Thursday, March 29, 2007

Music Theory - The First Example

Dokken + Enya - Medications = Evanescence

If you're not familiar with the Music Theory feature of Unreliable Intelligence, see here.


Music Theory

This will be on occasional feature on the Unreliable Intelligence blog. The basic idea is that by performing simple addition and subtraction functions using bands or performers (instead of numbers) you can make equations. If you disagree with the equation, submit a substitute by comment. If I like it better, I'll change the equation and give you partial credit.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Government to Pay for Digital TV Upgrades

The San Francisco Chronicle has this piece about the scheduled switch to digital broadcasting for the free channels.

Rabbit-ear TVs about to reach end of the road

Consumers who depend on old-fashioned antennas to watch television won't miss the 2009 Super Bowl, but their analog sets will stop working soon afterward.

Analog TVs will no longer receive a signal come Feb. 19, 2009, unless users update their hardware to receive a digital signal.

Federal officials announced details Monday about how that transition will work, saying the government will help consumers buy the necessary equipment to upgrade to digital -- a converter box that attaches to the TV set.

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it is setting aside $990 million to pay for the boxes. Each home can request up to two $40 coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box, which consumer electronics makers such as RCA and LG plan to produce. Prices for the box have not been determined, but industry and consumer groups have estimated they will run $50 to $75 each.

. . .

Starting Jan. 1, 2008, all U.S. households will be able to start requesting the coupons, said Sedmak. If the initial $990 million allocated is used up, another $510 million will be set aside to cover the cost of the coupons. Consumers must show that they do not subscribe to cable or satellite or other television services.

Of course, it's not really the end of rabbit-ears. If you rely on an antenna for your signal you'll still need it to get the digital signal even after the conversion.

I'm not sure why it's "the government's" job to ensure that people have television. That I'm not aware of, television equipment and TV access aren't part of guaranteed public assistance benefits. Why then the need to ensure that consumers are "held harmless" in the transition to digital broadcast? Seems to me there are better things to spend 1.5 billion dollars on than making sure people can see Oprah really, really clearly.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tougher Truck Regulations Proposed

Here's an interesting bit about big truck safety.

Activists seek tougher truck regulation

More than 100 people a week are killed in large truck crashes in this country, according to safety groups that called Monday for reducing how long big-rig drivers can work without rest.

. . .

Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the news conference that the truck safety effort pales by comparison with federal food safety regulation.

"Nearly 61 people die from E.coli (infections) each year, which is equivalent to the four-day death toll from truck crashes," Gillan said.

"Anytime there is an E.coli outbreak, the federal government uses every resource available to stop this public health threat," she said. "Yet, unsafe big rigs kill and maim tens of thousands each year because truckers are pushed to drive long hours under unsafe conditions while the federal response has been silence and indifference."

Besides being wildly energy inefficient.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Treason, or Just Stupid?

Although this happened a year ago it's only recently been brought to my attention via a forwarded e-mail. The header of the e-mail was: "If This Isn't Treason, What Is It?"

Well, it's certainly in poor taste, possibly unlawful under rarely-if-never-enforced federal flag etiquette laws, but I'm not sure how it could - - or should - - be treasonous.

Background: Whittier area students from Pioneer, California and Whittier high schools walked out of classes to protest the proposed federal immigration bill March 27, 2006. The protestors put up the Mexican flag over the American flag flying upside down at Montebello High. (Leo Jarzomb/Staff photo) Michelle Malkin posted on it here.

Now, on to the law:

18 USC 2381: "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason."

It's a bit of a stretch to say that flying a flag upside is levying war or adhering to an "enemy." I'm not even sure it would constitute "flag desecration," which is also defined in statute.

18 USC 700: "Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both."

It is absolutely disrespectful, as set out in the flag etiquette code:

4 USC 8: "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. . . . (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

But 4 USC 8 is widely observed in the breach. Take, for example, this provision:

4 USC 8(i): "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."

Whoa. We would have to shut down half the businesses in the country on that one, including most gas stations and just about every car dealership I've ever driven by.

Stating (as Malkin does) that this stunt - - which is all that it really is - - will put the nail in the coffin of the immigration bill is ad hominem. It would be a shame, really, if that happened. One would hope that our federal legislators don't permit the sophomoric antics of high school students to definitively determine our national policies. Because THAT would be treasonous.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Open Comment Period on Proposed Delisting of Rocky Mountain Wolves

In an earlier post I criticized (OK, name-called) Idaho's governor for vowing to decimate the state's gray wolf population.

As things stand at the moment, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed delisting the the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The same western Great Lakes population of gray wolves has already been removed. The northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment (DPS) includes all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah.

USFWS' notice was published in the February 8, 2007 Federal Register. Comments are due within sixty days of publication, which means by the close of business April 9, 2007.

USFWS reviewed and approved Idaho's "Wolf Conservation and Management Plan" ("IWCMP"). According to the Federal Register publication:

The IWCMP calls for IDFG to be the primary manager of wolves after delisting; like Montana, to maintain a minimum of 15 packs of wolves to maintain a substantial margin of safety over the 10 breeding pair minimum; and to manage them as a viable selfsustaining population that will never require relisting under the Act. Wolf take would be more liberal if there are more than 15 packs and more conservative if there are fewer than 15 packs in Idaho.

