventional measures, state and local pensions nationwide now face a combined shortfall of about $3 trillion. Officials argue that, by their accounting, the total is far less. But with pensions, hope often triumphs over experience. Until this year, Rhode Island calculated its pension numbers by assuming that its various funds would post an average annual return on their investments of 8.25 percent; the real number for the last decade is about 2.4 percent. A phrase that gets thrown around here, à la Rick Perry describing Social Security, is “Ponzi scheme.”

That evening in September, Ms. Raimondo walked into the Cranston Portuguese Club to face yet another angry audience. People like Paul L. Valletta Jr., the head of Local 1363 of the firefighters union.

“I want to get the biggest travesty out of the way here,” Mr. Valletta boomed from the back of the hall. “You’re going after the retirees! In this economic time, how could you possibly take a pension away?”

Someone else in the audience said Rhode Island was reneging on a moral obligation.

Ms. Raimondo, 40, stood her ground. Rhode Island, she said, had a choice: it could pay for schoolbooks, roadwork, care for the elderly and so on, or it could keep every promise to its retirees.

“I would ask you, is it morally right to do nothing, and not provide services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens?” she asked the crowd. “Yes, sir, I think this is moral.”

FOR many Americans, the Ocean State conjures images of Newport mansions and Narragansett chic. The overall reality is more prosaic. Rhode Island today is a place where the roads and bridges rank among the worst in the nation and where jobs are particularly hard to find. Unemployment rose faster during the 2008-9 recession than in any other state. The official jobless rate is now 10.6 percent, versus the national average of 9.1 percent.

The textile mills and jewelry manufacturers that once employed thousands here have dwindled away. The big employers today are in health care and education, both of which rely heavily on government spending that has been drying up.

Many states and cities can credibly say their pension plans are viable, even when those plans are not fully funded. That is because state retirement funds, like Social Security, pay out benefits bit by bit, over many years.

But unlike, say, California, with its large, diverse economy, Rhode Island is so small that there is little margin for error. Leaving the state, to escape its taxes, is almost as easy as moving to the other side of town. Efforts to balance the state budget by shrinking the public work force have left Rhode Island with a problem like the one that plagues General Motors: the state has more public-sector retirees than public-sector workers.

More ominous still, in each of the last 10 years, the state pension fund paid more money to retirees than the fund collected from state employees and taxpayers combined. The fund is shrinking, even though the benefits coming due are growing.

For all the pain here, one important constituency — Wall Street — seems satisfied enough. To reassure its bond investors, Rhode Island passed a special law this year giving them first dibs on tax revenue. In other words, bondholders will be paid, whatever happens. Ms. Raimondo has at times been accused of selling out ordinary Rhode Islanders to Wall Street interests, but she says hard choices must be made.

Ms. Raimondo remembers better times in Rhode Island. She grew up in a suburb of Providence, rode public buses to public schools and played in public parks. Her grandfather, who arrived from Italy, studied English in the evenings at the Providence Public Library. (That library system lost its financing from the city in 2009, closed branches and shortened its hours. These days, it is seldom open after 6 p.m.)

But Ms. Raimondo also learned early on about economic forces at work in her state. When she was in sixth grade, the Bulova watch factory, where her father worked, shut its doors. He was forced to retire early, on a sharply reduced pension; he then juggled part-time jobs.

“You can’t let people think that something’s going to be there if it’s not,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview in her office in the pillared Statehouse, atop a hill in Providence. No one should be blindsided, she said. If pensions are in trouble, it’s better to deliver the news and give people time to make other plans.

BY any standard, Ms. Raimondo is a high achiever. She graduated from Harvard, collected a law degree from Yale and attended Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. After a stint in New York in the venture capital business, she helped found Rhode Island’s first venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital.

