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Saturday, April 29, 2006

mexico legalizes possession...

of small amounts of recreational drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Read about it in this LA Times article. It's a small step, but at least it should open up some jail space for violent criminals.
MEXICO CITY β€” The Senate approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use β€” including heroin, cocaine, LSD and Ecstasy.

President Vicente Fox's office indicated that he would sign the bill, which has already passed the lower house of Congress. Mexican officials say they hope the measure will allow police to focus on large-scale trafficking operations rather than minor drug busts...

...But the legislation came as a shock to Washington, which counts on Mexico's support in the fight against smugglers who move large quantities of drugs through Mexico to U.S. users.

"I would say any law that decriminalizes dangerous drugs is not very helpful," said Judith Bryan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

A delegation from the House of Representatives visited Mexico last week and met with senior officials to discuss drug control issues but was told nothing of the upcoming legislation, said Michelle Gress, a House subcommittee counsel.
Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Mommy, the big bad Mexicans didn't warn me that they were going to decriminalize possession of all those drugs! What am I gonna do! Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo!

Gimme a break, you losers. Shut up and start decriminalizing the stuff in this country, so peaceful citizens can live freely and police can concentrate on real criminals.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

futures and options contracts...on real estate

This Boston Globe article informs us that we'll soon be able to hedge our real estate bets using derivatives. This could be a very useful development. It's certainly interesting how these financial instruments are coming out just as the real estate bubble begins to deflate.
America's sprawling financial markets give investors the opportunity to hedge against risk or bet the farm when it comes to almost any kind of asset. The stock market, copper, cattle. You name it.

But not your house, or home prices in general. That's about to change.

Futures and option contracts based on residential real estate indexes created by Wellesley economist Chip Case and Yale's Robert Shiller are expected to begin trading within weeks on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. They will follow single-market indexes that track real estate prices in 10 regions, including Greater Boston. Another index aggregates the local measures for a bigger picture of US real estate prices.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

dmca: the nightmare continues

More fascist copyright bullshit brought to you by the usual suspects is in the works as reported in this CNET article.
For the last few years, a coalition of technology companies, academics and computer programmers has been trying to persuade Congress to scale back the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Now Congress is preparing to do precisely the opposite. A proposed copyright law seen by CNET would expand the DMCA's restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.
Here's the best part:
During a speech in November, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endorsed the idea and said at the time that he would send Congress draft legislation. Such changes are necessary because new technology is "encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft," Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities."
Naturally, if you disagree with the feds and the copyright-industrial complex, you're helping the terrorists.

Read the whole article because there's a lot there.

Monday, April 24, 2006


On today's MSN, we find out from Bill Fleckenstein that the housing bubble has popped.
Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately, a lot of people around the country are going to be badly hurt as this bubble unwinds. And, after they have taken their losses, the financial institutions that were the engine behind this folly will take their own hits. 'Easy Al' Greenspan at the Fed tried to bail out one bubble with another bubble. While it bought some time, it will end in far-worse pain.
I would love to know what "Easy Al" is thinking these days. We know he abandoned his principled stand against credit expansion ages ago. He probably considers himself pretty clever to have bailed out of the Fed before the coming collapse. Perhaps his attitude is "don't look back" - after all, there's millions to be made in the lecture circuit now! But why anybody would pay him even a single penny for his thoughts is beyond me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

may she rest in peace

My friend Bea was buried today. She was a good lady who ran a cat rescue operation out of her private home. She had about 90 cats living on her property.

I adopted my two cats from her about 12 years ago. Then, when I needed desperately to find another home for them last year, she took them back without hesitation. (My wife became extremely allergic to cats and began to develop asthma because of them, so we could no longer keep them. We had given the cats to somebody else two years before but he no longer wanted them. Our cats are now happily settled in at my sister's house).

Bea told me of the troubles she had with the local authorities. For example, she was not allowed to charge for adoptions because she wasn't a licensed shelter. This made it much harder to advertise and place cats. Charging a small fee for adoptions is a good thing, for two reasons. For one, it obviously helps recover the costs associated with running the shelter (medical, food, etc.). Secondly, it discourages folks who aren't serious or would do harm to the animal from attempting to adopt.

Here's to you, Bea. You brought much love to many cats, and to the people they ended up with.

f.d.a.: no medical benefit from marijuana

See this report in the NYT. I guess all those chemotherapy patients are just imagining that marijuana alleviates their nausea.
The Food and Drug Administration's statement said state initiatives that legalize marijuana use were "inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the F.D.A. approval process."

