Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

As 2007 draws to a close, I wish you all a Happy New Year and may 2008 be even better than 2007.

Except for the loss of Tova a couple short days ago, this was not a bad year for the family, but the exception certainly overshadowed much of the good that was to be had this year.

Enjoy the last few short hours of 2007 and good luck to you in 2008.

Opinion on the Obvious: No More Licenses for Illegals in Michigan

Mike Cox, the excellent Attorney General for Michigan, has just issued an Opinion that would seem blatantly obvious and amazing that it wasn't the law before: -- Opinion #7210 Illegal Aliens cannot get Driver's Licenses in Michigan.

Prior to this ruling, Michigan was one of eight states that let illegals get licenses. Given the Motor Voter Act, and how the license is the gateway identification card for just bout everything a driver's license is a short step to let an illegal vote, get on a plane, get inside a federal building, and various other security holes.

About time someone concluded the obvious. Its amazing it took this opinion to stop Michigan from doing what it never should have done in the first place.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Farewell to a Good Friend

Yesterday night, Friday, December 28, our dog Tova suddenly became sick, and we rushed her to the vet clinic. After a variety of tests, it was found that she had cancer and that it had spread all along her right side. There had been no previous symptoms and this was a complete shock to us.

We decided, in one of the hardest decisions we've yet had to make, that she would be put to sleep as no treatment could cure what she had. I held her while it happened, as the vet gently gave her the shots to put her to sleep, and she calmly went to rest. So ended 9 wonderful years of companionship with a very good dog.

We were lucky to have Tova. A friend of ours found her abandoned at a highway rest stop, at about 12 weeks old. She immediately bonded with us from the moment he brought her to us, knowing that we wanted a dog. Once we saw her, of course we couldn't turn her away. We named her Tova, the Hebrew word for good, and she lived up to her name.

We think she was an Alaskan Sled Dog, a mixture of Husky, Lab, Shepherd and Malamute. She certainly had a Labs' sweet disposition, with a Husky's pulling drive, and many ingrained snow dog habits -- she loved to lay out in the snow in the winter, only coming in for a treat and then demanding to be let outside again.

Of course, she wasn't against being spoiled, and as soon as she grew and decided she didn't want to be spending the night in her crate, she claimed the couch as her own, when she wasn't on the bed.

A kinder, sweeter, better-dispositioned dog is impossible to imagine. Always patient with children, Tova would let them pull on her ears, tail, nose and even stick their hands in her mouth without the slightest growl and she never, ever, bit anyone.

She also had a real smile that she would display when she was happy.

Did I mention she was also very smart?

Tova also played well with other dogs and her friends Lagniappe and Remington will miss her tugging sessions where they would play tug of war with their toys:

Tova was also great with our kids, and did not have any issues with the new additions to the family. She was very friendly with them and acted in a very protective manner - sleeping under their crib or outside their door at night.
The kids enjoyed being with her, feeding her, brushing her and walking her. Leah's first word after Mama and Dada was Dog.

Farewell, good, true and faithful companion, thank you for the time we had with you and how you lived up to your name every day. Goodbye Tova.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My new Sig P6

I just picked up this Sig Sauer P6 through my friendly neighborhood FFL after ordering it from Southern Ohio Gun

The Sig Sauer P225 was designated by the West German Police as the P6 in the 1970s, when it, along with the HK P7 and Walther P5 were the approved pistols for purchase by the various West German police agencies.

The pistols are now being replaced and are sold as surplus to shooters at excellent prices.

This is a 9mm, 8 round, 26.1 ounce, semi-automatic pistol with a decocker, so the pistol can be carried with the hammer down and the first shot is double action and all subsequent shots are the Sig-smooth single action.

As I noted in the previous post, I took it out shooting for the first time Sunday, and it was perfect right out of the box. No feed issues and yes I could make 100 yard hits with ease.

Never having had a Sig-Sauer pistol before I now know what the fuss is all about. Simply an ergonomically excellent, solid pistol, and for a 1980 dated gun its in very nice condition but with noticeable finish wear. It seems this one was carried far more than it was shot as it is mechanically excellent and a nice tight firearm with excellent accuracy and the forgivable holster wear gives it character.

I'd certainly recommend this as an excellent choice for a defensive pistol for carry or for home defense. While it is larger than many of the typical 8 shot 9mm pistols available these days, the compact but not tiny size makes it very easy to shoot and the price for these fine surplus firearms, around $300 or so, is simply fantastic.

Excellent Time Shooting with Lagniappe's Keeper

You can read his good summary of events at his blog post Shooting.

As he said, we traveled to the Lapeer Pit and did some shooting.

Many a junked gas can, coffee cans, a 5 gallon bucket and one hard drive gave their lives valiantly as targets.

Before we went, we did a little work on my Glock 23 and Glock 19. After reading Lagniappe's rave review of the Lone Wolf Distributors 3.5 lb trigger connector, I decided to buy them for my Glocks.

With his help, disassembly, cleaning, installation and reassembly of both Glocks took 22 minutes. Very simple yet elegant design, the Glock.

The connectors really cleaned up the trigger pulls making them much smoother, with the result that I was able to hit, repeatedly, the 5 gallon gas cans that were at 100 yards with my Glock 19. This led to quite a bit of comment from some of the other shooters that were present, especially the fellow with the scoped shotgun that couldn't hit any of the gas cans at 100 yards who could not believe it could be done with a handgun.

The Uzi functioned perfectly, and Lagniappe's 1919 was as always a great item to shoot and makes me quietly envious of his belt-fed goodness. Similarly, his AR15 was a joy as ever to shoot - aim and hit,any target at any range, that simple. I really need to get my own AR15 out more.

A most excellent time with a good friend at the range, what could be better? Well not falling on the ice while holding a box of 1919a4 links would have been a bit more of a graceful end to the shooting session, but someone had to provide the comic relief (in addition to the fellows out bump firing their AKs and SKSs and missing everyhting but the berm.....) and it might as well have been me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Granhom promises not to raise taxes again

After the largest tax increase in Michigan's history she promises not to do it again. Not because she wouldn't want to mind you, but because it would be too hard.

Governor Promises Not to Raise Taxes Again
Gov. Jennifer Granholm, stung by outrage from the business community over a now-repealed tax on services and some discontent with a state income tax increase, says she won't resort to tax increases to cover any future shortfalls.
"The most important thing I learned (this year) is I'm not ever going to raise taxes again. It's too hard. It's too impossible," Granholm told The Associated Press.Especially in light of our economy and what we've been through, I just don't think that there's anybody who's interested in proceeding down that path again. And I'm first at the head of that line," she added.

Nice to see she realizes there's not much room left in most Michigan families for yet more tax increases. But she seems to think there's room for higher user fees:
The Granholm administration still is asking for fee increases to help fund the state departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality. Lawmakers have agreed to take up the proposed raises in hunting and fishing license fees and DEQ permitting fees next month.

Government revenue grabs never stop -- now let's balance the budget on the backs of outdoorspeople and people needing government permits.

But the Democratic governor made it clear she'll be looking at other ways to deal with the budget during her remaining three years in office.
"It has to be cuts and reforms. And there's got to be some creative partnering with the private sector on some stuff, too," she said in the interview Tuesday. "You'll hear more about that later."

Well it took her long enough to come around to the reality of the situation, that in a one-state recession raising taxes is just not a cure-all and is contraindicated.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Heroic 7 year old saves mother from killer

Girl, 7, shot 6 times saving mom: Calvin Tillie, 29, a four-time convicted felon and ex-boyfriend of the mother in this situation, after forcing his ex-girlfriend and 7 year old daughter, and a family friend, into a car at gunpoint, then after the mother drives them to a gas station and the family friend tries to call police, the scumbag then shoots the mother.

The 7 year old heroically covers her mother with her own body and the scumbag shoots a 7-year old kid six times.

There are no places hot enough in hell for this scumbag, and this is certainly one of the few people that creates regret that Michigan has abolished the death penalty.

Similarly, words fail to express the great heroism of Alexis Goggins, the heroic first grader. thankfully both mother and daughter have so far survived and Alexis is in stable condition. May God grant her and her mother a complete and full recovery.

