Thursday, February 28, 2013

Local Media Alert!!!

HEY, EVERYBODY!!! They're gonna film a commercial on my street corner. As I write this they're setting up on the corner of Trinity and E streets in Eureka.

I was wondering who these guys were. I was loading up my truck for work and a bunch of cars started parking nearby. A bunch of guys and a gal got out as if they were there to do something. Thought it might be city workers but no city logo on the cars.

I ended up asking one of them what they were doing. Real pleasant guy said they were doing a commercial for Caltrans about street crossing safety. He said this was the last cut after six days up here and, being from Sacramento, they were really enjoying it.

I told him to be sure and get my house in the picture, but I don't think they will. Didn't take any pictures cause I don't have much time and it's a hassle getting them onto this computer.

Update: Maybe they will have some of my house in the commercial. One of the guys just asked me if I could move my truck. I told him I'd be leaving in about 20 minutes to go to work and he said that would be fine.

Punctuation: The Oxford Comma

I'm horrible with punctuation so it should be no surprise I didn't know what an Oxford comma was. I had wondered, though, when I'd read news and other writings where a comma was placed where I didn't think one was needed such as "My heart beats true for the red, white, and blue". They were often written by educated and experienced writers.

I was under the impression that last comma shouldn't be used when "and" is present, but that's an Oxford comma. It's use is debatable. Bumped into this online explanation of Oxford commas yesterday. Up until now I just thought its use was wrong, but did wonder about it sometimes as it seemed to match the way we talk.

I see one of the reasons they list for using it is just that: "Matches the natural speech pattern of pausing before the last item in a series.". I'll try and use it that way when applicable from now on. I don't think the example of theirs that I used in the first paragraph needs the last comma. Doesn't match natural speech.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Real Nice Painting


I thought this water color painting was worth spreading around. It's not the first one I've seen from one of the gals that lives behind us. You can see the original here. Remarkable how well she replicated it.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Does California Need An Oil Severance Tax?

I used to think it didn't sound like that bad an idea. After all, every other state has one, don't they? Well, no, not all do. Some, as it is with California, have other forms of taxes that pretty much replace oil severance taxes.

This California Political Review article gives some details on California oil and gas taxation in comparison with other states. I realize many readers probably support increased taxes on oil and gas companies, regardless of how much they already pay. This being California, many don't want more oil or gas extraction in the state, either.

Just thought I'd throw this out there.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adam Vs. The TSA

Pretty fun video of a guy questioning Transportation Security Administration workers at an airport. The question? How many terrorists the TSA has apprehended.

They won't say and some refuse to speak with him. There's also the typical "turn off the camera" routine. The arrogance of some of the TSA workers is appalling. Video runs a bit over 8 minutes.

I'll admit at least some of the videos I've seen lately questioning authority figures come off as trying to provoke incidents. This guy seems pretty mellow about it for the most part. I'm sure the TSA found him annoying, if not worse.

I don't recall hearing about this Adam fellow before. Seems he has been around. Here's the Adam vs. The Man web page. Not sure what to make of it. Seems a bit cluttered to me.

Last Year's Prop 30: Where's the money going?

An informative commentary in the Press- Democrat that explains where the money from last year's tax increases will be going. A hint: mostly for pension benefits, health care and debt obligations.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Phony Sequester Hysteria

I thought we might have gone beyond the phony budget cut claims that are so much the norm in this country. Maybe just because during the last few years in California they actually did reduce spending in some areas.

That doesn't seem to be the case with the hysteria over the federal budget and the supposed "sequester". As Bob Woodward explains, they're not going to cut anything. They're just won't be increasing spending as much as some would like:

"In other words this isn’t even really a cut – “devastating” or otherwise – it’s a modest growth rate reduction following years of unnecessary, embarrassing and unsustainable excesses.".

