Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Big Business and Big Labor

Local government works for big corporations; however, apparently in Des Moines, the local government also obeys the dicta of big labor. After all, they threw out a low bid for a city contract probably because the low bidder used non-union employees:
    Des Moines City Council members rejected saving $500,000 on a water detention basin project, turning away all bids because the lowest was too low.

    The savings would have been large enough to nearly pay for last year's decision to restore power to 4,200 streetlights that had been turned off in a cost-saving move.

    "I respect the council members because I know they have a tough job, but this was" wrong, said Thelma Saxton, whose family owns Saxton Inc., which employs non-union labor.

    Officials of Corell Contractor Inc. of West Des Moines and a lobbyist for the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council contacted council members before this week's vote and asked them not to hire Saxton. Corell employs union labor.

    Iowa laws do not require cities to use union labor.
Silly newspapers. Laws are for fools, and government sweetness is for corporations and unions.

Easter Bunny: Too Religious for Commerce

Apparently, the Easter Bunny is too Christian for some malls:
    The Easter Bunny is a vanishing breed.

    Not that there's a shortage of 6-foot white rabbits carrying baskets of colored eggs. It's just that Mr. Shopping Mall Bunny is becoming more politically correct.

    The bunny at The Gardens mall Easter egg hunt last weekend — oops, make that just plain "egg hunt" — was called Garden Bunny.

    "The name just complemented The Gardens of the Palm Beaches," mall Marketing Director Jeannie Roberts said.

    Saturday, Baxter the Bunny is available for photos at the Mall at Wellington Green. At Town Center in Boca Raton, Peter Rabbit will hand out goodies and pose for pictures.

    "Because we're such a multicultural community, it's good just to remain neutral," mall General Manager Sam Hosen said.
Unfortunately, the lack of diversity training has led to the ignorance which leads some cretins to identify Christian biblical origins for the Easter Bunny. Perhaps they think it stems from an old tradition enumerated in Deuteronomy or Leviticus. Golden calves, bad, but chocolate rabbits are okay.

Friday, March 11, 2005
Report: Industry Group Wants Government Money

Group: U.S. losing competitive edge:
    Leaders of high-tech companies said the United States risks losing its competitive edge without significant new investments in education, research and development and the spread of broadband technology.
Whose investment?
    They also called on Congress to increase basic research funding and make permanent a research and development tax credit; promote broadband development, in part by minimizing regulations; enact a U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement; promote cyber-security initiatives; and continue to take steps to reduce frivolous lawsuits. [Emphasis mine, and probably theirs.]
You know, I cannot think of any personal problem I have that couldn't be helped with buckets of free taxpayer money. Except for perhaps this distaste I have for spending tax money to benefit businesses.

Mmm. Doughnuts.

Ajax wants doughnuts

Thursday, March 10, 2005
My State Legislator Coddles Corporation

I'm very disappointed to see that my State Senator has decided that a local company needs handouts to stick around:
    But the battle between Missouri and Illinois could be just heating up. Express Scripts would get an estimated $35 million in incentives from Illinois to move its headquarters across the Mississippi River, a Missouri state senator said he has learned.

    To keep the company in Missouri, Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, said he has introduced an 11th-hour bill to improve Missouri's menu of economic incentives. He filed the bill March 1 after meeting with St. Louis County officials.

    "There is very real competition from other communities throughout the country that are making inquiries into one of our fastest-growing companies," said Denny Coleman, president of the St. Louis County Economic Council. "The array of incentives programs we have here are not as strong as our competitor states."
I don't remember reading much about the preeminence of corporations in this country's founding documents, but they certainly get a lot of attention and support from the governments, ainna?