But scientists who study the medical use of marijuana said in interviews that the federal government had actively discouraged research. Lyle E. Craker, a professor in the division of plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said he submitted an application to the D.E.A. in 2001 to grow a small patch of marijuana to be used for research because government-approved marijuana, grown in Mississippi, was of poor quality.

In 2004, the drug enforcement agency turned Dr. Craker down. He appealed and is awaiting a judge's ruling. "The reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial," Dr. Craker said.
So the feds are simultaneously trampling states' rights and thwarting scientific research. Screw you, FDA, and screw you too, DEA.

online gaming unites family members across the planet

This article by Mike Musgrove on the WaPo today about how computer games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes are allowing far-flung family members to interact with one another raises a number of interesting points for discussion. The belief that computer games are anti-social is turning out not to be the case, at least in some cases.
For a family separated by the military, such games can be an intimate way of "being together" that goes beyond phone calls or e-mail. Rhonda Carswell lives in Florida, and her husband, Randy, is an Army National Guard medic stationed in Afghanistan, but they meet routinely in Paragon City of the superhero-themed game City of Heroes.

"It sounds silly to our non-gamer friends, but when I see his hero or villain, I feel like I am looking at him. . . . His choices of appearance and powers personify him perfectly," Rhonda said in an e-mail. The couple run missions together, and at the end of the day, they put their characters in yoga position in a "safe" part of the game's world and just talk.
Another related trend is the use of avatars in online chatting. The impact of projecting ourselves into cyberspace to interact with one another is going to be a fascinating field of study for years to come. Kudos to WaPo for running this article.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

gold and silver at mutli-decade highs...

Today June gold closed at $623.30, and May silver settled at $13.79. And they don't show any signs of stoppin'. Is gold on a mission to blast through its all-time high? From this AP article:
"Gold is going to turn more into a monetary concern ... the need for an alternative to the U.S. dollar will be evident," [gold market analyst Peter] Grandich said.

Because gold is now in territory not seen in 25 years, price resistance levels are more psychological than anything, Hunter said. Still, market watchers are saying the metal could soon be flirting with its all-time high of about $800 an ounce, reached in 1980.

"We remain very firmly in an overall uptrend," Hunter said. "The one caveat would be that given the rapid rise in prices we've seen in recent weeks, it opens the door for some periods of weakness ... but the underlying uptrend remains intact."

real estate insiders go bearish in blogs

That's the title of this report by Les Christie on

Saturday, April 15, 2006

gotta love those google ads

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an unfavorable opinion of Barack Obama and his global warming alarmism. Ever since then, I've seen Google ads in support of him appear on this site. My apologies.

Yes, I could filter out these sites as they appear; thankfully, Google gives us this ability. I've just been too lazy to bother.

romneycare = aetnacare

A good article by Michael S. Rozeff about so-called "Romneycare".
Romneycare is actually Aetnacare. According to Dinah Brin, "Aetna Inc. (AET) has supported the concept of mandated insurance for individuals on a national level." Why would they not, when it broadens their market and brings them relatively secure access to tax-based cash flows? A spokesman for Aetna said: "Aetna believes that Massachusetts is taking an important step by developing a comprehensive statewide plan to make affordable health coverage available to 500,000 uninsured residents." This does not read like a howl of protest. The spokesman adds: "The company aims to work with Massachusetts officials in developing products focused on the large percentage of adults ages [sic] 19 to 26 who are currently uninsured."

From investment bankers and security analysts we confirm that insurance companies are beneficiaries of mandated insurance. JP Morgan in subdued terms sees it as a positive for enrollment in health care plans and something that "could meaningfully change the health insurance landscape," meaning that if other states go the route of "universal care legislation," then business for health-care insurers will be noticeably affected. A CIBC analyst says: "The measure appears to allow insurers flexibility in pricing, allows insurers to earn a profit margin and increases the pool of potential purchasers, although publicly traded companies won't see much effect."
I've long questioned the whole nature of medical insurance. Why should every little trip to the doctor need to be covered by insurance? In every other industry, insurance is designed to cover catastrophic circumstances. You don't use automobile insurace to pay for an oil change, but you use medical insurance to cover an office visit. The government and its willing accomplices have screwed the medical system up royally, causing prices for routine medical care to spiral out of control.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

something to think about

Ron Paul on the income tax, from this LRC article.
But could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of her history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker's paycheck. Even today, individual income taxes account for only approximately one-third of federal revenue. Eliminating one-third of the proposed 2007 budget would still leave federal spending at roughly $1.8 trillion – a sum greater than the budget just 6 years ago in 2000! Does anyone seriously believe we could not find ways to cut spending back to 2000 levels? Perhaps the idea of an America without an income tax is not so radical after all. It’s something to think about this week as we approach April 15th.