Yet all of the mainstream media I've read or watched keeps saying there will actually be cuts.
~~~~~~~~~~
On a related note, Reason's Nick Gillespie looks at what causes government spending to go up. His main conclusion: United government and war. This is why I insist gridlock is good!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sullum Looks At Drug Dogs And The SCOTUS

I was glad I checked this link which should be of interest to those following the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the validity of drug dogs in establishing probable cause. Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum takes a close look at drug dogs and their effectiveness, and how the courts- the Supreme Court, specifically- view those cases.

Interesting read but I'm not sure I catch the full reasoning of why the court would be more skeptical of a drug dog's use in a search of a house as opposed to one of a car. Reliability of drug dogs doesn't seem to be considered in either case. I'm reading it as the court being more concerned about the location of where the drug dog alerted.


How To Tear A Phone Book In Half

I'll have to give this a try: the old strong man trick of tearing a phone book in half. I don't want to tear our current phone book up, but if any of you want to try it let us know how well it works. A commentator to the article says it worked for him.

Hat tip to lewrockwell.com for the link.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Freddy's Letter

Anybody guess which paper and subject my most recent letter to the editor was about? Published today in the Times- Standard:

I appreciate Brad Meiners' suggestion of replacing invocation at city council meetings with a moment of silence (”Alternatives exist to civic invocations,” Times-Standard, Feb. 17, Page A4). Invocations are annoying and unnecessary, but why bother replacing them with anything? 


Government meetings should consist of government business and that's it. There's no need for a moment of silence or anything else. Take care of government business, then people can go home and pray or be silent to their heart's content. 

Addendum:I should make it clear that invocation at city council meetings and the Mayor's prayer breakfasts are two different issues. I believe the Mayor should be able to hold prayer breakfasts whenever he chooses, so long as it's not on government time or the taxpayer's dime.

Supremes Back Drug Dog Search

I mentioned last year, the Supreme Court was going to hear two cases regarding the validity of drug dog searches. They decided one of them yesterday ruling that, despite a dog alerting falsely on the same vehicle twice, the dog's alerts were still grounds for probable cause for a search.

The way I read it, the justices are saying it doesn't matter what the false alert rate of drug dogs are. That they were certified through an official drug dog training course, alone, validates their alerts as sufficient.

This is almost the exact opposite of the sort of ruling I thought would be proper. What this means is that anybody, drug user or not, can be searched on a whim if a drug dog decides for one reason to another to alert on your car or home.

The death of a thousand cuts continues, and I'm sure we'll see this case used as precedent by courts in the future to further eviscerate protections against illegal search and seizures.
~~~~~~~
I've written about drug dogs before. Radley Balko had a great post on his blog last year that should have been titled All You Ever Needed To Know About Drug Dogs.

Update: Radley Balko opines this recent decision.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Freddy Does Another LTE

Just sent in another actual letter to the editor to a newspaper. Less than 100 words so they should print it. More hard- hitting commentary from The Freddy. I won't say what paper or subject it was yet. Feel free to take a guess.

If it doesn't get published by the end of the week I'll post it here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Doomsday?

Isn't that something that while we're anticipating the closest ever object flying by the Earth, a meteorite blows up over Russia injuring a bunch of people? Heads up. There might be more coming alongside the one we're watching.

I have two questions about these large object flybys:

1. If a huge asteroid was actually going to impact Earth, would the government tell us?

2. Would we really want to know?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Molest Mistrial Defendant's Mother Seeks Comments

The mother of the defendant in the child molest case reported in the Times- Standard today replied to the comment I made on their web site. She'd like to hear more opinions on the three options available after the mistrial was declared: retrial, further plea bargaining or dismissal.

I've already commented that since the jury was deadlocked at 11 to 1 for acquittal, they should just drop it and dismiss the case. I could see retrying it if it was the other way around, 11 to 1 for conviction, but seems to me they've got a long way to go to get there.

Besides, I always wonder about these retrials. How far do you go with them? Keep retrying until you get a conviction? That doesn't seem right.

I believe you need a Facebook account to comment on the Times- Standard web site. Feel free to comment here if you don't have one or can't get into their site. They only give something like six free views before you have to pay.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dish Network Sucks

I wrote not long ago about Dish Network raising their rates again. I just went to their web site to switch to their Dish America which costs $39.99 a month as opposed to our current plan which is $49.99.

Unless something's missing it looks like they got rid of Dish America. It was there last time we looked. Now your only choice is some $29.99 plan with hardly any channels we watch, or go up to the next highest one.

I'd almost bet they got concerned when people started looking at the lower priced plan, didn't want anybody to switch, so eliminated it. Another conspiracy theory, maybe, but they still suck.

Fugitve Ex- Cop Hush- Hush?

I haven't followed the story about that rampaging ex L.A. cop too closely, but close enough to wonder if the media or law enforcement are deliberately hushing some things up?

Most of all, his military service record: Why not more detail? At first I thought he was in the Army, but he wasn't. He was in the Navy, and not for very long. Finally I got a little more info in this story from the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat:

 "Dorner served in the Navy, earning a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He was assigned to a naval undersea warfare unit and various aviation training units, according to military records."

A rifle Marksman rating is the lowest there is, assuming the Navy's are the same as the Army's. No biggie there. The pistol Expert rating is the highest, again assuming they're the Army equivalent.

I suppose the pistol rating could be cause for concern. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't find a Navy background as intimidating as the media and police are making his out to be. At least from the sketchy details.

