Sunday, May 24, 2015

Some numbers

They've started talking about next year's defense budget. The number being bandied about is $612 billion, which is about a third of the world's military expenditures. Of course, we have to support a Department of Defense that occupies 284,458 buildings around the world, totaling over 2.2 billion square feet. It also controls 24.7 million acres of land, an area about the size of Virginia. The DoD has a presence in all 50 states, 7 U.S. territories, and 40 countries around the world.

Is this a good use for our money?

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Over the past ten years, 54 policemen have been charged for fatally shooting someone while on duty, according to an analysis by the Washington Post and Bowling Green University. That's almost one every two months. Few of the officers charged and whose cases have been resolved have been convicted. 

And those convicted or who pleaded guilty have not been punished very severely - they’ve tended to get little time behind bars, on average four years and sometimes only weeks. This is probably because jurors are very reluctant to punish police officers, tending to view them as guardians of order, according to prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Among the officers charged since 2005 for fatal shootings, more than three-quarters were white. Two-thirds of their victims were minorities, all but two of them black. Nearly all other cases­ involved black officers who killed black victims. 

Representing Us

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The House knows

It used to be that the National Science Foundation determined how to spend its share of the federal budget. This year, the House doesn't think that is a good idea any longer. So, it is placing limits on funding for scientific research. It automatically slashes social, behavioral and economic sciences by 55 percent compared to 2015, while geosciences including climate research shrinks eight percent. 

Need I say a goodly number of scientists think this is not a good idea.

Another $36,000,000 down the drain

Apparently the Army has a policy that if Congress authorizes funds they should be used, no matter the need.  In 2010 the Pentagon requested funds to build a 64,000 square-foot command and control center at Camp Leatherneck. But the regional commander in charge said the facility wasn’t necessary and asked that it not be built. Other commanders disagreed and the center was built and furnished at a cost of $36,000,000. 

It has never been used. Plastic sheets still cover the never-used furniture. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has recommended that three senior Army officers – a lieutenant general, a major general and a colonel – be disciplined for their role in the construction of the center.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bionic Arms

The filming is not very clear, particularly at the start. But how he has been able to live without arms is amazing.

A 21st century Trojan Horse?

William Rivers Pitt has this to say about Obama:
Or is he what many of us have feared he is for a while now: a Trojan Horse president, presented at the gates as a progressive gift? Once let in, however, an army of Third-Way "Democrats," multinational corporations, insurance companies, banks and Wall Street masters-of-the-universe were unleashed to wreak havoc, again.
Res ipsa loquitur, the saying goes. The thing speaks for itself.

It's one of the best definitions of the Obama presidency I've heard.

Skittles can be dangerous

The Jefferson Parish School District in Louisiana has a strong police component. 1,629 students were arrested in only one year for such crimes as walking in the hallway without a hall pass, mouthing off, not adhering to the dress code, and having cell phones. A really weird case was the arrest of an eighth grader for throwing Skittles on a school bus. He was detained for six days for this heinous crime.
Could one of the issues be that African-American students make up only 40 percent of the school district, they comprise 80 percent of the students arrested?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spider Rain

A simple way to reduce the oil train epidemic

Marcus Stern is not an expert in metals or oil. He's simply a reporter and a good one. His op-ed in today's NY Times looks at the problem from a different - to me - angle: the oil, rather than the tankers. There are volatile gases in the oil being shipped; these cause the explosions. Stern says get rid of them before putting the oil in the tanker and the safety level will increase exponentially.

Stern claims that this is a relatively easy task. But it is also a costly task as these gases can be separated, processed and sold for added profit. The gases can even be sold overseas, something that can’t be done with the oil because crude oil can’t be exported.

Monday, May 18, 2015

O, to be in Kansas

Not if I'm a welfare recipient. They've just passed a law that prevents welfare recipients from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM. I guess it doesn't matter that the banks don't allow you to withdraw in five-dollar increments; so, you could only withdraw $20. And the fee obviously doesn't count; the state will get its $1 fee and the bank may get another fee. Of course, the fact that it looks like a violation of federal law, which would put federal distributions to Kansas at risk, should not be ignored. The law also specifies that you can't spend the money on a cruise ship.

Maybe nature is better for elk

At least in California. But a survey by the National Park Service revealed that 250 of the tule elk living in a penned-off reserve — nearly half the herd that was re-established in Point Reyes in 1978 — had died between December 2012 and December 2014, most likely from drought-related starvation and thirst. The elk live in a 2,600-acre enclosure at the northern tip of the peninsula.

During the same period, two free-roaming tule elk herds on the south end of the peninsula, outside the reserve, grew in number from 160 to 212.

Chicken, anyone?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wasting time and money

How much time has been spent by the government 'prosecuting' the TBTF banks for their breaking the laws? They're still blathering about the penalties and the harm they would wreak on the economy. Things would be a lot simpler as well as more likely to reduce the number of crimes if they just put them in jail.