For those of you out there who believe the police are always there to protect you, note well, for a firearm and the knowledge to use it would have been a far better choice for the mother in this scenario:
Ford [a 15 year old who was also kidnapped by the felon] said she dialed 911 on her cell phone as she walked into the station.

"The first operator clicked off and I dialed again and told that operator a guy with a gun was holding me hostage with a mother and baby and threatening to kill us. I told her the name of the gas station and then she said they didn't have a unit to send.

Relying on police, and given the failure of the first 911 operator to even deal with the call and the second noting there were no police available to be sent, led to tragedy in this case. It may very well have been that there were no police available, as the police obviously cannot be everywhere and can almost never respond in time to save one from a violent felony that is occurring. While it seems the police arrived apparently in time to finally end the attack, it was not before a lot of damage was done -- these people were on their own and had to rely on a heroic 7 year old to save their lives.

Update: There is now a fund where you can make donations to help the family: Alexis Goggins Hero Fund, c/o Comerica Bank, Campbell Elementary School, 2301 E. Alexandrine, Detroit 48207.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Diving in 39 Degree Water

Dive number 67 took place tonight in Union Lake. About 30 minutes at a max depth of 28 feet.

Water temperature was 39 degrees, which was quite brisk even in a dry suit. Adding to the thrill was the pitch darkness and the remains of snow on the ground from Saturday's snow storm.

Visibility was not very good tonight with only a few fish and crayfish visible.

Not a bad dive, and it was a great reminder that I need to keep working on my trim and kick techniques.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Expand Cobo with your tax dollars

The Free Press, given that it seems there's never a way to increase taxes that it can't get behind, is pushing for the expansion of Cobo Hall, to be paid of course with the taxes of at least the tri-county (Detroit and the 3 main counties) area.

The ostensible reason is that the Detroit Auto Show exhibitors want a larger exhibit hall, and for some reason the taxpayers should shoulder the burden for this yearly event.

In Grow Cobo now!, the Freep editortial calls for an extension of the already existing special liquor and hotel tax that is already being used to finance the previous Cobo Hall renovation.
Unfortunately, that must happen in Lansing, where nothing comes easily these days. Special taxes on Detroit-area hotel rooms and by-the-drink liquor, scheduled to expire in 2015, must be extended as a key component of funding the Cobo project.

Read that again, the tax on the original expansion in 1985 still hasn't fully paid off the prior expansion and will not do so until 2015 and they're talking about extending it for even more future renovations.

One reason it hasn't yet paid off the debt is that
The hotel-liquor taxes were enacted for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties in 1985 to pay off bonds that financed the initial expansion of Cobo, which opened in 1960. The room tax ranges from 1.5%-6% depending on the size and location of the hotel or motel. The drink tax, which most people don't even know they pay at bars and restaurants, is 4%. Any balance from the taxes after the debt service is paid is distributed on a per-capita basis to all Michigan counties, or at least it was until this year, when the Legislature raided the fund for $37 million to help balance the state budget.

Why wasn't the money every year paid out to more than just service the debt but to retire it -- or at least to bank it away for this latest expansion. Simply wasteful spending of tax dollars as usual.

I also really like the condescension of the Freep when it notes the 4% tax on alcohol in local bars isn't a big deal as
Travelers also would pay a part of the drink tax, and local drinkers cross county lines so regularly that the tax cannot be seen as an unfair burden on Wayne, Oakland or Macomb residents.
Saty that again? How many residents of these counties leave them to go to a bar, what proportion of regular bar patrons come from outside these counties? Not too darn many in either case.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Michigan removed from Democratic National Convention

For the sin of having an early primary.

Interestingly enough such a removal, and the failure of 4 of the candidates, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, to participate in the Michigan primary process makes the democratic primary in Michigan relatively meaningless as the result will not be used to select the Democrats' presidential candidate. On the other hand such an exclusion turns it into an exercise in the anointment of Hillary Clinton as the candidate, which may have been the DNC's goal in the first place (while Dems may be going nuts in a leftward direction fast, most Michigan Dems are not far gone enough to seriously and soberly vote for Kucinich - one hopes).

Unfortunately this gives Democrats in Michigan the opportunity to cross over and meddle in the Republican primary - expect to see a sudden surge of support for Ron Paul when the primary takes place.

For all that, The best line of the whole article goes to quote by Debbie Levin, a Michigan member of the DNC and part of the politically powerful Democrat Levin family .
"Democrats are the party of the people, not the party of privilege," Dingell said after the ruling."The other party is the party of privilege, and yet they have treated all the states equally."

It is unreported but it is likely that she was able to keep a straight face while saying it, and while admiring Edwards' unprivileged $400 haircut and Al Gore's unprivileged unpretentious, "energy-saving" house (it only consumes 20 times the amount of energy an average family uses). It's also unreported as to whether the Detroit News reporter Gordon Trowbridge could keep a straight face while taking that line down.

On Closed restaurants, Polish Markets and the Global Economy of Coffee

As mentioned below, we had planned to go to a well recommended Polish restaurant yesterday, but on arrival to it, we found it is closed on Saturday nights. We could insert some Polish jokes here about the business sense of being closed on a major night for people to go to eat but we'll let it go.

Happily, nearly across the street was a Polish market.

I always enjoy shopping at an ethnic market- you never quite know what you'll find and often you'll come across some very tasty products.

Give that Natasha is a Russian ex-pat she had a great deal of experience with Polish products from soviet days and had a blast going through and buying all sorts of tasty treats.

The selection was impressive - a great deli, wonderful prepared foods and more.

We each bought a complete ready to eat dinner there for about $5 each, as well as some very nice deli meats and dairy products.

And there was coffee.

A wonderful thing about this global world we live in is how products can move around and we can be exposed to new and interesting things.

Coffee, being a daily essential here in the house, is always of interest.

The market had a full aisle from floor to ceiling, full of different European coffees. This was good.

Of course, most labels were in Polish or German so this would take some doing.

After careful guesswork, I settled on a label reading "Tchibo Family Intense Coffee" - The name itself sold me.

After all, I have a family, and it gets kinda intense around here, so an intense coffee could be just what the barrista ordered. Interestingly, Tchibo is a German company, with sales to Poland, the Coffee was labeled product of Poland and was made in a roasting factory in Poland, probably with beans from South America, and here it was in Michigan, waiting to be purchased for the bargain price of $4.99 for 250 grams. Is globalization cool or what? (An Interesting article on coffee consumption in Poland and Eastern Europe can be read at

So this morning we opened the coffee and made a pot, and poured a cup for each of us. Poland does not have a worldwide reputation for great coffee so we each took our first sips hoping for the best.

Intense is certainly a word for this coffee - very dark, bitter and robust, a real eye-opener, not for the faint of heart or those who like their coffee weak. This was a definite eye-opener, not a sipping coffee. Good stuff for a morning wake-up.

First Snow of the Season

And it all grinds to a halt.

On our night out, we went across town to a restaurant (more on that later), which didn't quite work out as planned, and instead ended up at a market with a nice meal to take home.

However, once we were done, we looked outside and the car and everything else was covered in snow.

Yes, the first snow of the season and no one remembered how to drive in it.

Multiple accidents were seen, roads were actually closed by police when people couldn't get up hills, and on one lane, relatively clear, roads, we were stuck behind a guy in a car that didn't seem able to go faster than 15 on a straightaway, and he added to the fun by occasionally braking and coming practically to a halt for absolutely no reason as he was on a straight road with absolutely no traffic in front of him for at least a mile, as they had all gone about 35 on the same road that is typically 45.

This is Michigan after all, we do get snow every year, so it shouldn't come as a complete surprise, but every year it takes everyone quite some time to figure out the basics:
- yes, double your stopping distance;
- yes anticipate that the goofball in front or behind you will do something stupid; - - no don't pass on a one lane road in blowing snow and slippery conditions;
- no don't speed but at least drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions.

But alas, it takes time for the lessons to be relearned.

Winter here we come.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Canadian Beer drinkers blamed for Global Warming

Just when you thought our neighbor to the north (actually also to the south for those of us in the Detroit area) was this environmentally pristine wonderland, there's this:

Study: Canadian Beer Drinkers Threaten Planet
A threat to the planet, eh?

Scientists have found a new threat to the planet: Canadian beer drinkers.