The USFWS has this to say about hunting wolves after de-listing has occurred:

Montana and Idaho would regulate human-caused mortality to manipulate wolf distribution and overall population size to help reduce conflicts with livestock and, in some cases, human hunting of big game, just as they do for other resident species of wildlife. Idaho and Montana, and some Tribes in those States, would allow regulated public harvest of surplus wolves in the NRM wolf population for commercial and recreational purposes by regulated private and guided hunting and trapping. Such take and any commercial use of wolf pelts or other parts would be regulated by State or Tribal law (See discussion of State laws and plans under Factor D). The regulated take of those surplus wolves would not affect wolf population recovery or viability in the NRM because the States of Montana and Idaho (and Wyoming, if its plan is approved in the future) would allow such take only for wolves that are surplus to achieving the State’s commitment to maintaining a recovered population.

All of this looks nice on paper, but then there is the reality. Otter's announcement to the hunters that they would soon be able to shoot wolves was nothing short of a rally. When the chief executive of the state wants to be "the first in line" to shoot a wolf, it isn't about managing a population in a responsible, sustainable way. It's about whatever jizz you get from shooting a wolf.

Not long ago Otter posted a short release on the New West Network. In it he describes Idahoans as "proud stewards of the land and species" of their state, and cites apparent successes at managing black bear and cougar populations as evidence that wolves will be well treated.

We will be guided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s implementation of our state management plan, which was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service and its handpicked wolf experts.

The key is flexibility to control problem wolves.

In areas where wolves are not destroying livestock or having a dramatic impact on our ungulate herds, wolves will be managed in concert with all species.
In areas where we’ve documented consistent patterns of chronic livestock depredation, like the Copper Basin, and where wolves are having an unacceptable impact on elk herds, the state will use sportsmen and other tools to manage wolves and protect private property.

If this were really the plan, it wouldn't be so bad. But the plan is to "harvest" wolves down to 10 breeding pairs, regardless of whether the local population is having an impact (dramatic or otherwise) on ungulate herds. That demonstrates that the state's policy isn't driven by protecting deer and elk herds, as it claims, but is about adding another species to the List of Things You Can Shoot In the Woods.

Let's not forget that the principal reason wolves had to be listed to begin with was because of overpredation by humans. What message does Otter send to hunters? You almost imagine Otter standing on the capitol steps firing a .30-30 into the air to wild orange-clad applause. Based on his display, I have little confidence in the ability of Otter's administration to judge what's an "unacceptable" impact on deer and elk herds.

"The last thing we want to see is the species return to federal management under the ESA," says Otter. Of course, because you can't shoot federally protected species.

All sorts of information from the Fish and Wildlife Service about gray wolves can be found here.

Comments on the proposed delisting may be sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as follows:

* electronically mailed to;
* hand-delivered to USFWS, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601; or
* mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wolf Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bush Fights AMTRAK Bill

To the surprise of no one, President Bush opposes the recent Lautenberg effort to provide remotely reasonable funding for AMTRAK.
Bush Administration fights Amtrak Funding
The Bush administration on Tuesday blasted a plan by a group of rail-riding senators to overhaul Amtrak and give the passenger railroad an annual subsidy of $3.2 billion to repair aging lines and start new service.

Joseph Boardman, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, told a Senate Commerce Committee panel that the administration has serious reservations about the proposal and that the federal government must stop subsidizing Amtrak.
How ridiculous would it be for the Bush administration to propose that the federal government stop subsidizing the interstate highway system? $3.2 billion is less than what the federal government spent on interstates in 1988.

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More from Railex

Here is a more recent item about Railex. If you need background, read here and here. The most interesting part:

Railex depends on Priya's sophisticated inventory management system toincrease speed and accuracy. As trucks come into the warehouse, producepallets are either cross-docked for lot sales or graded, selected,packaged, and labeled with store brands for resale as packaged goods. Produce is then immediately loaded onto trains for cross-country transport. While the produce is in transit, Priya provides real-time inventory data to sales teams who sell the bulk produce en route so it can be cross-docked immediately onto trucks in New York for direct delivery.

Neat stuff. Elsewhere in the press release it mentions that Railex takes 250 trucks off the road.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Passengers Tolerant of Backscatter Scans

Despite loud protests from a priggish minority, Scientific American reports that 70% of passengers presented with a choice between a patdown and a backscatter scan have chosen the scan.

My earlier blog post on this topic includes an image of the "detailed" backscatter scan of the kind in use in Britain for years. The US version, however, will look more like a cartoon outline.

Critics are sticking to their guns, so to speak: "You should not have to go naked to board an aircraft," says Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Except that you're not "going naked" at all.

And if you are "going naked," so what? If you don't like it, there is a reasonable alternative: prudish passengers can opt to be groped by TSA instead.

And if you find the whole security search thing overly skeevy, you can drive or take the train.

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