Bureaucrat Explains Economic Theory

Martin Braeske, planning supervisor for the St. Louis City school district, explains how finance works as he discusses the sale of schoolhouses:
    The use of historic tax credits to restore the properties has been a factor in the bulk of the sales, Braeske said. "With schools like Emerson, developers need the credits to make the deal profitable, and they have to preserve the historic elements of the schools to qualify for the credits, so it's a win all around," he said.
That is, to comply with the government regulations, "private" developers need tax breaks from the government to buy the buildings for "free enterprise" reasons. Meanwhile, everyone else continues to pay taxes unabated because they're not businesspeople or bureaucrats. A winner for all the people who matter.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Spending Tax Money is the Only Assurance of Integrity

Democrat state politicians are upset that Matt Blunt isn't spending state tax money to fly himself around the state:
    But state Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti asserted that Blunt is once again showing "a lack of integrity" by allowing campaign donors to wield inappropriate influence in his administration.

    "Special interests picked his Cabinet, and now they're taxiing him around the state to further curry favor with him," Cardetti said.
According to the Missouri Democrat party, if you don't forcibly take money from taxpayers to spend on your own convenient travel plans, you lack integrity.

Sun-Times Double Team

Both Richard Roeper and Neil Steinberg spend some of their columns today pooh-poohing blogs.

    And of course, blogs. By law, every story about the news business must include mention of the blog as the way of the future.

    The media landscape is changing, and that's a positive thing. We're supposed to be living in a democracy in which all voices have an equal opportunity to be heard. The more platforms in the public square, the better.

    Still, we need to keep a sense of perspective. The new media doesn't yet have a fraction of the clout, power, success and influence still enjoyed by the old media.
    On Feb. 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter and his guests spent an evening in the White House watching "Citizens Band," a movie about a CB vigilante named Spider who roams the airwaves pouring abuse on those whose conduct falls short of his lofty standards of radio etiquette.

    I thought of the CB craze while watching an excruciating CNN "Inside the Blogs" report on a blogger -- someone who keeps an online diary -- who was accredited and given access to a White House press conference, making him "perhaps the first blogger to cover the daily press briefings."

    Yowza. Though they also let in a turkey at Thanksgiving, CNN found this particular entrance highly significant, perhaps some kind of turning point, and as the protracted, painful segment unfolded, the reporter tried to present the usual piranha frenzy in the so-called "blogosphere" by actually scrolling down, on air, blocks of verbiage on her computer screen. "It's hard to read," she said as the text flew by.

    Is it ever. So why was CNN fooled? I know producers have time to fill, but they stumbled onto a common misperception that deserves note. Stuck as always in the jail of the present moment, we mistake White House or presidential involvement for a sign of importance or respectability.
Wow, the blogs as citizen's band radio. I posted a comment of that stripe years ago one some blog, but it's lost to the ether. A little Google searching shows that a high number of other people have had the same insight. On the other hand, not many of us have twice-a-week columns for a major metro tabloid.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Book Report: Star Trek 5 by James Blish (1972)

You damn kids want to know what old skool geeks did before DVDs, before VHS, and even before BetaMax? In the dark, dark days of the early 1970s, after the original Star Trek series disappeared from the airwaves and the animated series offered the only respite (the movie which revived the franchise was 8 years off in 1972, Star Wars the sci fi savior was 5 years off, and the next Star Trek Series a whopping fourteen years off). James Blish, a sci fi writer/hack took the episodes from the original series and published them in a series of books. That's right, you damn kids. Before they had DVDs, they had books, and geeks read. Not just books on development, but science fiction. In books.

I was first exposed to this series in high school, right before Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. So when I found a number of these books (starting with this one) at Hooked on Books priced at three for a dollar, I bought a season's worth of Star Trek for a buck sixty-seven. You can't beat that at garage sales for old videocassettes, werd.

This book runs 135 pages, roughly, and features seven stories. I remember many of the episodes, so I'm really drawn along. One hour episodes, condensed into 15 page stories, translates into some quick and easy science fiction reading. Granted, if you're not familiar with the original series and its characters, perhaps the book won't hold the same appeal for you. But you're a damn kid anyway, and I want you off of my lawn!