Then, in 2009, with zero political experience, she ran for the state office of treasurer. Although she is a Democrat in a heavily Democratic state, she stood out because she refused to promise that state jobs and pension benefits would be protected no matter what. She won by a landslide, receiving more votes than any other candidate for any state office. Her long-term ambitions, in politics, business or both, are the subject of speculation in Providence.

No sooner had she been sworn in than the S.E.C. called. She learned that the commission was investigating the finances of various cities and states, including Rhode Island, to determine whether bond investors were receiving truthful information. At the heart of the S.E.C. inquiry were pension funds.

Ms. Raimondo said she wasn’t entirely surprised. When she disclosed the investigation, she said: “For months, Rhode Island has been listed among several states with precarious finances. This challenging position is, in part, due to our significant and growing unfunded pension liability.” Her first priority, she vowed, would be to ensure that the numbers were right.

Others made similar pledges before. Rhode Island has been trying to fix its pension system for years; it has announced four “reform” plans since 2005, each of which has claimed to reduce costs for the state and cities. It has raised minimum retirement ages, slowed accrual rates, capped cost-of-living adjustments — but always for the youngest or least senior public workers. Retirees, and workers poised to retire, were spared, even though the numbers clearly showed that reducing payments to retirees was the only sure way to fix things quickly.

In recent months Ms. Raimondo has crisscrossed the state in an attempt to sell a different remedy, one in which everyone takes a hit. Yes, it would hurt. But at least the state would avoid having to come up with yet another plan in a year or two. The defined-benefit structure, very popular with public employees, could survive. Still, the battle lines are clear. Eight public workers’ unions have already sued, saying the pension changes of 2009 and 2010 were illegal.

On a September evening out in North Scituate, at the historic Old Congregational Church, Ms. Raimondo told a crowd about what had happened in Vallejo, Calif. That city filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and, after grueling negotiations, left pensions intact but drastically cut bus service, police patrols and other government functions, along with the pay of the city workers who provide all those services.

“That’s not what we want for Rhode Island,” Ms. Raimondo said. “That’s not the future we want for our children.”

Others in the crowd had their own stories. Several retired teachers said they had played by the rules and sent a part of every paycheck to the pension fund, as required by law. One man demanded pension cuts for state troopers and judges. A woman said her aged father would be unable to buy medicine if the state stopped adjusting his pension for inflation.

“I feel your anger,” Ms. Raimondo told the crowd. “In many ways, I’m angry myself. Many of the shenanigans that went on in past years were just wrong.”

In some ways, the central question is not only what the government owes to pensioners but what citizens owe to one another. From the pews of the church, Cindy Gould, a fourth-grade teacher, said that under the current system, she had 11 years to go until retirement. Under Ms. Raimondo’s plan, she might have to work longer. But, Ms. Gould, 54, said she was willing to do so if that meant the elderly would get the medical care they need.

Since the last recession hit, states and cities around the country have embarked on pension changes, often following the Rhode Island pattern. Benefits for state employees who have not yet been hired are usually the first to be cut. Then come changes for those now on the payroll, often in the form of higher mandatory contributions.

Retirees have mostly been off-limits, until now. In many instances, laws or legal precedent shield them. In the corporate sphere, they are supposed to bear losses only in bankruptcy. But those rules do not apply to states, which may not declare bankruptcy in any case. If a government homes in on retirees, a lawsuit is sure to follow, and the resolution will take years. But Ms. Raimondo says Rhode Island doesn’t have years. This isn’t a question of politics or law, she says, but of simple math. To get the numbers right, Ms. Raimondo quickly assembled a panel of experts that included academics, mayors and union officials. The goal was to figure out what a public pension should be and what Rhode Island could afford. Inflation protection every year, for people who in some cases retired in their 40s, started coming into focus.

Analysts also took a close look at the projected long-term investment return for the pension system: 8.25 percent. Everything rested on hitting that target, but the state’s actuary said there was less than a 30 percent chance that would happen over the next 20 years. The board voted to lower the assumption to 7.5 percent. (Given the recent run in the financial markets, even that figure may seem optimistic.)