Being assigned to a "naval undersea warfare unit" might be the key, keeping in mind Navy SEALs evolved from the Underwater Demolition Teams of WW2 fame.

I'm wondering if he might have been a SEAL or related outfit? That would be cause for concern over his tactical credentials. Maybe they don't want to mention that because it might bring bad light on the SEALs? Either that or they're trying to make him sound as much of a big bad ass as possible to easier justify killing him?

I don't know, but it just seems to me the media usually go all out into reporting the the background of someone like this. You know, interviews with people who served with him, what his specific job was and such. There seems to be a scarcity of details in this case.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Reasons For Two Party Dominance In America

Revised 3/12/2014

Some time ago I wrote a preview of my treatise on reasons for two party dominance of American politics. What got me thinking about it was the last presidential election.
We had two fairly lame major party candidates- Romney and Obama- facing what should have been a fairly strong contender: Former two- term Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson.

Romney and Obama agreed on fair number of issues, particularly an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. Not only did Johnson oppose aggressive foreign policy, unlike the other two, he was both fiscally conservative and socially tolerant- as are most people in the country.

With a strong record as Governor, he should have been right in there with the main contenders. I didn't expect him to win, but thought he should rightfully place pretty well- at least 5%- although I didn't really expect that, either. I still expected stronger support than he got.

I was particularly surprised to see some people that should be supporting him come out strongly against him. I'd see them in the various news, blog and media forums coming up with any excuse, not only not to support him, but to vote for Romney or Obama instead.

I couldn't understand that. I could see it if it was some of the other past Libertarian Party candidates like Mike Badnarik or even the late Harry Browne, neither of who hadn't even so much served on a city council, but this was a prior two- term Governor labeled by one journalist back in the day as “...the most popular governor in America”.

Why so many people are devoted to Republicans and Democrats. What gives? I decided to write an analysis, thinking it would be something so eye opening and hard hitting that magazines such as Reason and Liberty would be begging to publish it.

Nope. I didn't even come close.

What I ended up with was pretty simple and, if there was a problem with anyone in regards that devotion to Reps and Dems, I suppose it is with me: I'm not one who sees things as black and white and I rarely, if ever, (to a fault, sometimes) follow the crowd. That's why I had such a hard time understanding the lack of support for Gary Johnson.

Basically, it comes down to one thing, although other factors contribute. The main reason is...simplicity.

Simplicity- People want things simple: Good vs. bad, us vs. them, red vs. blue. Most folks, most of the time, don't pay much attention to politics, if at all. Even those that do tend to look at it pretty simply.

That was one of the most frequent comments I read when plugging Johnson in various forums: “Johnson's fine, but I don't want (Obama or Romney) to win”. Or, “Voting for Johnson is just a vote for Obama”, or Romney, depending on who is responding. It's one or the other. That's it.

Heard a gal on the radio last year. She expressed disappointment in both Romney and Obama saying, "This is the first time I'm not voting". Unlike most that chose one or the other, she just wasn't going to vote, despite having a viable third alternative. Same old story: You have two choices, either Rep or Dem.

Simplicity is the main reason. but other aspects could include;

Being part of a crowd- The natural gravitation most people have to be around people and be in a group. Being part of a crowd makes them feel better about themselves and more confident that they’re doing the right thing. 

Third parties certainly have their own crowds, but the average person will take the Rep/Dem crowd of millions over a third party crowd of thousands any day. It supports their feeling of being right. If so many others are in my crowd, I must be doing something right.

Fraternalism- Being part of the crowd comes first, then fraternalism can take over. That’s why you’ll see fraternal Republicans and Democrats stay with their party through thick and thin, sometimes regardless of issues. To some, issues are a very minor consideration, if they’re considered at all. It’s their family and they’re sticking with it.

The Ron Paul Republicans are a good example. Basically crapped on by the main Republican establishment, and despite having serious differences on some issues (foreign policy, for example), many not only stayed with the Republican Party, but even voted for Mitt Romney. They’re Republicans, first and foremost. Issues are secondary, if even that.

I'm sure most of us know people that vote Republican or Democrat every time without even knowing what the issues are.

Pragmatism- Certainly a big player in keeping politics limited to two parties and I'll grudgingly admit understanding the argument. Another common thing you hear when promoting third party candidates:

You’re just wasting your vote”. “There’s no way he can win. “.

Sure, some might say they'd consider a vote for a third party candidate... some other time, but not now. It's always "Maybe someday, but this time it's too important", which some might have been saying for decades.