Brian Likes the URL String

In my capacity in software QA working on Web applications, I know there's no easier means of havoc than to mess with the URL string sent to the Web application. Looks as though some "hackers" have discovered the same with a university application, um, application:
    The ApplyYourself code had a bug such that editing the URL in the "Address" or "Location" field of a Web browser window would result in an applicant being able to find out his admissions status several weeks before the official notification date. This would be equivalent to a 7-year-old being offered a URL of the form and editing it down to to see what else of interest might be on the server.
But I bet the company saved a bundle of money by avoiding the whole quality assurance thing.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

Mmmm. Fuzzy Chicken

Save Toby.
    Toby is the cutest little bunny on the planet. Unfortunately, he will DIE on June 30th, 2005 if you don’t help. I rescued him several months ago. I found him under my porch, soaking wet, injured from what appeared to be an attack from an alley cat. I took him in, thinking he had no chance to live from his injuries, but miraculously, he recovered. I have since spent several months nursing him to health. Toby is a fighter, that’s for sure.

    Unfortunately, on June 30th, 2005, Toby will die. I am going to eat him. I am going to take Toby to a butcher to have him slaughter this cute bunny. I will then prepare Toby for a midsummer feast. I have several recipes under consideration, which can be seen, with some pretty graphic images, under the recipe section.
As a poor young man in Milwaukee in the middle 1970s, I ate a lot of rabbit. My father had a string of traps in the city parks and sometimes shot rabbits right out of his car. We ate so much rabbit my father called it "Fuzzy Chicken." Say what you will, but we never went too hungry when my father was between jobs.

Eye Witness Shocker!

Italy Foreign Minister Disputes U.S. Claim:
    Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday that American troops killed an Italian intelligence officer in Iraq by accident, but he disputed Washington's version of events, demanding a thorough U.S. investigation of the shooting and that "the culprits be punished."

    Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told parliament that the car carrying the intelligence officer and an ex-hostage to freedom was not speeding and was not ordered to stop by U.S. troops at a checkpoint, contrary to what U.S. officials say.
So Fini saw this how? Was it the intricate network of Italian spy satellites, or was he on the scene masquerading as an Iraqi farmer?

Punish the Suspected

Here comes the intersection of gun rights and terrorism, and shockingly, they want to limit gun rights for our security: U.S. let terror suspects buy guns, feds say
    Dozens of terrorist suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a congressional investigation that points up major vulnerabilities in federal gun laws.

    People suspected of being members of terrorist groups are not automatically barred from legally buying guns, and the new investigation, conducted by congressional officials at the Government Accountability Office, indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had taken advantage of this gap on a regular basis.

    Since Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement officials and gun control groups have voiced increasing concern about the prospect of having a terrorist walk into a gun shop, legally buying an assault rifle or other type of weapon and using it in an attack.
So now law enforcement officials and gun control groups want to prevent people on secret, unlisted watch groups from buying guns. Not people convicted of a crime, but a group of people who used to be called "presumed innocent." If Congress passes legislation to prevent suspects from buying guns, watch for more suspicious people on secret watch lists. Anyone who wants to buy a gun, for instance, could be suspected of wanting the gun to commit a crime.

Some slippery slopes are so steep that they're vertical drops, werd.

Brian Doesn't Cry Like a Baby

A reminiscience spurred by Richard Roeper's column today:
    Funny you should mention that, John. I, too, have noticed these bullet hole stickers. They're not nearly as widespread as "Support Our Troops" ribbons, but they're definitely gaining in popularity. You can buy stickers that will make it look like your fender, trunk or even your windows have been pierced with single bullet holes or multiple bullet holes. I've also seen the stickers on motorcycle helmets, as if the wearer is saying, "I've been shot!"

    From one Web site hawking the stickers: "Imagine your friend spotting a few bullet holes on his new car after a long day at work; he may just cry like a baby."
Hell, I've lived in the city. I don't need simulation. On February 20, 1994, I came out from eight hours of slinging produce to find a couple of nice pass throughs between the driver side window and rear passenger window of my father's car where a couple of small caliber rounds had passed through the car. I drove home with a cold bracing wind blowing through the pebbled windows and got the dual pleasure of dealing with my stepmother's misplaced wrath and filing a police report. On my twenty-second birthday. Not the height of hillarity, but I didn't cry like a baby.

