Saturday, July 28, 2007

Psychotic Lancet Pot Smoking Analysis

I wonder if Lancet’s Smoking just one cannabis joint raises danger of mental illness by 40% study is as, ahem, rigourous as their study of number of Iraqi deaths?

Posted by John Venlet on 07/28 at 09:43 AM
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Before I Go

Heading to the West Coast of Michigan with 18 to 20 family members for a week of good food, beer, wine, sunshine etcetera.  Uncertain of computer connections, so posting may be interrupted.

Before I go, though, go check out this video/film, it’s called Uninsured in America, and view for yourselves the calloused sense of entitlement of some of the individuals who are “uninsured.”  Link to that video via Alan K. Henderson.

If I have a connection out on the West Coast, I’ll post.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/28 at 07:03 AM
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Friday, July 27, 2007

Profiting from a Gun Buyback Program

I don’t think much of gun buyback programs, as I’ve said in the past, as I think they foster a false sense of security.

With that said, Chicago just ran a gun buyback program, and it was indeed a profitable venture, for handgun proponents.

I left the building in condition orange, watching for any thugs waiting to ambush anyone coming out. The suspicious character watching me carefully with my two bags of guns wasn’t there any longer. Got into the car across the street and was giddy with excitement. I had just sold $10 worth of scrap plus maybe a $50 5-shot .22 “affordable” wheel gun for $1000! It seemed too good to be true!

The story gets even better, so make sure you read the whole thing.

A BEST BUY in Chicagoland: Selling (s)crap metal at a gun turn in

Via Ian, over at Claire Wolfe’s blog, in a post he titled BEST GUN BUYBACK EVAR

Posted by John Venlet on 07/27 at 07:13 AM
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Memories Lawsuit

The events of 9/11 stand out in almost every individuals mind.  Individuals recall where they were, or what they were doing, when the news exploded on almost all the airwaves.  And the news kept getting worse and worse until the towers’ collapse broke over the nation, the world, smothering for a moment or two all thought at the sheer improbability of it all.

For individuals who lost family members, loved ones, or friends, the memory of that day can still play vividly in their minds, as it can in mine, though the loss these individuals suffered sharpens that recollection I’m certain.

With that said, I find this news item, regarding a lawsuit filed because of the recent Con Ed steam pipe explosion in New York a bit much.

A woman whose sister died in the Sept. 11 attacks filed a lawsuit over last week’s steam pipe eruption in Manhattan, saying Tuesday that the explosion brought back horrible memories.

Francine Dorf’s lawsuit accuses Consolidated Edison of negligence, saying the utility didn’t properly maintain the pipe that ruptured outside her office and sent a geyser of steam, mud and asbestos-tainted debris over the neighborhood near Grand Central Terminal.

“I thought a building was going to collapse,” said Dorf, 52, a legal secretary. She is seeking unspecified damages.

Now, I’m certain that Ms. Dorf was thoroughly frightened by this recent failure of Con Ed’s infrastructure, and that she may have lost some sleep over this, and I am sympathetic to that, but filing a lawsuit over this event is a bit much.

Ms. Dorf’s attorney, Kenneth Mollins, is on record stating the following.

Dorf’s attorney, Kenneth Mollins, said Dorf suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and “a legacy of fear” from the 2001 attacks. He said the lawsuit is intended to force Con Ed to improve maintenance of its infrastructure.

I wonder if Mr. Mollins is aware that there is no financial benefit to Con Ed, or any utility provider, if they suffer a catastrophic failure of their operating equipment, and that most utility providers have a planned maintenance schedule for their operating equipment, which may or may not be able to ascertain when a certain piece of equipment may or may not fail, or that even the most thorough inspection of a piece of operating equipment may not bring to light a piece of equipment’s abnormality which could, or could not, produce a failure such as the steam pipe explosion discussed here?

Basically I find Mr. Mollins’ reason for the intended lawsuit spurious, and though I sympathize with Ms. Dorf’s sensitivity to this event, I do not think her supplication to the court for “unspecified damages” is warranted.

Woman sues over NYC pipe explosion

Via A Stitch in Haste.

As for for this clown and his attorney, and their Con Ed steam pipe explosion lawsuit, which I stumbled across looking for the above story, they’re just a couple of goldplated golddiggers.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/26 at 06:19 PM
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Experts Would Be Wrong

Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, all appear to be utilizing legitimate rehabilitation treatment services to temporarily cleanse their over partied systems, and then jump right back on the party wagon.  So be it, that is their personal, individual choice.