The government-commissioned study says the old, inefficient "beer fridges" that one in three Canadian households use to store their Molson and Labatt's contribute significantly to global warming by guzzling gas- and coal-fired electricity.

"People need to understand the impact of their lifestyles," British environmental consultant Joanna Yarrow tells New Scientist magazine. "Clearly the environmental implications of having a frivolous luxury like a beer fridge are not hitting home. This research helps inform people — let's hope it has an effect."

The problem is that the beer fridges are mostly decades-old machines that began their second careers as beverage dispensers when Canadians upgraded to more energy-efficient models to store whatever Canadians eat besides doughnuts and poutine.

University of Alberta researcher Denise Young, who led the study, suggests that provincial authorities hold beer-fridge buy-backs or round-ups to eliminate the threat — methods that Americans use to get guns off the streets.

Actually instead of buy-backs the Canadian model would be to register and then confiscate the fridges. Then after an increased tax provide, the Canadian government would establish universal fridgecare, with a waiting list for a new and efficient and environmentally conscious beer fridge.

Somebody please tell me this is a parody. I can only see Canadians giving up their beer fridges when they're pried from their cold, drunken fingers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Dangers of Ice Fishing

As the season of winter approaches, with its freezing of the lakes and subsequent opening of the season of ice fishing, I thought it best to post this cautionary video.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Michigan's AG Mike Cox on the Second Amendment

Now that the Supreme Court has finally accepted a Second Amendment case for review, the first since the 1930s, we starting to see people's true stances on the Second Amendment.

Thankfully, Michigan's Attorney General, Mike Cox, unlike his most recent past two predecessors, is a friend of both the Constitution and the Individual rights view.

The Wall Street Journal carried his very well-written column on the subject:
Second Amendment Showdown
The Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to affirm the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Friday, November 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that will affect millions of Americans and could also have an impact on the 2008 elections. That case, Parker v. D.C., should settle the decades-old argument whether the right "to keep and bear arms" of the Constitution's Second Amendment is an individual right--that all Americans enjoy--or only a collective right that states may regulate freely. Legal, historical and even empirical reasons all command a decision that recognizes the Second Amendment guarantee as an individual right.

The amendment reads: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." If "the right of the people" to keep and bear arms was merely an incident of, or subordinate to, a governmental (i.e., a collective) purpose--that of ensuring an efficient or "well regulated" militia--it would be logical to conclude, as does the District of Columbia--that government can outlaw the individual ownership of guns. But this collective interpretation is incorrect.

To analyze what "the right of the people" means, look elsewhere within the Bill of Rights for guidance. The First Amendment speaks of "the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . ." No one seriously argues that the right to assemble or associate with your fellow citizens is predicated on the number of citizens or the assent of a government. It is an individual right.

The Fourth Amendment says, "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . ." The "people" here does not refer to a collectivity, either.

The rights guaranteed in the Bill of Right are individual. The Third and Fifth Amendments protect individual property owners; the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments protect potential individual criminal defendants from unreasonable searches, involuntary incrimination, appearing in court without an attorney, excessive bail, and cruel and unusual punishments.

The Ninth Amendment protects individual rights not otherwise enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." Here, "the people" are separate from "the states"; thus, the Second Amendment must be about more than simply a "state" militia when it uses the term "the people." .....

Read the whole outstanding article.

Michigan's citizens should be glad for such an outstanding Attorney General, and thankful that we had the votes to reelect him to this post of importance and influence.

An Excellent Diving Thanksgiving and Abby's Birthday

An exceptionally fine weekend, and it is not over yet.

It happily started with Wednesday night going to the hockey game and watching the Red Wings crush the St. Louis Blues 3-0. Then on Thursday having the day off from work for Thanksgiving gave me much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving, which is perhaps the ultimate American secular holiday with religious overtones, where one can gather with family, relax and reflect and enjoy.

And as a diver's thanksgiving it began, I and the rest of my dive team hit the cool (46 degree F) waters of Union Lake for a 9am dive. The visibility was quite good, and as I had just purchased and installed (with the help of my knowledgeable dive team friends) a set of Diving Concepts dry gloves, the dive was much more comfortable. When the water gets this cold, dry gloves add to your comfort and overall feeling of warmth immeasurably. The viz was good, plenty of fish were about and I actually began to have a back kick, a technique I've been working on for quite awhile, and while I certainly don't have it down yet, its nice to know its finally starting to come together.

After diving I came home while my dear wife got some time off to herself, and then she went shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner.

I prevailed upon her to buy a turkey and she outdid herslf - she bought all the vital parts of a fine traditional family dinner- a 14 pound fresh turkey, squash, potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and more.

She then made perhaps the finest most succulent Turkey yet. Interestingly enough the Turkey seems to have led its previous life as a far-left Democrat as one had to open the legs and reach into the nether cavity to pull its neck out of its ass, an affliction that seems to have taken over the Democratic left as of late, but I digress. Indeed it was a most noble bird, served perfectly and we're still eating excellent leftovers with no end in sight. Thanks for a very fine Thanksgiving 'Tash.

Then, today the 24th was Abby's 4th birthday, a day ful of great excitement, beginning with her waking us at 6am to announce it was her birthday. Much like the army, having little kids means you do more before 9am than most people do all day.

First she received her present - a Fisher Price real digital camera (in pink of course):

She then took 60 pictures in about as many seconds, getting better with the camera all the while. This is a great product for kids - pretty tough, very simple to use, and easy to take pictures including viewing them on an LCD screen on the camera and a USB port for easy transfer to the PC for saving and printing.

We then had a 4th Birthday breakfast, including a cake with layers made by her Baba (Russian for grandmother of course) and a cream filing by Tash.

After that we watched Raffi and then went to the Olive Garden for Abby's favorite lunch - a cheese and black olive pizza.

We then drove to the Livonia YMCA and fulfilled her next birthday wish - she wanted to go swimming and swimming we went, and everyone had a good time.

She was then officially tired out and proclaimed it the best birthday ever. She gets a party tomorrow, so this weekend is not done yet.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Government waste - Clinton Firearms destruction policy still alive and well

Under 41 CFR 101-42.1102-10, Firearms from Federal agencies can only be transferred to State law enforcement which must abide by the same regulation for disposal, or smelted down.

This leads to an incredibly wasteful and spiteful destruction of fine, collectible firearms.

For example, the United States Park Police is transitioning from the HK P7 M8 and M13 in 9mm to the HK USP in 40 S&W. With approximately 600 officers, this is a large purchase, and a large number of P7s, marked with United States Park Police markings that will face destruction. Indeed, even officers are not being allowed to purchase their old service firearms but all will have tio be turned in and destroyed.

Based on good information from an anonymous source with knowledge of the transition, it is known that Glock Inc offered to trade a Glock 22 and a Glock 27 for each P7, at no cost to the agency. HK apparently offered a similar trade-in deal for their USP 40s.

Unfortunately, due to this Clintonian regulation, the P7s are going to be destroyed and the department has to spend some serious money, reequipping its officers with the new firearms rather than obtaining the same firearms without any cost to the Agency or the taxpayer.

Given the value of the P7s on the collector market are probably in the range of $600-700 dollars at least, and we're talking about a minimum of 600 firearms, that's a seriously wasteful and spiteful destruction of firearms, depriving collectors of rare firearms marked from a Federal law enforcement agency.

Multiply this waste by each armed federal agency and this is a serious wasteful legacy from the Clinton war on guns that has yet to be repealed or even addressed.

Abuse of Alcohol- Historic Fine Whiskey to be destroyed

While the raison d'etre of government is waste this needs to be halted: From WSMV Nashville:

Vintage Whiskey May Be Poured Out
Law Requires Officials Destroy Whiskey That Cannot Be Sold Legally
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Here's a sobering thought: Hundreds of bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey, some of it almost 100 years old, may be unceremoniously poured down a drain because authorities suspect it was being sold by someone without a license.

Officials seized 2,400 bottles late last month during warehouse raids in Nashville and Lynchburg, the southern Tennessee town where the whiskey is distilled.

"Punish the person, not the whiskey," said an outraged Kyle MacDonald, 28, a Jack Daniel's drinker from British Columbia who promotes the whiskey on his blog. "Jack never did anything wrong, and the whiskey itself is innocent."

Investigators are also looking into whether some of the bottles had been stolen from the distillery. No one has been arrested.