That's it. Nothing really groundbreaking and I see no sign that anything will change despite all those polls saying how many voters would like to see a credible third party or candidate emerge. It looks like it's Reps vs. Dems for the foreseeable future.

I'm sure some of you want to ask, “So, Fred, gonna stop wasting your vote now and vote for someone who has a chance to actually win?”. Nope. I'll continue voting third party, or not at all. If a decent major candidate emerges in my lifetime I may reconsider. There's been at least one time I had my doubts about voting LP, but I wasn't sorry for voting LP after events unfolded.

You folks can go ahead and vote for someone who has a chance. Even if you win, you likely won't be taking home any prize.


Humboldt Eagle Cam Up & Running

For those that haven't heard, some folks put a web cam on an eagle's nest so we can watch them raise their young. I forget the exact location but it's somewhere near the bay. No eagles in the nest when I looked but one gal in the comments said she saw one. Pretty neat, but what's with the advertisement you have to watch first?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Freddy, Are You Kidding???

No my friends, I am not kidding! This is the most recent song I can't get out of my head lately. Might be a little old for some of you younger folks. Here's the lyrics if you'd like to sing along.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Saturday Mail Nixed

Sure, it's fun to check the mail on Saturdays, just as with any other day, but is cutting Saturday mail service really a big deal? According to former Arcata City Councilcritter, Connie Stewart it is:

"But for rural Americans, there's so many places even in our region of the world, that don't have broadband. Mail is their option, especially for more remote areas of this county, Trinity County and Del Norte County. There are many rural communities that are completely dependent on the postal service, and it is a vibrant part of their lives. They don't have the chance to email the bill.”
”It's going to hurt rural communities, it's going to hurt senior citizens and it's going to hurt veterans..."

She even goes on to suggest it will affect jobs locally. Could someone explain that one for me?

One less day of mail service is some sort of catastrophe? Puhleeze! Yes, people in rural areas may depend on mail a bit more than the rest of us, but living in the country you should be used to certain inconveniences.

It should be no big deal getting a certain piece of mail on Monday as opposed to Saturday. It could just as easily end up being delivered on Monday for other reasons.