“Experts” noting this pronounce the following.

Soggy stars make mockery of rehab, experts say, which is just the headline of the story that link brings you to, which is then followed by this opening paragraph.

Celebrities like actress Lindsay Lohan and pop star Britney Spears are making a mockery of rehabilitation programs by appearing not to take treatment seriously, U.S. addiction experts warned.

Well, the “experts” would be wrong about this.  The individuals noted in this story are not making a mockery of rehabilitation programs, but of themselves.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/26 at 09:17 AM
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The “Moron Vote”

R. Emmet Tyrell, Jr., founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, has some comments on what he calls the “YouTubist “debate”” in a piece titled Tubist Americanos which is worth blasting through.  A short excerpt.

The night of the Democratic “debate” one YouTubist appeared onscreen asking the following question (she was fully dressed): “If I can go out into any state and get the same triple grande, nonfat, no-foam vanilla latte from Starbucks, why can’t I go to any state and vote the same way?” Now this YouTubist obviously is a sophisticate when it comes to ordering coffee. Yet, I submit that when she votes, or for that matter when she pronounces on politics, she is a moron.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/26 at 08:55 AM
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I Will If You Will

Colby Cosh notes what is probably the most definitive moment in the recent YouTube debate in a post titled 30 essential seconds from the YouTube Democrat debate.

Go and watch the video, which is embedded at Colby’s site, and have a morning laugh.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/26 at 08:34 AM
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Large Scale Apathy, One Lone Voice

Yesterday, I mentioned that State of Michigan is considering anti-smoking legislation which, according to the crafters of this freedom crushing legislation, would be the most stringent in the United States.

In that post, I neglected to mention that Ottawa County, Michigan is also debating this issue, which would become a moot point if the state enacts their draconian ban.

My brother, The Wizard, who has been following the developments in Ottawa County’s anti-smoking crusade, hit me with a link embedded email regarding my post, above, inquiring if I had seen the latest regarding Ottawa County, which I had not, so I hit the link and read the story.

The most interesting point I found in the story surrounding Ottawa County’s most recent “debate” over whether to ban smoking in private establishments and county parks and such was this.

All but one person who spoke at the hearing favored the proposal,...

Only one solitary individual spoke out against the ban.  One.  That is pathetic.

And was this dissenting individual one of the potential business owners who could possibly be negatively effected economically?  No, it was my brother, The Wizard, and this was reported on this way..

However, some believe the proposal is an attempt by government to dictate to the private sector what to do.

Zeeland resident Peter Venlet believes companies should make their own decisions whether to allow employees to smoke. He applauds companies such as Herman Miller that have chosen to do just that.

“They created their policies of their own volition and their own incentive, and that is exactly how it should be in a private-sector business,” Venlet said.

A spot on analysis.

Wizard has some of his own thoughts posted regarding the anti-smoking crusaders which is worth a read, which also notes that one of the main arguments utilized by the anti-smokers, second hand smoke, may not be the argument it’s purportedly cracked up to be.  The post is titled Another Subtle Erosion of Freedom.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/26 at 07:55 AM
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Obesity Is Contaigous, Government Considers Nationwide Quarantine and Strict Diet Rules

People who notice their friend packing on pounds might want to steer clear if they value their sleek physiques.

A new study finds that when the scale reads “obese” for one individual, the odds that their friends will become obese increase by more than 50 percent.

The study, published in the July 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that obesity is “socially contagious,” as it can spread among individuals in close social circles. The likely explanation: A person’s idea of what is an appropriate body size is affected by the size of his or her friends.

Study: Obesity is Socially Contagious

Think it couldn’t happen, then think again.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/25 at 05:24 PM
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Driving Michigan’s Economy Further Into the Ground, Smokefree

The State of Michigan’s House Commerce Committee is attempting to establish one of the strongest anti-smoking bans in the United States, further intruding on business, personal and economic freedom.

Here’s what Andrew Meisner (D-Ferndale), the chair of the committee had to say about this.

Committee Chairman Andrew Meisner, D-Ferndale, called it one of the strongest bans in the country, but noted, “The Idea is not to punish ... we anticipate this being an economic boon,” as increasing numbers of consumers come to prefer smoke-free establishments.

I have to chuckle whenever I hear or read a politico’s assertion that “the idea is not to punish,” when pushing for some new restriction on freedom, but what I really want to highlight in this post is Meisner’s assertion that “we anticipate this being an economic boon,” which is highly unlikely.