Monday, April 10, 2006

free the net

Is so-called network neutrality a good idea? Unfortunately, the major broadband providers like AT & T sound like greedy rober barons, salivating at the thought of jacking up prices for premium service, in the discussions of possible regulation. My own thoughts are that network neutrality is nothing but a price control, and will result in shortages and underinvestment in internet infrastructure.

I haven't seen much discussion of this from a libertarian perspective, but Julian Sanchez gives a decent overview in "A Neutral Panic".

diet blogging update

Well, it's been three weeks since my last update and the good news is that I'm down 1.5 lbs. since my last reports. Not too dramatic sounding but when you consider that it's a 3.5 drop since last week, it's actually pretty good. The process has been a bit frustrating, since I've been gaining weight on some weeks, much to my consternation. I think the diet is good, though, so even on weeks of weight gain, I found it pretty easy to stick to it and not give up.

I made several refinements over the last week and I'm hoping that they cause the dramatic loss over the last week and will continue to let me lose at a reasonable pace. The biggest change was eliminating fruit juices from my morning meal. I had considered doing so for a while, but that sweet orange juice was just too yummy to get rid of at first. After two weeks of weight gain, I was casting about for something to change and some discussions with jmc led me to drop the juice. Orange juice has a pretty high glycemic index, making it no better than sugar in some regards. Since sugar is a no no on this regimen, OJ was a leading candidate for elimination. Also eliminated was any diet drinks that had nutrasweet in them so I'm basically down to drinking water with almost all my meals. One thing I added was calcium pills. I've been tracking my nutrition with and noticed that I was consistently underconsuming calcium. I've been trying to get calcium through natural sources like kale, but was still falling short, so it was either crank up on the cheese eating or do a pill and I choose the later.

I'm hoping that this combo will do the trick and allow me to consistently lose weight. It's frustrating having to pass up foods I really like and if there's no visible benefit, then why not have that cheese danish?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

comcast vs. directv

Well, after three and a half years as a Directv customer, we switched to Comcast digital cable. When we originally signed up for Directv, it was a better deal than cable - more channels for less money. Plus, we've had very good service from them.

But now that we want HDTV service and DVR, the pendulum has swung the other way. Directv wants you to shell out hundreds of dollars up front for their HD-Tivo box, and then still pay a leasing fee on top of that. With Comcast, I pay $10/month for the HD-DVR (dual tuner) box and no up front fees. Also, no contract! With Directv you're always signing one or two year contracts when you upgrade to new equipment.

Granted, the Comcast DVR is probably not as nice as Tivo, but...Comcast and Tivo have signed an agreement, so we'll see what happens in the future. The whole family really likes the Comcast "On Demand" service, too.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I really do have trouble believing that this happened, but according to this Daily Mail story, found via the Drudge Report, it really did.
A mobile phone salesman was hauled off a plane and questioned for three hours as a terror suspect - because he listened to songs by The Clash and Led Zeppelin.

Harraj Mann, 24, played the punk anthem London Calling and classic rock track Immigrant Song in a taxi before a flight to London.

The lyrics to both tracks made the driver fear his passenger was a terrorist...

...Mr Mann said yesterday: 'The taxi had one of those tape deck things that plugs into your digital music player.

"I played Procol Harum's Whiter Shade Of Pale first, which the taxi man liked. I figured he liked the classics so put on a bit of Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song - which he didn't like. Then, since I was going to London, I played the song by The Clash and finished up with Nowhere Man by The Beatles."
It's hard enough to believe that a taxi driver would think a man's a terrorist for playing "London Calling", but what really boggles the mind is that the police would pull a man off a flight and question him for three hours based on the taxi driver's suspicions.
Mr Mann said he was 'frog-marched off the plane in front of everyone, had my bags searched and was asked 'every question you can think of'.
If this is how the police spend their time, how are they ever going to catch a real terrorist?

Monday, April 03, 2006

barack obama: would-be energy dictator...

...and all-around communist. This Suntimes story today reveals the dictatorial tendencies we might expect from a President Obama.
Obama was guest speaker at The Associated Press' annual luncheon, held on the opening day of the Newspaper Association of America's convention.

He accused President Bush of a "stubborn refusal" to attack the causes of climate change, and said tougher fuel standards, stricter curbs on oil imports and more investment in cleaner energy are essential to avert global catastrophe.