Authorities are still determining how much of the liquor will be disposed of, and how much can be sold at auction.

Tennessee law requires officials to destroy whiskey that cannot be sold legally in the state, such as bottles designed for sale overseas and those with broken seals.

"We'd pour it out," said Danielle Elks, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

“If it's forfeited to the ABC, we will divide the alcohol into sellable and unsellable alcohol. The alcohol that's available for sale will be auctioned off to the licensees in the state, and the funds will go to the state,” she said.

The estimated value of the liquor is $1 million, possibly driven up by the value of the antique bottles, which range from 3-liter bottles to half-pints.

One seized bottle dates to 1914, with its seal unbroken. Elks said it is worth $10,000 on the collectors market. Investigators are looking into whether the liquor was being sold for the value of the bottles rather than the whiskey.

"Someone was making a great deal of profit," she said.

Tennessee whiskeys age in charred white oak barrels, but the maturing process that gives them character mostly stops when it is bottled. A bottled whiskey can deteriorate over a long period of time, especially if it is opened or exposed to sunlight and heat.

Christopher Carlsson, a spirits connoisseur and collector in Rochester, N.Y., said old vintages of whiskey in their original containers are highly prized.

"A lot of these bottles are priceless," he said. "It's like having a rare painting. It's heavily collected."


For now, the whiskey is being stored in a Nashville vault.

Elks acknowledged that pouring out the whiskey would not be a happy hour for her.

"It'd kill me," she said.

Officials with Jack Daniel’s agree.

“Certainly we would be all in favor of the bottles being auctioned off in some way in which the proceeds could go to charity. We've had some discussions with ABC in Tennessee about that particularly, with the oldest bottle that dates back to 1914,” said Jack Daniel’s spokesman Phil Lynch.

But not everyone’s motives are so noble. Some just wish that enormous stash of Tennessee sipping whiskey could be put to good use.
. . .

Attorneys are currently researching Tennessee law to see if the bottles that aren't sold at auction could somehow be preserved for historical purposes.

Pouring a million dollars, literally down the drain is unconscionable and the law should be changed immediately to prevent such waste. At the very least convert it into E85 rather than pour it down the drain - some lucky car would get some very vintage fuel.

This is Jack Daniels Whiskey - a signature American and indeed Tennessean product, for the State of Tennessee to desecrate such a fine and historic item is simply awful. Indeed, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission even acknowledged it would be a terrible fate for such fine alcohol.

While my personal favorite is Irish Whiskey, specifically Bushmill's or Jameson's, Jack Daniels is an American icon and a fine and noble whiskey that can stand on its own merits and such historic whiskey, especially the 1914 bottle should be preserved. At least give it to the Jack Daniels Distillery with the condition that it must be kept there in a museum to show the history of their fine product, auction it off for charity in the state, or simply, since its already seized, make any buyer pay the appropriate tax on the alcohol and reintroduce it into the stream of alcoholic commerce.

Save Jack!

Monday, November 05, 2007

King Tut's face unwrapped and displayed

After more than 3,000 years, and just missing coming out for Halloween, he's looking rather well preserved, those Egyptian mummification techniques have withstood the test of time rather nicely indeed.

For the first time, the Cairo museum unwrapped King Tutankhamun's mummy and revealed his face to the world:

From the Associated Press:

By ANNA JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer Sun Nov 4, 2:09 PM ET

LUXOR, Egypt - King Tut's buck-toothed face was unveiled Sunday for the first time in public — more than 3,000 years after the youngest and most famous pharaoh to rule ancient Egypt was shrouded in linen and buried in his golden underground tomb.

Archeologists carefully lifted the fragile mummy out of a quartz sarcophagus decorated with stone-carved protective goddesses, momentarily pulling aside a beige covering to reveal a leathery black body.

The linen was then replaced over Tut's narrow body so only his face and tiny feet were exposed, and the 19-year-old king, whose life and death has captivated people for nearly a century, was moved to a simple glass climate-controlled case to keep it from turning to dust.

I remember when King Tut's mummy and a sample of the treasures found in his tomb were on a traveling exhibit and visiting it at the museum as a child - very impressive artifacts and something that certainly piqued my interest in history.

Whether this will spur a new interest in mummies or even a new sequel to The Mummy movies is open to question.

Friday, November 02, 2007

ex-Saudi Ambassador claims Saudis knew of the 9/11 plot beforehand and US could have avoided 9/11 by consulting with Saudi Arabia

From Little Green Footballs, referring to a report from CNN.
Saudi Arabia could have helped the United States prevent al Qaeda's 2001 attacks on New York and Washington if American officials had consulted Saudi authorities in a "credible" way, the kingdom's former ambassador said in a documentary aired Thursday.

Prince Bandar said that Saudi intelligence was "actively following" most of the 9/11 plotters "with precision."

. . .

Speaking to the Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya on Thursday, Bandar -- now Abdullah's national security adviser -- said Saudi intelligence was "actively following" most of the September 11, 2001, plotters "with precision."

"If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened," he said.
So our dear "allies" the Saudis were actively following the plotters with precision.

maybe the translation was wrong and instead of following he meant funding?

Any credible reason for the Saudis not to pass on to US intelligence the identities of these precise plotters and details of the plot?

This doesn't say much for the Saudi side of the vaunted US-Saudi relationship when after knowing the plotters and tracking them with precision the Saudis sit idly by and watch a few thousand infidels get killed.

If his statements are true and why would he lie about this, it is well past time the US reexamines its relationship with the Saudis, and their poisonous wahhabbism.

Interestingly Bandar isn't giving the standard Arab line of the "Jews knew about it beforehand", its instead "We the Saudis knew about it beforehand, and if only you asked it wouldn't have happened". Since this is coming from the royal family and former official mouthpiece of the Saudis it should raise at least some question as to the Saudi government passively permitting or perhaps even actively assisting in the carrying out of the 9/11 attacks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tears of a Clown, and Divers too, over a shortage of Helium

I was away for the past few days in Canada, visiting the folks.

While there I had an opportunity to peruse through and re-acquaint myself MACLEAN'S magazine, a serious news magazine that while sometimes tilts left-materialistic or semi-right-paternalistic-Canadian has the excellent Mary Steyn as columnist and often get things right and is in general very well written.

They also, as it turns out, have a beautiful website that puts many other news magazines and newspaper's websites to shame, including an excellent archive search function.

While reading the dead-tree edition magazine I saw the article in the magazine concerning the recent helium shortage.

Now the magazine began with a rather popular approach to the issue, noting that the scarcity of helium is causing the price of helium and hence helium filled party balloons to go up, but then mentioned some of the other critical applications for helium. In Tears of a clown: helium prices soaring: The helium shortage goes far beyond party supplies
JOHN INTINI | October 22, 2007 |

When you're a kid, nothing gets a party started like helium. In fact, most everyone, at some point or another, has sucked back some of the colourless, odourless and, most importantly, voice-altering gas. It is, after all, one of the few things a kid can inhale without getting into trouble.

But a global helium shortage -- which has doubled prices in the last five years -- is threatening this age-old tradition. It's also proving worrisome to party-supply store owners, and making the life of a working clown a lot more expensive. Suppliers have been forced to raise prices, slash orders (especially to those in the birthday business) and turn away new clients. Some party stores can't get any at all. And those lucky enough to get a line on some helium -- which is extracted from natural gas -- have hiked their prices to cover costs. For instance, The Party Bazaar in Vancouver, which sells about a million helium-filled balloons every year, increased the cost of renting helium tanks by 10 per cent this month (the three-day rental of a large tank, capable of blowing up 500 balloons, is now $159). This shortage could also have a larger effect on the balloon business. Since air-filled balloons currently lack helium's staying power, manufacturers are said to be searching for alternative materials to make balloons.

And the implications could go far beyond birthday bashes and Valentine's Day. In fact, balloons only represent about seven per cent of the entire helium market. The gas is also used in hospitals to cool MRI machines, for laser welding and even by NASA to keep space shuttles from overheating.

As noted in the article, the helium shortage goes far beyond party supplies.

Helium however has a far more noble and glorious purpose than merely making balloons rise and voices squeak, and has another critical purpose overlooked by the article.