I refer Mr. Meisner, and his fellow committee members, to this post, titled Smoking Ban Effects, which looks at the effects which the smoking ban has had on the State of Hawaii’s economy.

Bar and restaurant owners interviewed by Hawaii Reporter say their business is down between 10 percent and 25 percent since the 2006 smoking ban…

Gov. Linda Lingle, who signed the smoking ban legislation into law, acknowledged after returning from a trip to Japan this past June that Japanese tourism has been impacted.

There is a 10.3 percent decrease in Japanese visitors here in May 2007 over May 2006, according to a state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism report – part of a continuing trend downward. Convention and corporate meeting business from Japan declined between 28 percent and 57 percent in the first give months of 2007 when compared with the same 5 months in 2006; and Japanese tour groups saw a 17 percent drop during this same period.

Not exactly what any thinking individual would call an “economic boon.”

Panel lights fire under smoking ban

Posted by John Venlet on 07/25 at 10:21 AM
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Let the Market Act

The woes of the subprime lending market, even the mortgage market as as whole, are much in the news still.  The Washington Post headlines a story today, regarding yesterday’s stock market drop, Stocks Fall With Lender’s Earnings, noting that the catalyst for yesterday’s drop appears mostly attributable to Countrywide Financial’s poor financial performance, which Angelo Mozilo attributed more to prime borrowers’ home equity loans, than poor subprime loan performance.  A story also reported on by the New York Times under the headline Lender Sees Mortgage Woes for ‘Good’ Risks.

The NYT also has a guest op-ed on the subject, written by Joshua Rosner, titled Stopping the Subprime Crisis.  Rosner is a managing director at the firm Graham Fisher & Company, a company which provides “independent research for institutional investors in financial service assets.”

Rosner’s op-ed for stopping the subprime “crisis” focuses on the role of credit rating agencies; Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Services, and Fitch Ratings; and he writes the following.

FOR five months, it has been clear that rising delinquencies and foreclosures, coupled with higher interest rates on adjustable mortgages and declining home price appreciation, would undermine the market for mortgage securities. Yet it took Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, the three leading agencies that rate long-term debt, until this month to react to this looming financial crisis, which involves more than $1.2 trillion of subprime mortgages originated in 2005 and 2006 alone. As one investor asked during a recent S.&P. conference call, “What is it that you know today that the markets didn’t know three months ago?”

The answer to the quoted investor’s question may simply be that the over exuberance for the type of returns generated by subprime lending, coupled with the volume of loans which had until quite recently been running full speed ahead, and which are now under extreme pressure though not quite at full stop, have given cause for a more sound financial analysis of this debt.

Further into Rosner’s op-ed he chides the rating agencies for doing “too little, too late,” and states,

S.&P. has stated that it now has reason to “call into question the accuracy of some of the initial data provided to us.” This suggests that S.&P. may have chosen either to merely accept the data offered it by issuers without doing its own due diligence. Or worse, S.&P. could have ignored other information because it might have hurt revenues by reducing the number of assets it could have rated.

A statement which does not out right accuse Standard and Poor’s of fraud, but seriously questions their ethics and business acumen in their chosen field of operation.

Rosner then offers up suggestions for the rating agencies.

...require the credit rating agencies to regularly review and re-rate debt securities…Training and qualification standards for ratings analysts…to help create consistent, objective, transparent and replicable methods. Moreover, rating agencies should put in place automated and objective systems, based on the changing value of underlying assets, to continuously re-rate debt structures.

The above are sound suggestions, and the credit agencies, and the users of the credit rating agencies’ ratings, should take heed.  Unfortunately, rather than allowing the market to correct the deficiencies noted, Rosner suggests the following.

Each of these actions would serve the interest of investors large and small, public and private. Unless the government acts, the credit ratings agencies will stand on the sidelines of the coming crisis, doing nothing until it’s already happened.

I refer Rosner to Dr. John R. Lott’s Jr. book Freedomnomics.  Specifically Chapter 3, Government as Nirvana?, from which I quote the opening paragraph, on page 83.

People frequently call for government intervention in the economy whenever the market is believed to be acting imperfectly.  Implicitly, the comparison is between the flawed way the market actually works on the one hand, and a nirvana-like state of government-run perfection on the other.  Do distortions ever develop in a free market?  Of course they do.  Few people would argue the market is flawless.  But it’s a long leap from showing that such imperfections exist to proving that they would be solved or even mitigated by government intervention.  In fact, government intrusion in the economy tends to result in more inefficiency, unfairness, and even predation than we would find in a completely free market.