Monday, March 07, 2005
I Got Nothing

Since I don't have anything witty or insightful to say today, perhaps you should just go read the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman in his column "The illusions of the minimum wage", which begins:
    Asking Democrats if they favor an increase in the minimum wage is like asking Martha Stewart if she'd mind sharing some decorating ideas. There are few things they'd rather do, and Sen. Ted Kennedy thinks it is high time.

    The Massachusetts Democrat is offering a measure that would boost the wage floor from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. He notes that it has not been lifted since 1997, during which time senators have gotten seven pay raises. "If the Senate is serious about an anti-poverty agenda," he said, "let's start by raising the minimum wage." Republicans, meanwhile, might accept an increase of $1.10, as proposed by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

    It may seem like an inescapable truth that if you increase the amount employers pay their lowest-wage workers, you will have fewer poor people. Money, after all, is what they lack, and a higher minimum wage means more money to those in the worst-paying jobs.

    In fact, this is one of those obvious facts that turns out not to be a fact at all. The available evidence suggests that raising the minimum wage doesn't do what it's supposed to do.
You see, the gentleman can sound kinda smart about things when he's not la-dee-dah about foreign policy.

Sunday, March 06, 2005
Deep Cover Investigative Journalism

Norville to Anchor From 'Home Confinement':
    Now HERE'S a good excuse for working at home. Deborah Norville will anchor Monday's program of "Inside Edition" from her home on Long Island, N.Y., to try to give viewers a taste of what Martha Stewart's home confinement is like.
Muhahahaha! I laugh with almost hysterical tears. I work from home, so I sometimes don't leave the house for weeks. You want to know what it's like?

It's maddening, but I like madness. It keeps me company and walks on cats' paws.

Seriously, what's next? Deborah Norville drives her own car so viewers know what commuting is like?

(Link seen on Tim Blair's site.)

Were I a Cynical, Suspicious Man

If I were a cynic, or a hopeful writer of suspense fiction, I might make something different of this story: Italian Journalist Rejects U.S. Account.

Okay, we have these salient events:
  1. Sympathetic "journalist" disappears, "kidnapped" by "insurgents."

  2. Releases a tape making normal coerced political demands, which doesn't differ from her normal uncoerced political demands.

  3. Her government "negotiates" her release, which involves paying ransom money.

  4. Upon her release, she claims the United States military "targeted her"--but missed--with 300 or 400 shots--after which her car looks like this, but

  5. The only casualty is the Italian intelligence officer that acted as the bag man, who took one round to the temple, almost execution style; everyone else in the car miraculously survived.
And when the heat cools off and the journalist "recovered," she would retire to Switzerland with her Iraqi lover on their ill-gotten loot.

I would title the book Ill Manifest.

Update: Real-life mystery writer Roger L. Simon offers a plot.

Update II: Baldilocks, who deploys a Ludlumian title for a post in The Sgrena Gambit, indicates that the car depicted above might not be the car alledgedly shot 300-400 times.

Homelessness Rediscovery Watch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch waxes romantic about homelessness in its Metro section today: For two men, it was a place to call home.
    Even now, more than a month later, the discarded bits of their lives litter the ground around the little green bench — a few twist-off beer caps, a couple of dozen cigarette butts and some scraps of candy wrappers half-buried in the March mud.

    For the better part of a year it had been their bench, and even on those rainy nights when they would leave to take shelter under the roof of a nearby bus stop, they would always return. There was no address, not in the strict sense of the word, but for Morris White and Kerry Smith, it was the closest thing to a home they would know for much of 2004.

    They arrived for the first time in the late spring, when the city air was warm and clean, and the sweetgum trees were heavy with new leaves.
I don't understand. I thought homelessness was bad, but here the Post-Dispatch sepia-tones the story of two men who preferred to live on the streets to living with their families or in homeless shelters with their pissant regulations.

If these homeless people don't care to change their condition, why should I? Why should tax money be spent on them, other than it's free?

I doubt the Post-Dispatch wanted to raise these questions.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."