As a result of that change, the state’s pension shortfall instantly rose to $9 billion from $7 billion. The unions said Ms. Raimondo had manufactured a crisis.

She denied it. “This is about the truth,” she said, “and about doing the right thing.”

Then, as if on cue, Central Falls declared bankruptcy. The city’s pension fund wasn’t just underfunded. It was completely out of money. A receiver for the city sought court permission to reduce by as much as half the base pensions of retired police officers and firefighters.

Suddenly the pension crisis wasn’t an abstraction any more. The unthinkable had happened, and the odds were that it would happen again unless the state acted quickly.

Other mayors began stepping forward and warning that their communities were on the brink, too. Here in Cranston, Mayor Allan W. Fung said that unless things changed, he would have to eliminate trash collection, services to the elderly and recreation programs for children, as well as reduce the size of the police force and fire department.

Over in Woonsocket, John W. Ward, the president of the City Council, said that all summer parks programs had been eliminated and that teachers were working with larger classes than their contracts allowed. Half of Woonsocket’s streetlights were out because the city couldn’t afford to replace them. His son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter had moved to another state.

“To allow the pension system to remain largely unchanged will make it impossible for Woonsocket, and every other urban community, to survive,” Mr. Ward said.

AT the Portuguese Club in Cranston, José M. Berto raised his hand. At 62, he told Ms. Raimondo, he was on the cusp of retirement.

“We’re looking at a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff look like a Boy Scout,” said Mr. Berto, a supply officer for the state.

He asked if Rhode Island’s pension problem was the worst in the nation.

Ms. Raimondo said it was.

“I don’t like her message,” Mr. Berto said after the session. “But she has been honest, forthcoming. We’re in trouble. We’re just in so much trouble.”

Just the facts - 2 years of the Failed Stimulus Program cost more than the entire Iraq War

Facts are funny things as you can't debate facts.

You can debate philosophies, political points-of-view and such but the facts stand.

For all the whining/wailing/complaining from the lefty loonies about the cost of the Iraq war, the DEM controlled Congress managed to spend more $$$ on the failed stimulus program in 2009-2010 exceeding the cost of the entire 8 years of the Iraqi war. While the funding for the war was high, to exceed that amount in a 2 year period and have nothing to show for it but continued 9+% unemployment shows the facts show that Obama and his lefty co-horts spent an incredible amount of money and gained no results. The prior administration spent a significant amount of money and we gained a free Iraq, more stability and a true change in the Middle East.

Facts. Not hyperbole or opinion. Just the facts.

CBO: Eight Years of Iraq War Cost Less Than Stimulus Act
Fox News Analysis

As President Obama prepares to tie a bow on U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Congressional Budget Office numbers show that the total cost of the eight-year war was less than the stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009.

According to CBO numbers in its Budget and Economic Outlook published this month, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.

The projected cost of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009, and is expected to have a shelf life of two years, was $862 billion.

The U.S. deficit for fiscal year 2010 is expected to be $1.3 trillion, according to CBO. That compares to a 2007 deficit of $160.7 billion and a 2008 deficit of $458.6 billion, according to data provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

In 2007 and 2008, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

"Relative to the size of the economy, this year's deficit is expected to be the second largest shortfall in the past 65 years; 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), exceeded only by last year's deficit of 9.9 percent of GDP," CBO wrote.

The CBO figures show that the most expensive year of the Iraq war was in 2008, the year when the surge proposed by Gen. David Petraeus and approved by President Bush was in full swing and the turning point in the war. The total cost of Iraq operations in 2008 was $140 billion. In 2007, the cost of Iraq operations was $124 billion.

