The 2006 True Stella Awards Winners

The 2006 True Stella Awards

Issued 31 January 2007

(Click here to
confirm these are legitimate.
)

#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at
a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that
lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting
to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler]
fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says.
That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of
$50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels
live outside.

#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The
couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower
accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly
the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were
clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered
the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case
against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old
lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had
not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no
safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic
jury still awarded the family $2 million.

#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent
working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a
disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his
pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306
percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada.
He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With
public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and
correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his
pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow
lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke
that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident
wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you
want carrying a gun in the name of the law.

#2: KinderStart.com. The specialty
search engine says Google should be forced to include the KinderStart
site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system works, and
pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They claim by
not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow infringing
KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if by some
stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world would they
think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed? And if
Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a government
court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's
Constitutional right to free speech?

And the winner of the 2006 True Stella
Award:
Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches
shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball
star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot
like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves
$52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364
million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus
the SAME amount from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total
of $832 million. He dropped the suit after Nike's lawyers chatted
with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if
he pressed on.

©2007 by Randy Cassingham,
StellaAwards.com. Reprinted with permission.

Vista Hits Store Shelves. So What?

Stumbled across this article over at digg.com, discussing the departure of Windows chief Jim Allchin, and breathless praise concerning the latest version of Windows to hit store shelves, Vista.

My response? Goodbye Jim Allchin.

The rest of the article is a puff piece designed to spin the Vista delay in the correct direction, rather than discussing the real reasons for same. Reasons like the failure of Vista's predecessor, Longhorn; failed because nobody wanted the invasive security measures that were touted as one of Longhorn's strengths (the chipset it was to utilize was shelved, if I remember correctly, over the same issues) It's taken nearly five years to design and build a version of Windows that Microsoft thought people would go for, that also included enough of the DRM and anti-piracy measures (that corporate America is inexplicably in love with) to satisfy Microsoft's business partners and it's legal department.

Good luck with it. It'll never see the inside of any of my systems, at least not in it's unadulterated form. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Apparently the opinion is pretty widespread, and not exactly earth shattering.

Of what use is an operating system that disables programs and media that it can't verify are legally purchased (can't verify as opposed to aren't legally purchased, an important distinction) one that is hostile to other DRM schemes, schemes that are just as valid as it's own (the issue with i-Tunes has been well documented, albeit patched) An operating system that requires every user to create a Windows Live account in order to validate the installation; a completely pointless requirement, except that MicroShaft is deluding itself into believing that it can compete with Yahoo and Google, and so think that forcing new users to register in the system will lead them to actually use the system.

Time to get serious about Linux.

ST XI: Doomed from the Start?

Check out this blast from the past:
Others caution that ''Trek'' can't revive itself by merely wooing young viewers. Says writer-producer Michael Piller, ''You could make a very good case that Gene Roddenberry's fundamental decision back in the '60s that he was not going to write [a show] for kids is why the franchise has lasted.''
From: Entertainment Weekly, Published in issue #720 Jul 25, 2003

So, the latest version is yet again going to appeal to younger audiences, eh? Better luck next time?

An Answer to the Fermi Paradox

From WWdn in Exile: the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys

The question was originally posed by Enrico Fermi, and has become known as the Fermi Paradox:

The extreme age of the universe and its vast number of stars suggest that extraterrestrial life should be common. Considering this with colleagues over lunch in 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi is said to have asked: "Where are they?"[1] Fermi questioned why, if a multitude of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist in the Milky Way galaxy, evidence such as probes, spacecraft or radio transmissions has not been found. The simple question "Where are they?" (alternatively, "Where is everybody?") is possibly apocryphal, but Fermi is widely credited with simplifying and clarifying the problem of the probability of extraterrestrial life.

A Danish researcher has come up with an interesting answer (if not a complete solution) to the Fermi Paradox:

Extra-terrestrials have yet to find us because they haven't had enough time to look.

Using a computer simulation of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, Rasmus Bjork, a physicist at the Niels Bohr institute in Copenhagen, proposed that a single civilisation might build eight intergalactic probes and launch them on missions to search for life. Once on their way each probe would send out eight more mini-probes, which would head for the nearest stars and look for habitable planets.

Mr Bjork confined the probes to search only solar systems in what is called the "galactic habitable zone" of the Milky Way, where solar systems are close enough to the centre to have the right elements necessary to form rocky, life-sustaining planets, but are far enough out to avoid being struck by asteroids, seared by stars or frazzled by bursts of radiation.

He found that even if the alien ships could hurtle through space at a tenth of the speed of light, or 30,000km a second, - Nasa's current Cassini mission to Saturn is plodding along at 32km a second - it would take 10bn years, roughly half the age of the universe, to explore just 4% of the galaxy.