Helium is the gas technical divers use to replace nitrogen partially or completely (and sometimes percentages of oxygen) in their breathing gas mixtures when they go into deep water to avoid nitrogen narcosis, and to reduce their decompression obligation and nitrogen buildup, thus making dives both more clear-headed and safer.

The increasing price of helium makes triox, trimix and heliox fills increasingly expensive, and should as the article predicts, the supply of helium be exhausted it will be difficult to find a replacement gas with the same excellent characteristics as helium for diver's use.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Latest Threat to Michigan - Unlicensed Interior Designers

In the midst of Michigan's taxing economic woes, our law makers apparently have plenty of time on their hands.

HB 4772, introduced on May 16, 2007 by Representatives Meisner, Huizenga, Vagnozzi, Coulouris, Johnson, Gonzales, Polidori, Cushingberry, Robert Jones, Valentine, Meadows, Gillard, Leland, Spade, Meekhof, Nitz, Emmons, Stahl, Steil, Pearce, Stakoe and Rick Jones, seeks to protect Michigan from the greatest possible danger.

Unlicensed Interior Designers

Apparently in the midst of all the economic disasters in Michigan -- The highest unemployment, the highest foreclosure rate, the greatest loss of jobs in a non-natural disaster area -- rogue interior designers were overlooked.

After all, you can't have the paint on the wall clashing with the chandelier and the dining room set now can you, it would be so gauche.

This bill, as ably analyzed by Dick Carpenter and John Ross in Keep Michigan interior designers free, an opinion column in the Detroit News, is nothing more than rent seeking on the part of already established Interior Designers seeking to prevent more people from practicing that profession.

Of course, this raises the cost of Interior Designers as it reduces the supply.
House Bill 4772 would force all interior designers to obtain a license from the government before they could practice interior design, or even call themselves "interior designers." The small group of interior designers pushing the bill (for the third time) seeks to create a cartel. That is, they want to establish government-imposed barriers to entry into the industry to limit competition.

The proponents of the bill, led by the Council for Interior Design Registration, argue this licensing scheme will protect public health, safety and welfare. Apparently, the unlicensed practice of interior design is a threat to the public.

The council has yet, however, to produce a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. Indeed, state agencies in Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina and Washington have analyzed the need for interior design licensure and found no potential for harm, according to Designing Cartels, a report on the nationwide push to license interior designers.

If the proposal is enacted into law, applicants for a license will have to pass a 13-hour exam. To even be eligible to sit for the exam, they must complete a degree or certification program in interior design and accrue thousands of hours of experience before they can legally recommend aesthetic and practical furniture arrangements and offer other interior design services.


This unreasonable meddling in the economy will close off employment opportunities for interior designers and limit consumer choice, which is probably why only four other states in the entire country limit the practice of interior design the way HB 4772 would. None of the other 46 states -- where anyone who wants to may practice interior design -- have experienced any problems whatsoever. Why fix what isn't broken?

The constitutional right to earn an honest living in the occupation of one's choice is a sacred American birthright. Michiganians should head off this threat to occupational freedom.

Exactly so, this bill is simply an answer for which there is no real question.

At least the bill currently permits you to do interior design work on your own property -- as long as you do not hold yourself out as an interior designer, otherwise you could be charged with practicing without a license and potentially face jail time.

Yet another point for those proposing a part-time legislature, 'cause this one certainly has much too much time on its hands if it can think about regulating such a discretionary, non-vital and an industry that has no real need for government oversight.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Denied Entry to Canada, Code Pink activists see red

And its not the red Maple Leaf on the Canadian Flag either.

In Activists Test Border Policy, from the Associated Press, It seems that a couple Code Pink protesters are upset that their "anti-war-related arrests" arising from their anti-war protests show upon on the NCIC and the convictions can deny them entry to Canada.

Of course, what both Code Pink and the AP fail to say is that it was not likely merely arrests but for convictions, which while "related" weren't for peaceful protest for which there is no charge but for some actual criminal offense such as harming property, trying to enter a restricted area, obstructing or other such charge which are, gasp, crimes. The AP fails to inform us the nature of the convictions so we can but speculate, but it sure wasn't just for holding a sign saying "This war sucks".

Canada, already having an over-saturation of leftists, wisely doesn't seem to want more and especially not these two.

More to the point, Canada being the peaceable kingdom, a place with more laws than population and all that, doesn't want those convicted of crimes to enter its country, which is a rather wise decision and will hopefully keep its crime rate low.

Egypt to hire Lawyers for one of the Explosive College Students

Remember the two Muslim students from Florida that were caught near a US Naval Facility in South Carolina with a trunk load of explosive components?

Egypt, recipient of $2 billion annually in US aid is going to spend some of it on hiring an attorney to represent one of the accused Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed.

From Fox News:
Attorney John Fitzgibbons told a judge he was in talks with the Egyptian embassy in Washington and likely will be hired to represent suspended University of South Florida student Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed.

Ahmed el-Qawassni, an official in Egypt's foreign ministry, said the government is closely monitoring the case and confirmed that an attorney is being hired for Mohamed, who was born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents.

"We are responsible for the sons of Egypt abroad with no exception," el-Qawassni said.

Mohamed, 24, and another USF student, Youssef Samir Megahed, 21, are charged with carrying explosive materials across state lines.

Mohamed also is charged with distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction. Authorities allege he made an Internet video showing how to use remote-controlled toys to detonate terrorist bombs.

Megahed, represented by a federal public defender, pleaded not guilty Wednesday. Fitzgibbons said during the brief hearing Wednesday that Mohamed will plead not guilty when he is arraigned Oct. 17.

Megahed, a permanent U.S. resident from Egypt, and Mohamed, who is in the U.S. on a student visa, were arrested during an Aug. 5 traffic stop in Goose Creek, S.C., about 15 miles northwest of Charleston. In the trunk of the car, according an FBI agent's statement, police found 20 feet of fuse, a box of .22-caliber bullets, a drill, several gallons of gasoline, PVC piping and gun powder.

The students told authorities they were carrying fireworks, and that they had been driving near a naval weapons station because they had been looking for cheap gas. Megahed's attorney now contends that he didn't know anything about the items in the trunk.

On Mohamed's laptop, according to the FBI agent's statement, was a video Mohamed made demonstrating how to convert a remote-control toy into a detonator for explosives.

Mohamed defense is apparently not off to an auspicious start given a statement he already made after he was arrested:

Mohamed told authorities he made the video "to assist those persons in Arabic countries to defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries," and that he considered American troops to invaders, according to the agent's statement.

His attorney is still rather optimistic:
After the hearing, Fitzgibbons said he had not seen all the evidence and declined to discuss the case.

"There's always two sides to every story, and I already see a different side to the story than what's been presented," he said.

Kind of hard to spin the story after Mohamed's statement, but hey he's doing a good job as a defense attorney should.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Shutdown ends in hours, Tax increase to Stay

Thanks to two Republicans and 55 Democrats the income tax increase was passed.

And as reported in the Detroit News So is the new extension of Michigan's 6% Sales tax to
tanning, carpet cleaning, ski lifts, landscaping and some 20 other services won narrow passage in the state House as Granholm and lawmakers made an 11th-hour push to avoid sending the state to the brink of a spending shutdown.

These tax increases will suck $1.35 Billion dollars out of Michigan resident's pockets and hit businesses that provide those "discretionary" services right when they don't need an additional expense.

Thanks so much.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Michigan budget deal hasn't happened yet.

But Right Michigan seems sadly pessimistic that a deal is going to be reached that will involve raising our taxes.

So far both the Detroit News and Free Press are stating that a deal is not yet been reached so there's still a possibility of a shutdown, and the Detroit News reports that the proposed 6% sales tax extensions to sales tax to services for the "rich" such as dry cleaning, lawn maintenance, ski lifts, tanning booths and dating, consulting, landscaping and janitorial and payroll services.

Of course a sales tax on these industries will likely hurt them right when keeping business going is vital for this economy. The addition of taxing of ski lifts is likewise ridiculous, especially when Michigan is trying to draw tourists here for recreation, hitting them with an additional 6% may drive them farther away to where there's even better skiing. Nice idea indeed.

Upping the income tax when in this economy people need every dollar they can will likewise hurt the state's economy and its people.