According to an analysis by the American Thinker's Randall Hoven, the cost of the Iraq war from 2003-2008 -- when Bush was in office -- was $20 billion less than the cost of education spending and less than a quarter of the cost of Medicare spending during that same period.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leaving Iraq

A few facts about the announcement of the end of our military operations in Iraq:

1. Yes, the President announced it
2. Yes, it is time that the troops come home as Iraq needs to stand on it's own
3. Yes, Families will be happy to have their troops home (although they might wind up going to AFGHN instead)
4. Lastly, The US Military & the President didn't decide this - we were told to leave by the Iraqis - Plain & simple.

Obama tried to put some "lipstick on the pig" yesterday, couching it in an announcement as if he had taken bold action. He didn't take action, he was ordered to get the troops out by the sovereign government of Iraq.

It is time for the operations to end. We need to focus our efforts to Afghanistan and solve issues there. But to try & dress this up as if our CIC took action and made a big decision is BS.

Welcome home to the troops and a hearty " Well Done". To the POLS, especially President Obama who tried to make political gain from this announcement, go back to doing the real work you are supposed to be doing and stop trying to BS the American public. We know the real story and we aren't buying the crap you are selling.


Obama: Iraq war will be over by year's end; troops coming home By the CNN Wire Staff
Fri October 21, 2011

(CNN) --
President Barack Obama on Friday announced that virtually all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of the year -- at which point he can declare an end to America's long and costly war in that Middle Eastern nation.

"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said. "The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays."

Of the 39,000 troops in Iraq, about 150, a negligible force, will remain to assist in arms sales, a U.S. official told CNN. The rest will be out of Iraq by December 31.

The president said he was making good on his 2008 campaign pledge to end a war that has divided the nation since it began in 2003 and claimed more than 4,400 American lives.The announcement also came after talks that might have allowed a continued major military presence broke down amid disputes about whether U.S. troops would be immune to prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Obama spoke with Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki in a video conference Friday, after which he said both nations were comfortable with the decision on how to move forward.

The new partnership with Iraq will be "strong and enduring," Obama said.

"The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their head held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops," Obama said.

According to a statement from the Iraqi prime minister's office, al-Maliki and Obama "shared the same point of view on the need to start a new phase of strategic relations." That includes agreeing to a high-level meeting within two weeks.

Beyond the human cost, the price tag for U.S. military activity in Iraq has been steep as well.

A report from the non-partisan, government-funded Congressional Research Service found that the Defense Department spent nearly $757 billion for military operations in Iraq over the past decade, $50 billion higher than the estimate released by the Pentagon. Another $41 billion for Iraq was spent on State Department and USAID initiatives, plus $6 billion for troops' health expenses, the CRS report stated.

Paul Rieckhoff -- an ex-Army soldier who heads the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the first and largest such organization for these veterans, according to its website -- cheered Friday's announcement as "really good news for the troops serving overseas."

"It's a really poignant time, especially for the veterans community," Rieckhoff told CNN. "Many of us gave large parts of our lives, some gave all in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn."

While Democrats largely applauded Friday's announcement, some Republicans disagreed with the president. Sen. John McCain called it a "consequential failure" for the Obama administration, which he said wasn't focused on succeeding in Iraq, and Iraq's government.

"Today marks a harmful and sad setback for the United States in the world," said McCain, an Arizona Republican who faced off against Obama in the 2008 presidential election. "This decision will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime, which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."

Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough dismissed the notion that Friday's decision would affect Iran, which he claimed already is "weaker and more isolated" due to U.S. and allied efforts unrelated to Iraq.

"We don't need to try to exercise our influence on those matters through Iraq," McDonough told reporters Friday. "We're obviously concerned about Iran's willingness to live up to its obligations ... but we don't have concerns about our ability to make sure that the Iraqis can exercise the kind of sovereignty that they want."

Another U.S. official -- who is not authorized to speak for attribution -- acknowledged that "the Iranians have been trying to gain influence in Iraq for some time," but stressed that "Iranian influence in Iraq has limits." The official said the Iraq "will not roll over" to Iran, with whom it has a long history of border disputes including a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s.