"Saying that America is addicted to oil without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the 12-step program," said Obama in a reference to one of the principal themes of Bush's State of the Union address.
I don't feel sorry for Bush; he opened himself up for this abuse with his feeble attempt to cater to the greenies; Obama is just bringing Bush's start to its logical conclusion: total control of energy policy by the federal leviathan.
He cited several pieces of legislation he has introduced in Congress, including one to help defray the auto industry's costs of investment in more fuel-efficient cars. It calls for the federal government to pick up a portion of the costs automakers pay for retiree health care, so long as companies use some of the savings to retool their factories.

Obama said the Big Three automakers spent $6.7 billion on retiree health care costs in 2004.

"It's a win-win proposal for the industry-- their retirees will be taken care of, they'll save money on health care, and they'll be free to invest in the kind of fuel-efficient cars that are the key to their competitive future," he said of the legislation.
And the average tax-paying American gets screwed once again.
"As gas prices keep rising, the Middle East grows every more unstable and the ice caps continue to melt, we face a now-or-never, once-in-a-generation opportunity to set this country on a different course," he said.

He said the country should reduce oil imports by more than 7.5 million barrels a day by 2025, a cutback two-thirds greater than the administration's target of 4.5 million.

He also said fuel economy standards should rise 3 percent a year over the next 15 years, beginning in 2008.
Can you believe this guy? Why stop there, Barack? Why not 4%? Why not 5%? Why not tell Americans what exterior/interior color combinations they can choose for their cars as well? They might choose some ugly colors without wise federal guidance!
The use of ethanol in fuel should be encouraged, he said, supporting tax breaks for companies to install the necessary tanks on their cars and for consumers who use E85, a blended fuel.

"Unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to potential catastrophe," he said.
No, it's the bankrupt, overbearing federal government that you're a part of that's condemning the future generations. And I'm sure your support for ethanol has absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that some Illinois corn farmers might stand to benefit from such a policy.

adult stem cell watch

From this article in yesterday's Washington Post:
U.S. researchers said yesterday they had transformed immature cells from men's testicles into stem cells, which they then coaxed into becoming nerve, heart and bone cells.

Their work has not been assessed by standard peer-review processes but was presented at a meeting of stem cell researchers in Valencia, Spain. If other researchers can duplicate their efforts, the study offers a possible new source of valuable stem cells.

The researchers, at PrimeGen Biotech LLC in Irvine, Calif., worked with immature cells found in testes and ovaries, known as germ cells. Scientists have hoped to use germ cells as a source of tissues for transplant and other medical uses.

The findings are certain to be scrutinized before they are accepted. Earlier this year, South Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk was disgraced for having faked two studies in which he claimed to have cloned human embryos and used them as a source of embryonic stem cells.
Boy, these must be difficult times for all those embronic stem cell research advocates. With so many reports coming out showing the potential for adult stem cells, and the Korean cloning scandal to boot, will they join the adult stem cell cause (at least as an additional cause, if not a replacement)? Or does it take all the fun out of it when you can't destroy some human embryos in the process?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

mumps vaccine = mumps?

I find this mumps story rather interesting. All age groups are coming down with mumps in Iowa, including those who've been innoculated with the MMR vaccine.
When 11-year-old Will Hean of Davenport starting feeling sick in mid-January, his family thought he had a bad case of the flu. But his face and throat swelled and his temperature climbed to 103. His parents took him to the doctor, and he was diagnosed to their surprise with full-blown mumps.

About two weeks later, the Heans' daughter, Kate, 21, came down with the mumps, too.

Both children had gotten the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR. So had their other son, 13-year-old Jimmy, who did not get the mumps.
I deliberately did not allow my two children to be vaccinated with MMR, for two reasons. One, measles, mumps and rubella are generally not serious, life-threatening diseases in children. (In pregnant women, rubella can cause serious birth defects). When I was a child, I remember kids getting these diseases. I know for sure I had the mumps, and I also had either the measles or the German measles (rubella), if not both. There's far too many vaccines shot into kids these days before they reach their second birthday, while their immune systems are very immature.

The second reason is that MMR is one of those vaccines made from tissue from an aborted human fetus. I'm talking about an infected baby that was deliberately aborted so that his cells could be harvested. Call it what you will, but I call it cannibalism.

The other major vaccine made from aborted fetuses is the Chickenpox vaccine. Unfortunately, I ignorantly allowed my first-born to be vaccinated with this stupid vaccine because I didn't know better at the time. (Chickenpox is another rather benign (although certainly inconveniencing) childhood disease, which can be a lot worse if you get it as an adult). Ever since then I've made it a point to never let my children get vaccinated for anything until I've thoroughly investigated the pros and cons of the vaccine.