Increasing taxes in a recessionary economy is just plain economically wrong

Apparently, it will only take a couple Republicans to be swayed for this to take place. Hopefully they'll show some backbone and demand real structural changes to reduce spending and balance the budget that way rather than further taxing the people of Michigan.

The Republicans have a huge PR opportunity here to portray themselves as defenders of the people from the Democrats insatiable appetitefor tax increases and even more government spending.

Let's hope they don't squander this opportunity and cave-in to the Democrats tax hunger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Will Michigan's Governor turn out the lights?

There's a good chance that Governor Granholm will shut down the government unless she gets a tax increase passed rather than merely pass a continuing budget resolution.

For some great coverage of the impending shutdown see the excellent commentary at Right Michigan.

The interesting thing is if the shut down will be a bug or a feature.

While the Democrats think this shut down will cause people to push for a quick tax increase as the government will not be providing services. Apparently the Governor is threatening that liquor stores and casinos will not be allowed to open due to a lack of state inspectors, indeed people are being warned to get their licenses renewed now in case the government is shut down when theirs expire, and who knows what other facilities she'll threaten to close?

In case of a shut down, the default should be open, not closed. That there are no inspectors to watch a casino or liquor store should not prevent it from being open as it is the government and not the facility that is choosing to withhold inspectors. Likewise DNR sites and state controlled recreation areas should be open without fees.

Indeed anyone who gets ticketed for an expired plate should have an excellent excuse- they can't get one from the very government thats ticketing them.

Default to open and we'll see how long people can go about their business without being hampered.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Media Bias from the AP

Its to be expected from the Associated press, but one would think the Detroit News would at least add some context or a less misleading and biased headline.

Rice peace trip undermined by Israeli actions reads the headline with a helpful subline:

Decision undermines U.S. hopes of restarting Middle East peace talks.

And the story:
Associated Press JERUSALEM -- Israel declared the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" on Wednesday and said it would cut utilities to the territory.

The move complicates a U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks aimed at establishing
a separate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel made the provocative decision hours before Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice arrived for talks setting up what President Bush hopes will be
a pivotal peace conference this fall. The decision is likely to reinforce
perceptions among Palestinians and their Arab backers that Israel will do as it
sees fit regardless of the cost to civilians and that the U.S. will not block

Rice said the U.S. is trying to help both sides reach "common understanding."
But she did not say if the U.S.-sponsored meeting will address the hardest
issues in the six-decade conflict, including the borders of a Palestinian

Amazing how the Israeli response to constant rocket attacks on civilians originating from Gaza is the "obstacle to peace" and "complicates a U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks". Maybe if the Palestinians stopped terrorist attacks and ceased the rocket attacks there wouldn't be a need to cut utilities to the territory.

The Associated press' biased article and the Detroit news' running of it without any context or real explanation or analysis is shameful and has the one-sided anti-Israel line we've come to expect.

Really, In any case what nation would not declare an area that is the source of attacks on its country an ""enemy entity" and what nation in the world would keep utilities and supplies going to such an entity while it was under attack from it? Can anybody name one?

The only obstacle to peace here are the terrorist attacks and rocket attacks on Israel, and whoever is exerting pressure on Israel not to respond and defend itself.

Sadly a failure to aggressively defend itself is seen by the Arabs as a weakness, emboldening them in their attacks. Indeed this same failure of the US to aggressively respond to Syrian and Iranian suppliers of insurgents in Iraq is similarly emboldening them.

If you want peace in the region let Israel defend itself fully, including making it clear that if the palestinians want to launch rockets against Israel and refuse to live as peacable neighbors, there will be a price to pay.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Of Trials, Tribulations and A Really, Really dumb Juror

Generally a Jury will do the right thing: Listen to the facts, decide a case and get on with life. Of all the jury trials I've had the Jury has come to the right decision and most have been quite sharp and perceptive.

How do I know this? After a trial judges often give the jurors the option of talking with the attorneys and the jurors often graciously give some time to talk with us, give us pointers on our performance as attorneys and ask questions, oftentimes very pointed questions, such as why didn't the police report come in as an exhibit? (You then get to explain that the rules of evidence preluded it from being admitted.), or why we said something or what we should have said to be even more convincing or what questions they still would want to have resolved.

The Juries I've been before also have consistently some of the best poker faces I've ever seen - we're talking tournament quality here, and you just couldn't read them.

As I said most juries do the right thing....but this one juror...

I was in District Court on a landlord-tenant eviction case and was doing the entire trial by myself with no partners present. It was a jury trial as it was to evict a harrasing and threatening tenant from a HUD subsidized apartment.

The trial went very well indeed, and we awaited the Jury's verdict.

After long deliberation and some interesting questions from the Jury (showing that they clearly were paying attention during the trial and were taking their deliberations seriously) the Defense Counsel and I were called by the Judge into her chambers.

The Judge (a very professional, courteous, smart and capable Judge indeed by the way, she ran a great trial) told us that the jury had reached a verdict but there was a problem. The jury had sent a note that one of the jurors had gone and visited the apartment complex twice.

Now this is a no-no. The instructions to the Jury are very clear, they are not to go visit the scene or do their own investigation.

The Defense attorney knowing a walk is as good as a run immediately requests a mistrial. (A mistrial results in the trial being held once again and the tenant gets to stay while that is happening).

I request that we at least interview the juror and jury and see what actually has happened and the judge agrees.

So we interview the Juror and he says he only drove by the building to see if there were air conditioners, which were a side issue in the case. He also says he thought it was a nice place.

The Defense immediately claims that the juror and jury was tainted by this excursion and again demands a mistrial.

I point out that this is the very definition of harmless error as both Plaintiff and Defendant admit its a nice place to live, otherwise why would Defendant want to keep living there? I also point out that the outside of the building has nothing to do with the Defendant's behaviors that are leading to his eviction nor to his retaliation claim against Plaintiff for trying to evict him.

The Judge sadly for me, grants a mistrial.

On speaking with the Jury after the trial, the verdict was for my client and for the eviction 5-1 (In Michigan a civil jury does not need to be unanimous, you only need 5 of 6 jurors).

So 4 court days, 3 of which were trial days before the jury are down the drain and the trial has been rescheduled and we get to do it all over.

Thanks a lot, Juror Clouseau, next time please wait for the trial to be over to satisfy your curiosity.

Almost Earning a Darwin Award

or how students just aren't prepared for the real world....

MIT student arrested with fake bomb
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 9 minutes ago

BOSTON - An MIT student wearing what turned out to be a fake bomb was arrested at gunpoint Friday at Logan International Airport and later claimed it was artwork, officials said.

Star Simpson, 19, had a computer circuit board and wiring in plain view over a black hooded sweatshirt she was wearing, said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the commanding officer at the airport.

"She said that it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day," Pare said at a news conference. "She claims that it was just art, and that she was proud of the art and she wanted to display it."

Simpson was charged with disturbing the peace and possessing a hoax device. A not guilty plea was entered for her and she was released on $750 bail.

. . .

Prosecutor Wayne Margolis had requested $5,000 bail, saying Simpson showed a total disregard for the situation she was in — an airport after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

. . .

Simpson was "extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force would have been used," Pare said. "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

Simpson is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore from Hawaii, officials said.

The battery-powered rectangular device had nine flashing lights, and Simpson had Play-Doh in her hands, Pare said.

You would think by now even the most isolated ivory tower student would have a passing awareness that walking into an airport with a circuit board that looked like a bomb combined with holding play doh that could look like plastic explosive is on the top ten list of really dumb ideas.

She certainly should get an C for her performance art and an F for common sense.

Luckily she didn't get killed and hopefully this will serve as a reality check and a welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Arts, Beats, and Eats- Pontiac Gets it Right

Kudos to the City of Pontiac and Chrysler for putting on a great event.

On Labor Day we went to Pontiac to explore the Arts, Beats and Eats show, along with Providentia Blogger Scott and his family.

An excellent time was had by all - the show was well organized and well setup.

There were a variety of stages with a constantly changing variety of musical acts, including this great Reggae band:

And of course there were the eats -lots of food everywhere incluidng some impressive ethnic cuisine -
Not sure if the cooks at Indo-Pak attack each other over Kashmir in between making pakoras, but the food smelled real good.