The current Status of Force Agreement had called for U.S. troops to leave by the end of 2011. But lengthy negotiations in recent months had led some to expect that American troops -- roughly 40,000 of which are in Iraq -- would remain there into next year.

These talks, however, broke down over the prickly issue of legal immunity for U.S. troops in Iraq, a senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the discussions told CNN this month.


U.S. soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrol Iskandariya, Iraq, on July 17, 2011.U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top brass have repeatedly said any deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the withdrawal deadline would require a guarantee of legal protection for American soldiers.

But the Iraqis refused to agree to that, opening up the prospect of Americans being tried in Iraqi courts and subjected to Iraqi punishment.

The negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks' release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.

U.S. troops have already started the drawdown. For instance, a brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, that was originally scheduled to be among the last to leave Iraq was being pulled out of the country months ahead of its planned departure, military officials told CNN last week.

Besides withdrawing more units, others will not head overseas as planned. That includes about 775 Georgia-based soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which announced Friday it will not deploy to Iraq in December as previously scheduled.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has said that Iraq wouldn't be able to defend its borders if U.S. troops pulled out and also questioned Iraqi forces ability to defend its airspace. But Panetta, en route to Indonesia, said history shows that Iraq will be ready.

"We've taken out now about 100,000 troops and yet the level of violence has remained relatively low," the defense secretary said. "And I think that's a reflection of the fact that the Iraqis have developed a very important capability here to be able to respond to security threats within their own country."

Regardless, officials insisted that the drastic pullback of troops does not mean an end to the U.S. government's presence in Iraq.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner described Friday's development as the start of "a new chapter in our relationship" with Iraq -- while acknowledging the challenges of the change.

"You can't flip a switch and go from a military operation to a civilian operation; there has to be a transition and we're working on that transition," he said. "But we believe we're ready."

Toner also noted substantial improvements in the capabilities of the Iraqis, even as he admitted the continued importance of addressing "security needs" of the hundreds of nonmilitary U.S. personnel who will remain there.

That includes about 1,700 diplomats, law enforcement officers and various economic, agriculture and other professionals and experts who will be in Iraq into 2012, according to the State Department. In addition, 5,000 security contractors will protect the U.S. diplomats and another 4,500 contractors will serve other roles, such as helping provide food and medical services, until they can be done locally.

Toner said the U.S. and Iraqi governments are still talking about security and other matters, though he stressed any such discussions should not change the basic decision announced Friday.

"We continue to talk about the post-December 31 arrangement (and) security relationship," Toner said. "At the same time, we are very committed to meeting the December 31 deadline."

Panetta, too, did not rule out the possibility that U.S. forces would head to Iraq to train forces there.

"As we ... look at developing this normal relationship, a lot of it is going to depend on what they want, what their needs are and how we can best meet them," he said

Friday, October 21, 2011

100000 Massachusetts voters want a referendum on teacher's job performance - The MASS teacher's union? Not so much.....

Wow, shocker.

Over 100000 Massachusetts Voters feel we need to evaluate Teachers like anyone else - based on Performance. The Massachusetts Teacher's Union says "No" and vows to fight it in court.

Our schools have ranked as failing in properly educating our children for years. We have fallen behind the other industrial countries and rank well behind China and most of Europe. The answer to this is to evaluate Teachers on performance, just like any other professional.

100000 Voters think it is time to put the measure on the ballot. Allow people to vote as we pay the bill.


Freedom, democracy - one man, one vote. The Teacher's Union's response ?? See you in court. They have vowed to fight this as they have a perfect deal - they can keep on failing our children and collecting pay & benefits for life as they have no evaluation process and that suits them fine.

Here's today's lesson for the cement-heads at the MTA - Let the Voters speak as that is what our country is founded on. The Taxpayers pay your salary and deserve a say in how our children are educated. Your rigged game is coming to an end and none too soon.