I recommend Mr. Rosner read Dr. Lott’s entire book, as a research project.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/25 at 08:51 AM
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Legal Duty or Simply a Moral Imperative?

I am not legally required to assist an innocent individual in dire life straits, nor to dial 911.  Speaking for myself, if I did not assist such an individual, by at least dialing 911, my conscience would not rest easy.

Should a law be established, with penalties in the form of fines and incarceration, which dictates that individuals are legally bound to dial 911 if they stumble upon a situation wherein an innocent individual’s life is in danger of being snuffed out, or is simply in some type of emergency situation?

I think not, though there are six states that have such laws on the books.

A Michigan representative, Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Township), is going to attempt to push legislation through in Michigan which would make it a crime to not dial 911 if an individual happens upon another individual requiring emergency assistance.

This is an improper use of state powers, and just another attempt to legislate morality.  The events which have been the catalyst for Smith’s decision to push for such legislation do indeed produce feelings of sadness, but laws should not be established based on feelings, but reason.

A legal duty to call 911 Man’s death leads to push for legislative bill

Posted by John Venlet on 07/24 at 07:12 PM
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Drop the Charges, Bradley Berry

I noted the story regarding a couple of seventh grade Oregonian horse playing boys with the spector of jail and sex offender registration hanging over their heads yesterday in this post, and many other individuals did also.

Today I read the DA responsible for this ridiculousness, Bradley Berry, is backing off a bit.  Not because he’s come to his senses, but because the story has made it across national and international wires and he has been revealed for being the fool he is in the spotlight of the media.

Two McMinnville middle-schoolers facing sex abuse charges for spanking girls in the hallway probably will not do jail time or be required to register as sex offenders, the Yamhill County district attorney said Monday as the case against the boys grew into a media sensation.

Let’s look at what tune Berry is singing now.

Until now, Berry has declined to discuss specifics of the case or explain why it merits criminal charges. After spending most of Monday fielding complaints, however, he elaborated for the first time.

“From our perspective and the perspective of the victims, this was not just horseplay,” Berry told The Oregonian. “People may disagree, and I understand that.”

Based on his experience in similar cases, Berry said it’s unlikely the boys, if convicted, would be sentenced for the maximum jail time for each of the counts. “That type of sentence has never been imposed in my county or in any county that I know of for these types of offenses,” he said…

Berry said a judge could lift the (sex offender - ed.) registration requirement after it was imposed. “These youths can petition the court relatively quickly for relief from that,” he said.

All Berry is stating in the above is that he is not going to go whole hog in prosecuting these two seventh grade boys, rather than admitting that this whole incident should have never come to law enforcement’s attention.

This butt slapping incident should been handled between teachers, parents and the students involved.  Unfortunately, the lack of common sense inherent in individuals today, seems to preclude this from happening.

DA, spanking case stir outrage

Via The Obscure Store.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/24 at 04:48 PM
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Rest in Peace

Christiana Hendrix, 1974-2007

What Can Be Said About Loss

What can be said about loss
In love -
Those gaping wounds bleeding from aching spirits.
Rich libraries of memories calling from those
Cob- webbed shelves of the mind, of empty
Arms, and absent laughter, loving ways,
Sparkling eyes no longer there. Of
Breakfast tables, lonely beds
And favorite things
Gathering
Dust.

What can be said about love
When loss
Rips the tapestry of a spirit apart, leaving threadbare
A soul unraveling. When child, friend, parent, or
Lover carries away with them irretrievably,
A central, vital piece of living. When
Nothing is ever the same again.
When healing takes so very
Long, leaving such
Hideous
Scars.

Poem by Rosemary J. Gwaltney

Informed of this tragic occurence here.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/24 at 01:10 PM
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Stop Universal Health Care Now! - Learn from Wisconsin

This exercise is especially instructive, because it reveals where the “single-payer,” universal coverage folks end up. Democrats who run the Wisconsin Senate have dropped the Washington pretense of incremental health-care reform and moved directly to passing a plan to insure every resident under the age of 65 in the state. And, wow, is “free” health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.

Employees and businesses would pay for the plan by sharing the cost of a new 14.5% employment tax on wages. Wisconsin businesses would have to compete with out-of-state businesses and foreign rivals while shouldering a 29.8% combined federal-state payroll tax, nearly double the 15.3% payroll tax paid by non-Wisconsin firms for Social Security and Medicare combined.

From a Wall Street Journal piece titled Cheese Headcases - Wisconsin reveals the cost of “universal” health care.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/24 at 08:14 AM
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