Of course I went for the finest of Ethnic Cuisine:

Yep, a good plate of Fish and Chips is a thing of beauty, and Union Jack makes a great Fish 'n' Chips. I had to wait awhile as they had to fry some up fresh, but it was worth the wait. Simply excellent - now I have to go find out where they are located and patronize them when I get my next craving for great Fish and Chips.

One small note to my fellow Michiganians - in British English, Chips are not potato chips but French fries. Somehow, most Michigan restaurants have missed this cultural linguistic curiosity and when they have a burger and chips on the menu, they bring you a burger and potato chips (with an upgrade to fries being extra). Sorry but that is simply wrong. You have been notified.

It was a large well-behaved crowd at the event and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Chrysler had some prominent displays of their vehicles and even an opportunity to test drive them that I sadly did not have time to do.

It was a great way to spend Labor Day and after the festival we went to the beach for a quick swim. Pontiac did a great job on the Festival and along with the sponsors and organizers made a great event and one that I'd certainly consider visiting again next year.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Democrat Solution to Michigan's Economic Woes - Lets Raise the Income Tax.

Oh, that'll work.

Granholm and the Democrats are proposing that instead of the currently flat 3.9% state income tax that we currently have, a graduated tax will be put in its place.

The graduated tax will of course whack the middle class.

Nolan Finley gets it right when he writes Head off doubling of middle-class tax
Correspondence between the Granholm administration and legislative Democrats reveals at least one option raises the top rate to 9 percent, compared with the current 3.9 percent flat tax. Under one scenario, that highest bracket would kick in once household income hits $150,000.

That means a married couple, both top-scale school teachers or even Big Three auto workers working a little overtime, would be labeled "rich" by the Democrats and dinged for an extra $5,000 a year in taxes.

Certainly, $150,000 a year is a decent income. But it doesn't make a couple wealthy, particularly if they've got a big mortgage and a kid or two in college. Such families probably don't have a spare $100 a week lying around to give to the state.

These are the same families who will get hammered if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. Ditto if the cap on Social Security taxes is lifted.

All told, state and federal tax hikes could add $10,000 or more to the taxes of solidly middle-class Michigan families.

The reason of course is the massive revenue take such a tax increase would provide
Changing Michigan from a flat-tax state to a graduated-income-tax state would raise nearly the additional $1.4 billion Granholm wants in new taxes.

Finley predcts the class warfare rehtoric that the Democrats will try to use to sell this massive increase -
Democrats will try to sell this to voters by convincing them it hurts the evil rich and not good, wholesome working families.
he then has a graphic accompanying the article showing it doesn't take much for you to be considered "wealthy" and get soaked by this tax increase.
Wealthy to the Democrats seems to be anyone not on Welfare or other forms of assistance.

Such a tax will have job-killing effects, dissuade the "wealthy" from considering Michigan as a place to live, increae the brain-drain of michigan graduates seeking to better themselves and keep more of what they earn, and make all of us in Michigan poorer, not richer.

Just say no to this massive tax increase.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Detroit News Columnist's Article Sidetracked By BDS

An article that starts out in a promising manner fallsas a victim to its author's suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS is not yet listed in the DSM yet but hopefuly it will make edition V).

Froma Harrop's articleFrustrating federal ID plan invites havoc starts out promisingly, detailing delays in achiueving a ssecure form of identification, presumably for visitors to our Country. it then notes that the CIA seems risk adverse to any form of faiure which might risk their careers, and that such risk aversion is harming its efforts in the war on terror.
They feared the bad things that might have happened had they gotten tough: CIA personnel could have become prisoners of al-Qaida. Congress could have hauled them before committees for helping Northern Alliance leaders involved with the heroin trade in Afghanistan or for abusing al-Qaida prisoners.

But those are risks our protectors are supposed to take. Hurting one's career should be a small price to pay for defending national security. By holding top CIA officials accountable, we add risk to not taking risks, and that's how it should be.

So far so good. But immediately after that she heads off into Cloud Cuckoo land-
Of course, anyone who was gung-ho for destroying al-Qaida had to deal with the crushing laziness of the Bush administration in its first eight months. By the time Bush had arrived in the White House, al-Qaida had already supported the first World Trade Center bombing (1993), a plan to blow up airliners over the Pacific (1995), the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa (1998), the suicide attack on the USS Cole (2000) and the Millennium Plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport (2000). Yet during that time, the administration did next to nothing about al-Qaida.

Is Harrop blaming the Bush administration for doing nothing in the years 1993-2000- you know the years preceedingt he Bush administration taking office in January 2001?

Charitably one can argue that she means that in the 8 months once he took office but to list the terorirst attacks immediately before saying "Yet during that time" certainly paints a false picture and will have all the readers who can't remember the year Bush took office nodding sagely that he didn't try to stop any of those attacks because he was lazy.

Blaming and criticising Bush for a variety of failings since he's taken office, on many issues is fair game. To confabulate and make a false suggestion that he is responsible for events before he even took office or was crushingly lazy in the first eight months of his term is riddiculous. What exactly did harrop want him to do? Start bombing stuff, try to pass the patroit act before the attacks took place. Good luck with that -- the nation was not ready for any of those actions and you can guess the level of criticism Bush would have faced if he tried.

Yet another potentially good article derailled by the BDS train,

Sunday, August 26, 2007

At the Renaissance Fair

On Saturday, the family and my wife's friend and her kids and I piled into the van and we all went to the 2007 Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, Michigan.

We were there for the Scottish Fling weekend. Yes, men in kilts (They get annoyed if you call them dresses).

Indeed as part of the festivities some of the Scottsmen pickup a 120 pound telephone pole called in Scottish a caber and throw it - they do this for fun. Anyone who can carry a telephone pole and hurl it end over end should not be greeted with the words "nice dress" -- bad idea.

Doesn't it look like fun?

There are always a variety of acts including these comedic Jugglers:

And of course, full contact jousting between armored knights:

And, not to be left out, an incredible moving statue that absolutely enthralls the kids (don't tell the kids there's a person in there, it'll spoil the magic).

If you are close to Holly, Michigan or want to take a very worthwhile trip for some serious fun, the Renaissance Fair is still going for quite a few more weeks and its great fun. Tons of fun to watch both the performers and the crowd all dressed up in "period" costume and acting all medievelish.

I highly recommend that you have one of the famous roasted turkey legs and a glass of mead for a snack. Simply excellent.

Chicago Trip - Getting there's half the fun, getting back is worse

I went to Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday on business and expected to get a flight out Thursday afternoon so I took the el train from the hotel, got to the airport, threw out my shaving cream, got thorugh security and went to my gate in plenty of time to get going.

It was not to be.

The weather closed in and we were stuck with the flight canceled and a three hour line-up at United Airway's Customer service counter.

Why they didn't open up more counters or let people rebook flights at the gates is unfathomable as there were plenty of United poeple standing at idle at the now closed gates.

So after 3 hours I headed back to my hotel on Chicago's el train - the Blue line. Of course as this is an elevated train there were substantial delays due to a tree falling on the track during the storm so a 45 minute trip took over one and a half hours.

I was glad to get back to the hotel, got a room and was so wired I couldn't sleep, after a while I finally dropped off.

In the morning on Friday it was a great repeat - the el train to the airport, through security (sans shaving cream and sans a shave as I had already thrown out the little thing of shaving cream I had picked up in Chicago- damn stupid regulations).

Then with some delay we finally got off, all the while worrying about another storm coming in. The flight took 45 minutes - less than the train trip. In fact I spent more time in those three days in the airport or on the train than I did anywhere else in Chicago.

On the upside I did get to order real Chicago deep dish Pizza at the Giordano's restaurant in downtown Chicago - we're talking seriously good pizza. The Pizza, a large was too much for three people to split and it was possibly the best pizza I'd ever had, so if you end up in downtown Chicago get to Giordano's for a real treat.

So I finally get back to Detroit, get to my car and play in traffic until i get home. 30 minutes after I arrive the skies darken and the Tornado warning sirens go off and the heavens open. Yep the storm followed me home. Massive rain and wind and loss of power for a few hours ensued.

Quite weather-full few days.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Birthday Scuba Trip - back to the Wexford

For my 35th Birthday, yesterday, August 9th, my lovely, thoughtful, and wonderful wife put me on a dive boat run by Rec & Tec Dive Charters and sent me off to dive the Wexford.