Referendum on teacher effectiveness tops 100,000 signatures
By Michael Norton and Kyle Cheney
State House News Service
Posted Oct 21, 2011 @ 09:56 AM

BOSTON — A group pressing for a ballot law that would force schools to prioritize teacher effectiveness over seniority in hiring, layoff, and transfer decisions says it has amassed more than 100,000 voter signatures, but the state’s largest teacher’s union is gearing up to fight the proposal in court.

In a fundraising email circulated this week, Stand For Children Executive Director Jason Williams said the signatures had been collected in one month and asserted that the initiative would “ensure that every child in every classroom across the Commonwealth is being led by an excellent teacher.”

The announcement puts supporters of the ballot effort well ahead of the pace necessary to clear the next hurdle to placing the proposal before voters. Proponents must gather 68,911 signatures – most successful groups gather thousands of extra signatures to ensure they survive challenges – by mid-November.

While the organization’s Great Teachers Great Schools campaign looks to mobilize voters and tie their proposal to efforts to close achievement gaps between students from high-income and low-income families, the Massachusetts Teachers Association has ripped the plan as an effort to limit bargaining rights, diminish the role of seniority and experience in personnel decisions, and preclude part-time teachers from attaining professional status.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is charged with reviewing ballot questions to ensure they comply with legal criteria, certified the teacher evaluation proposal in August, clearing the way for advocates to launch their signature drive. But the MTA argues that the proposal should never come before voters because it violates laws governing the proper form of ballot questions.

“We’ll definitely be challenging the legitimacy of the initiative in the courts,” said Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “We respectfully disagree with the attorney general’s decision to go forward. We really believe it’s an abuse of the ballot initiative process.”

Toner said the initiative affects the power of the courts, which is forbidden by the laws governing ballot questions. He said that the question also appears to address “multiple issues” rather than a single, narrowly tailored policy concern.

“These are major policy issues that should be done by being discussed and deliberated through the Legislature,” he said. “Our intention is to go all the way to the Supreme Judicial Court on the issue.”

The union encouraged its members not to sign the petition if asked to by a signature collector and will fight the plan if it reaches the ballot. Noting new teacher evaluation rules were approved statewide on June 28, the union called the petition a “distraction from the real problems in public education.”

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Coakley’s decision to certify ballot initiatives are “based purely on the facts and the law.”

“As we do with all petition decisions, we work cooperatively with parties who wish to challenge our rulings,” said the spokesman, Brad Puffer. “The most important thing is to get the right result.”

A Stand for Children spokesman defended the ballot question.

“We’re really confident that the attorney general’s decision will stand,” said Sam Caspaneda Holdren, communications director for the group.

Stand for Children officials say their plan would augment the state regulations, ensure that guidelines for teacher effectiveness carry over into staffing decisions and make sure tenure is “earned and kept through a more rigorous process.”

If Stand for Children’s signature drive succeeds, lawmakers would have until May 2012 to back the proposal, offer an alternative or not address the issue at all and allow the plan to proceed to the ballot. If lawmakers opt to allow the question to proceed, supporters must gather another 11,485 signatures, clearing the way for the question to be put before voters to decide in November 2012.

“Closing the achievement gap in Massachusetts is really critical. Every child deserves a great teacher,” Holdren said. “That’s what we’re advocating for. We look forward to the Legislature having an opportunity to take action on these issues.”

In raising concerns with the ballot question, Toner invoked Gov. Deval Patrick’s Education Secretary, Paul Reville, who told the News Service in August that regulations on teacher evaluations should be given more time for review before consequences are implemented.

“For the first time ever, we’re including things like student performance and student voice in the evaluation process,” Reville said at the time. “I’m not ready yet to talk about consequences that will flow from this until I have confidence that the instrument is effectively implemented.”