My only concern is it will be one day less of the one to three Suddenlink mailers I seem to get every day. Now THAT'S a problem I'm not sure how I'll deal with.
~~~~~~~
The reason for the cutbacks is because the Post Office has been in the red for years now. Post Office folk say that's only because they have to save much more towards their retirement funds than other agencies do. They say they could be in the black if they didn't have to set aside so much for pensions. I have to wonder about that? Maybe that's a good thing?

We know that public pensions are breaking local and state governments. Many, if not most, of those pension funds are either underfunded or taking an ever increasing bite out of local and state budgets to pay pension obligations. I'd be interested in seeing a comparison between the Post Office's supposedly over funded pension program, and those of local and state governments.

Should local pension funds be doing things like the Post Office does, or is the Post Office setting aside too much? Maybe the Post Office shouldn't need to set aside so much.

It could be an apples vs. oranges thing as if we fully funded state and local pensions it would take even more out of local and state budgets. I don't know but I've never seen this issue brought up.

New Debunking Blog

Just stumbled onto this new blog dedicated to debunking some of the things we read in the news each day about food and health. His most recent post looks into the claim from Canada that raising prices on alcohol 10% decreases alcohol related deaths by 30%. Not true, says he. He makes a good case.

About the only thing I find confusing in his writing is that he's not from the U.S. so some references he makes are hard to put in context. I've added him to my blog list.
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FWIW, I found the above link in a comment while reading David Friedman's Ideas blog. His most recent post being one in which he looks at the claim that second hand smoke is responsible for more than 50,000 deaths a year in this country.

I think he may be related to the late Milton Friedman and might have read something to that effect. I can see a resemblance.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Green Tree Servicing- Warning!

My last post complained about Green Tree Servicing. Since they charge $12.00 for one- time online mortgage payments, I thought I'd see if I could make a payment without charge through their 1-800 number. Nope. They charge $12.00 there, too. Not only that, but their automated menu gave no option to speak to a representative.

So I go back to their web site. In a final attempt to make a payment I tried to enroll in their "Auto pay" deal where your payment is automatically taken from your bank account. Luckily, I'm thinking, that wouldn't work.

I'm pissed so do a search to see if anybody else has had the same problems. I found this page right away. It seems he was making his payments within the window allowed and they called him and harassed him, anyway. Not only him, but reading the comments at the bottom, a number of folks are having the exact same problem I am. A few also got switched from GMAC. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Stay away from Green Tree Services, if at all possible. All the folks I've been reading about had no choice as their mortgages were also sold to Green Tree. If this gets too out of hand I may have to refinance my house through another lending institution.

I suppose it's still early but, from the looks of this, It would be best if the feds would just shut down Green Tree and make them sell their mortgages to more legitimate businesses.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Business Takeovers Piss Me Off

Can anyone think of an example where a business taking over another business ended up being positive? I'm sure there must be one, but none come to mind off the top of my head. Seems every time a business buys another one, through sale or because of bankruptcy, the customer suffers.

Rite- Aid buying out Payless Drugs was a downer. I suppose we should be glad Rite- Aid took over the old Food Mart building in Henderson Center, Eureka, but it's not anywhere near as good of a store as Payless used to be.

The latest for me is having Green Tree Services take over my mortgage account due to GMAC going through bankruptcy proceedings. Not that I haven't had problems in the past with GMAC, but at least I could make my mortgage payment online without additional charges. Checking the Green Tree web site, they charge $12.00 to make a payment online.

Unless, of course, you sign up for that damned Auto- Pay where they automatically take the money from your bank account on a certain day every month. We don't like to do that because we can't say for sure we'll have enough money to pay that bill on a given day. Thus, I like to go online to pay it when convenient.

If Green Tree doesn't send something so I can pay it by mail pretty soon I'll have to call them. Maybe I can charge it over the phone. Still, the old system with GMAC worked fine. It looks like it's gonna suck with Green Tree.

There ought to be a law!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Nick Gillespie and the Boy Scouts

Reason magazine's Nick Gillespie has a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal looking at his time with the Boy Scouts and what it taught him. He kept his two boys out of the scouts because of the gay thing but hopes they'll be able to enroll their kids when the time comes.

New Golden Gate Toll Plan

For those that aren't already aware, the Golden Gate Bridge will be going all electronic with its toll collections. All the toll collectors are being laid off. I believe the conversion will be completed by March. The San Jose Mercury News explains the new system.

There's a few options: You can prepay it online. The bridge cameras scan your license plate and deduct the toll from your prepaid account. Or, if you didn't prepay, it scans your plate and they send you an invoice. If you don't pay the invoice within 21 days you pay a hefty fine. There's also supposed to be some kiosks set up somewhere along its avenues of approach where you can pay.

Rental cars sound like a special problem as some rental agencies seem to be charging outrageous "courtesy" fees for paying the toll for you. Check with the agency before renting.

I'm not sure I feel comfortable with this development. Time will tell how well it works.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Zombie: San Francisco Abortion Protests 2013

Photojournalist Zombie posted another one of her great, provocative photo essays. This one covers the pro- choice and pro- life protests in San Francisco on January 26. The pro- life march trounced pro- choice in numbers.

Zombie even spends a few paragraphs giving her opinion of abortion and it wasn't what many might expect: She's pro- choice...barely.

Don't expect me to argue one way or the other on abortion. I avoid the issue if at all possible.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Balko's Raid of the Day Series

Radley Balko, having recently moved his blog to the Huffington Post, has started a series on botched SWAT team raids. Today's is here. Scroll down his blog and you'll find more. He's trying to do one a day and has said that while he's focusing on botched raids, he'll also present some raids that were done right.

The series is an offshoot of his soon to be available book Rise Of The Warrior Cop in which he looks at the militarization of our police forces.

That Government and Prayer Thing

I was going to stay out of the fray over prayer at city council meetings but, since Marc Matteoli brought it up last night...

Most of us know a lawsuit is being filed against the City of Eureka by an atheist, Carole Beaton, who wants to end the practice of invocation at city council meetings. I'm not sure that this should be fodder for a lawsuit, but I'd like to see invocations ended. Maybe not for the same reasons the atheist gal does, but I do find them annoying.

I am not comfortable with religion. I see no point in religious reference being used for the start of a city council meeting. There's no need for it. It's a waste of time. Those that are into that sort of thing can do it before or after the meeting. It's a distraction, at best, that shouldn't have any place in a government meeting.

It's like smoking. While I am a smoker, I don't have a problem with smoking being prohibited in government buildings. I can always smoke elsewhere, just not in a government building. Perhaps not the best analogy, but no harm done by restricting some personal preferences while tending to government business.

People need to deal with government at some point or another in their lives. When they do, they shouldn't be subjected to annoyances that don't work towards accomplishment of that government business. Do the government business and move on.

As far as the Mayor being able to hold or attend prayer meetings, I don't see a problem with that. I'm not sure I even have a problem with it if he did it in the city council chambers, so long as it wasn't during a city council meeting and attendance was voluntary.
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And while we're at it, let's also do away with that blind nationalist's Pledge of Allegiance. Do they still do that at council meetings?