The jury is still out on whether she was deciding if the life insurance payout exceeded my expected future income, but nonetheless both Lagniappe's Keeper, up here visiting from his home in Harper's Ferry and I hit the road at 6 am headed for Port Sanilac.

We traveled through scattered rain showers and arrived at 8:30 am with plenty of time to load our dive gear on the boat before it left at 9. There were only six divers on this trip, plus the good captain and crewlady / divemaster, and off we went on a three hour tour.

Luckily for us, the weather did not start getting rough and the tiny ship made its way to the dive site off of Goderich, Ontario without incident.

After the dive briefing we geared up and got ready to dive.

The weather was perfect with a calm Lake Huron with excellent visibility of about 20 feet, and off we went down the down line to the bow of the wreck. Out of the gloom, the bow of the Wexford was suddenly visible.

Impressively, the plate I described on my blog Wexford dive report back last year was still on the wreck, a tribute to the good ethical practices of those who've dived the wreck all this time.

This year I could tell my diving skills had much improved. Between taking the GUE Fundamentals class and practicing weekly at Union Lake I was in much better form this dive. I was much more able to relax and enjoy exploring the wreck and I saw much more than I had last year as I wasn't so tunnel visioned, was more comfortable in my drysuit rather than last years wetsuit and had much better buoyancy control so I could keep out of the silt to preserve the visibility.

I saw a lot more artifacts, including a meat grinder, plates and plate fragments and the huge boilers of the ship, in addition to dropping below the bow to get an idea of the scale of the ship with its anchors and hitting about 80 feet maximum depth. After about 22 minutes it was time to ascend and up we went with proper safety stops at 40 feet and 20 feet.

After a surface interval, we dove the stern and I again saw much more than before and had much better situational awareness. Lagniappe's Keeper and I explored the stern thoroughly and saw a neat side area with 4 portholes with the glass intact to look outside the ship from within, as well as some valves and other interesting parts. We briefly explored every level of the ship before ascending.

The Wexford is simply one of the nicest wrecks out there in Lake Huron and in fantastic condition. Lagniappe's Keeper, in his first week of diving after his accident did wonderfully on the Wexford after our practice runs at Portage Quarry and Spring Mill Pond -- the man has guts enough for two men and as my wife says, he's got 9 lives but he's already used up 8.

A Great and successful pair of dives, and after our return we headed home at that evening my dive club came to an excellent birthday party at my house and much fun, as well as many a Myers Rum and Coke was had.

A most wonderful and memorable way to commemorate hitting 35.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Nellie Lyon Dive Pictures

So John, after some prodding, has just sent me the pictures he took from the Nellie Lyon dive trip. The pictures were taken with a Canon A540 in a canon waterproof case.

As you can see, the viz was rough. John has the camera at most 3 feet away from the subject that he's taking the picture of at the time, so you can see how the underwater visibility was quite poor that day.

Here I am on the surface:

Jerry taking it easy on the Surface:

The anchor from the boat holding fast to the wreck:

A portion of the ship near the anchor point. The lightbeam is from my 10 watt HID Cannister light. After this dive I'm starting to lust after the 21 watt lights the more advanced divers in our group use, or even better, the Salvo 35 watt light.

Here's Jerry on the Wreck:

Here I am at about 40 feet on the wreck:

All in all it was a fun and challenging dive. Hopefully we'll get the chance to go back on a day with better visibility, a little less current and a bit better luck. Thanks to John for taking the pictures, now its time I got a waterproof case for my new Canon SD1000 Elph.

Sympathy for the Sheehan?

Apparently Rochelle Riley is, not for Casey Sheehan mind you, but for Cindy "15+ minutes of fame" Sheehan.

In Empathy for Sheehan in her quests, in the Detroit Free Press, Riley says
I can imagine what I would do if someone happened to her. I would hunt that
person down and stalk them until they were brought to justice, unless justice
got there first.

That's all Cindy Sheehan is doing. And guess what? I understand her pain and
her mission. But I'm at a loss to understand how any other parent couldn't
So who's Sheehan hunting down? The terrorists that killed her son? Nope she's lashing out at anyone insufficiently "anti-war" Bush or even now Pelosi.

Riley then says
Sheehan's son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan, signed up in August 2003 for a tour of duty in Iraq. He was 24 years old. Five days later, he was killed in Sadr City during a rescue mission for which he volunteered. He will never know the glory of being awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I cannot imagine those medals mean much to a grieving mother.
Such medals would mean a lot to someone realizing that Casey Sheehan died not for himself or self-aggrandizement but in trying to save others, as a hero. Indeed, isn't until 6 paragraphs later that Riley notes that Casey had volunteered and signed up for a second tour in Iraq and he wasn't there involuntarily- he's the hero in this not Cindy. Rochelle doesn't bring up that Cindy had disowned her son when he joined the military.

The story mentions that Sheehan saw Bush once but doesn't seem to mention her demanding to see him yet again, but does note she called Bush a terrorist and speaks with approval about Sheehan's plans to try and impeach Bush and run against Pelosi.

Nice to see that Rochelle Riley has gone from being a Democrat talking points talking head to full on moonbat supporter. Sheehan had her more than fifteen minutes of fame - even the Democrats are done with her, and its time that Riley realized that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lightning, Scuba Diving, and a media mistake

Sad story of a diver killed off of Florida on Tuesday from the Associated Press via the Detroit Free Press:
July 23, 2007


DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Lightning struck a diver’s oxygen tank as he surfaced off Florida’s Atlantic coast, killing him, authorities said.

The 36-year-old man was diving with three others Sunday off a boat near Deerfield Beach, about 40 miles north of Miami. He had surfaced about 30 feet from the boat when lightning struck his tank, said Deerfield Beach Fire Chief Gary Fernaays.

The other divers struggled to get the man back into the boat and radioed for help, Fernaays said. The victim, whose name was not immediately released, was rushed to the beach, where a rescue crew gave him CPR. He was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center in Pompano Beach.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect Sunday for Broward County.
The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office planned an autopsy to determine if the man died by electrocution or drowned.
Ths is a sad situation, given that the metal of the tank is very attractive to lightning, its not good to be getting in or out of the water during a storm. If you under and deep enough you should be ok.

The mistake the AP makes is calling the gas tank an oxygen tank which doesn't make sense. Divers typically don't use pure oxygen as 100% oxygen at depths below 20 feet is toxic and can lead to convulsions and seizures underwater resulting in death.

The tank on a diver's back normally has either compressed air or a blend of air and more oxygen (called Nitrox) or helium (called Triox, Trimix or heliox depending on the helium and O2 and nitrogen percentages). Its unlikely that the diver was struck on a decompression bottle which would typically be oxygen.

While it seems like a small matter it is a very annoying misnomer and a grating inaccuracy to declare the gas tank on the diver's back as an oxygen tank.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Photo ID Law for Voters

Interestingly the law requiring photo ID for voters in Michigan dates back to 1996 and it has never been enforced as a prior (Democrat) Attorney General held it was unconstitutional (and very disadvantageous to democrat vote fraud efforts.

The Michigan Supreme Court in a 5 (Republican appointees) - 2 (Democrat appointees) decision has now ruled that the law is constitutional and valid, as reported in the Detroit Free Press.

A good ruling and a good start against voter fraud and for cleaner elections in Michigan.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Michigan gas prices highest in nation thanks to our sales tax

Michigan currently has the highest gas prices in the nation according to the Detroit News.

One reason is that we're at the end of the gas pipeline and its more expensive to ship it here from the refineries.

The other reason is that Michigan levies a 6% sales tax on top of the price of gas amnd all other federal and state taxes levied upon it. Yes, we're paying a tax on a tax. Further addding insult to injury, the only tax the sales tax is levied upon is the 19 cents road tax that is a fixed amount that doesn't change with the price of gas.

So gas can go up, we pay more taxes, the state gets more money and our roads worsen all at the same time.

Some of this windfall the state is experiencing from the increased take in sales taxes should be directed back towards fixing the roads and building new ones to enhance our infrastructure, which badly needs it. -- good luck on that happening.

Instead the state wants to raise the Road Tax on top of the already exorbitant take it is getting from the sales tax, thereby ensuring that Michigan is #1 in something - namely the price of gasoline.