Steve Jobs offered advice to Obama telling him, " “You’re headed for a one-term presidency”

Steve Jobs calls you to tell you that if you don't change the way you doing things, you will lose your job. What do you do ?? I would wager 95% of professional workers would heed his advice as Jobs knew what he was talking about.

In this case, he was advising President Obama who by all accounts has not heeded a single word of Jobs' advice as the President keeps motoring down the same wrong road he has been on all his political life. Obama believes he is right on all things, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Ignoring Steve Jobs' advice is one more sign that Barry needs to go back to Chicago as he doesn't deserve a 2nd term, and rightly so. Time to go Mr. President. You had a chance to make a difference and you blew it. Now we will need a new President to get us back on track. The problem with that is none of the GOP candidates has the leadership qualities we need. So we'll have to see what comes from the GOP primaries but right now, it looks like we will be replacing Obama with another POL, not a leader.


Did Steve Jobs warn Obama?
By TIM MAK 10/21/11 7:03 AM EDT
Politico.com

Steve Jobs told President Barack Obama he was “headed for a one-term presidency,” citing the U.S.’s competitive disadvantages with China and a “crippled” education system, a new biography of former Apple CEO indicates.

“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs told Obama in a meeting last year where he asserted that the White House needed to be more friendly toward business, according to the Huffington Post, which obtained a copy of the Walter Isaacson’s forthcoming book, “Steve Jobs.”

Jobs also told Obama that “regulations and unnecessary costs” put the United States at a competitive disadvantage with China, where companies can build factories more cheaply.

The recently deceased Jobs also told Obama that the education system was “crippled by union work rules,” according to Isaacson. Jobs proposed principals be able to hire and hire teachers based on merit, and to extend the length of both the school day and year.

Jobs also suggested that Obama meet with several other CEOs who could talk about the needs of innovative firms, but in a characteristic huff Jobs declared his intention to skip the event when the White House added additional names to the list.

Jobs also objected to the menu of that meeting, telling a venture capitalist that shrimp, cod and lentil salad was “far too fancy” and objecting to a chocolate truffle dessert. The White House overruled him, according to the book, citing the president’s fondness for cream pie.

According to the Huffington Post copy of Isaacson’s book, Jobs was reluctant to take a meeting with Obama without a personal invitation for the president. A five-day standoff ensued due to his stubborn insistence on this point, despite his wife’s exhortation that Obama “was really psyched to meet with you.” They eventually met at the Westin hotel at the San Francisco airport.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A ride down memory lane - Jim Croce performs " Operator "

I heard this on the radio today and wanted to share it......I remember when he died and the feeling that we would not see someone like him ever again. A great man and one that had real talent. Place his abilities to craft a song & a story next to those we see today and you'll get a sense of how great a loss losing him was to music.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a duck....

As the saying goes, " If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is probably a duck...."

5 non-citizens from Morocco, breaking into a old courthouse in possession of "photographs of infrastructure including photos of shopping malls, water systems, courthouses and other public buildings which they say were taken in cities nationwide" sounds like these idiots were looking to do something that would not have ended well for our country and it's citizens. Glad that they were caught before they could act on their plans.

Have fun in GITMO guys as that will be the next destination on their travel plans....


Terror Link Downplayed in Courthouse Break-In
'Pictures of courthouses, water systems' from around the US found in the van used by five men believed to be Moroccan Muslims.
Jim Forsyth - WOAI San Antonion, TX

Five men in their twenties, described as French-Moroccan Muslims, are being questioned by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and by officials of the Department of Homeland Security after they were arrested inside the 120 year old Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio shortly before 2 this morning, 1200 WOAI news reports.

Officials say three of the men crawled through a window to get into the 120 year old Courthouse, which is a landmark in downtown San Antonio, and the other two were found in a van parked in front of the building.

Inside the van, officials say they found "photographs of infrastructure" including photos of shopping malls, water systems, courthouses and other public buildings which they say were taken in cities nationwide.

"They got travel documents, parking passes, they have been all over the country," one law enforcement officials who asked not to be identified told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board on the scene. "A lot of photographic equipment, a lot of documentation equipment inside their vehicle."

Officials say the five men entered the country legally on visas from Heathrow Airport in London. They didn't immediately know how long the men have been in the U.S., or what places they may have visited.

Officials immediately blocked off a two square block area of downtown San Antonio around the Courthouse, and bomb sniffing dogs fanned out throughout the building. About two hours later, the streets were reopened, indicating nothing dangerous was found in the building.

"They are going to be held for interrogation by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the joint terrorism task force," the law enforcement source said.

The men are described as in their early twenties. One law enforcement official said the men told him they climbed to the fourth floor of the courthouse at 2AM "to get a better view of the city."

There is a military intelligence convention underway at the city's Convention Center several blocks away, with top intelligence officials including White House officials set to speak, but investigators didn't say whether there was any connection.

Investigators were tight lipped about the incident this morning.

"All that, coupled with the fact why they can't explain why they are in the building at 1:22 in the morning raises questions," the law enforcement officer said

Titanic Fail....



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

US Army Soldier creates " Ironman " Ammo carrier which allows him to deliver maximum rate of fire to the Bad Guys

Score one for the Iowa National Guard and especially Staff Sgt. Vincent Winkowski who got creative and solved a problem with his own ingenuity and desire to equip himself and his troops with "what works" - no multi-million dollar contract, no need to sink huge sums of $$$ into studies - This Soldier just thought it up and made it reality. Awesome.

Now the rest of the Army wants this simple piece of kit that will allow a soldier to put the maximum number of rounds down range. The Army needs to get busy and get as many of these as possible to the troops as they need it to take on the Terrorists on the battle field.


Kudos to the Iowa National Guard. Awesome use of the technology Dude !

Paging Jesse Ventura: Iowa Guard Builds Predator-Style Ammo Packs
By Andrew Tarantola, Gizmodo.com October 18, 2011


Remember that scene in the movie Predator, when Jesse Ventura is unleashing his M-134 mini-gun into the forest? It was being fed by an ammo box strapped to his back. Turns out, that wasn’t an actual piece of Army kit, at least until members of the Iowa National Guard created it themselves.

The National Guard division had been recently deployed to a forward operating base in Afghanistan and were issued Mk 48 machine guns when they arrived. The problem was, the belts of ammunition were extremely cumbersome and difficult for the gun’s operator to carry while on foot-patrol. The initial solution of chopping the belts into 50-round lengths and reloading constantly was abandoned after a harrowing 2.5 hour long firefight proved it untenable.

So, Staff Sgt. Vincent Winkowski welded two ammo boxes atop one another (with the upper case’s bottom removed), lashed them to an all-purpose ALICE pack frame, and mounted the feed chute assembly from a vehicle-mounted CROWS (Common Remote Operating Weapons Station) to the top of it. This allowed the gunner to carry a full load of ammo—500 rounds—unassisted. Even with ammo, the entire system weighed a mere 43 pounds.

The pack, dubbed The Ironman, proved so reliable in combat that Winkowski submitted the design to Army science advisers who also immediately recognized its value. Within 48 days, the Quick Reaction Cell of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) had created an improved, lighter-weight version of the pack.

As, Dave Roy, a current operations analyst at NSRDEC, explains,

We’ve already gotten email traffic from (one of) our science advisers that everybody in theater wants one of these — and by in theater, he means his specific area of operation, Regional Command East in Afghanistan — because word has spread. That (Iowa National Guard) unit is not the only unit on that FOB. As they’re walking around the FOB with that piece of kit, very senior people are taking a look at it. They recognize it as a game-changer.

While The Ironman is still a prototype at this stage, Roy hopes to have acquisition funding secured by early next year. [US Army]

Photo: 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Iowa National Guard