...Which just means they haven't found us yet.

Hillary Declares her Intentions

Hillary Clinton has also decided to seek the presidency (I buried the story on Digg, myself) Like that's a surprise. We've all been told she was going to run since the day her husband left the White House.

Personally, I think she's a shoe-in to win the Democrat nomination, even though she's not a Democrat (she's a socialist, her attempt to socialize medicine during her husband's tenure proves this) or even much of a woman, a parent, or a wife. She's connected to Bill, and Bill still pulls a lot of strings in the Democrat party. That's really all she needs to win at this point.

I'm just waiting to see who the Republicans field against her. I'm still betting on Condi; not because she's got a chance of winning, but because polling has revealed that her group (black, female) is the only group less likely to win the presidency than a white female.

...and the Republicans are playing to loose this time around.

Whatever happens in the four to eight years following Bush's time in office, it isn't going to be good. The Republicans want to be able to capitalize on that by blaming it on the next occupant of the White House.

Look to see them attempt to scuttle any other viable candidates (including Dr. Paul, the only Republican that I would vote for) in the coming years, leaving only Condi to run against Hillary.

Chinese Test Anti-Satellite Weapon

As reported in Aviation Week, the Chinese gov't:
performed a successful anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile.
Let's hope no one remembers that Bill Clinton is responsible for approving the sale of technology to China that made this sort of develpment possible. It might hurt Hillary's chances of becoming the next president.

What a shame that would be.

Of course, not nearly as devastating as the now very real threat to the rest of the world, if you believe the US gov't propaganda on this issue, that is posed by China having the capability of creating long range Weapons of Mass Destruction.

As usual, we have the best enemies money can buy. I just keep wondering why we pay for them.

Salute to Penn

Pennradio is off the air. I'm a little sad, I was just getting into it. However, I''ll try to take a passage from Penn himself and say:

It doesn't bother me, because

Behind me is the Past
Ahead of me is Probability
So today is
Never Better Boss

...and there is always the archives to tap into if I run out of other things to do.

George Bush is Leeroy Jenkins

"Alright chums, let's do this! LEEEROY JENNNNNKINS!" Pretty much covers my thoughts on the subject of Bush and Iraq (credit to Kung Fu Monkey: Shorter Bush for the idea)



"W" rushes in where even is hawklike father, HW, refused to go.

Or, to quote Wil Wheaton:

Iraq Study Group: Sir, you've totally screwed the pooch on this one, so here are some things you can do to get out of this war with some serious cover. It'll limit casualties, and maybe even help save your legacy a little bit.

Bush: Yeah, about that. I know that was pretty much the whole point of your little study and stuff, but I'm not so much going to listen to anything you suggested as I am going to do the complete opposite. See, I'm the decider. That means that I get to decide what to do, and I don't have to listen to anyone else if I don't want to. That's what deciders do: they decide. Mission Accomplished. God bless me. Uh, I mean, America. Yeah, God bless America. Heh. Heh.

There is a mandate out there to bring the troops home and abandon the conflict in Iraq. The war was over when Saddam was toppled, and the current conflict cannot be won. It can't be won because it's a conflict that existed before we got there, and will exist after we leave. It's a conflict between groups living within the borders of Iraq, a country created by men who never lived there, men who just drew what was essentially random lines on a map. (incidentally, this is the precise reason cited by George H.W. Bush when asked why he did not remove Saddam Hussein. The foregone conclusion that this would lead to a bloody civil war) These people are going to keep fighting until they learn to live together, and no amount of external pressure will make this come about.

The Decider just doesn't realize that he's about to become less popular than Nixon if he doesn't change course, and soon.

Ron Paul Throws His Hat Into the Ring

I doubt this will change the outcome of things. The US bus of happiness is already careening on the cliff's edge. It's going to take more than one good president to drag it back onto the straight and narrow.

However, Ron Paul (the only member of congress for which I have any respect) has declared his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination. I wish him the best of luck, he's going to need it. Especially with press coverage like this:
Paul limits his view of the role of the federal government to those duties laid out in the Constitution. As a result, he sometimes casts votes at odds with his constituents and other Republicans.
Imagine that? A congressman who actually fulfills his oath to uphold the Constitution, and it's considered a liability by writers at the Washington Post. I guess they're ready, willing and able to help push the bus the rest of the way over the cliff.

I missed my first opportunity to vote for Dr. Paul back in '88 when he ran as the Libertarian candidate for President. I was still deluded at the time, thinking I was a Democrat. If (and it's a big if) he's successful this time, I won't make the same mistake twice.

I'm sure I won't be the only one. He has a solid antiwar record, being one of a handful of Republicans to vote in 2002 against giving President Bush the authority to use military force in Iraq. Which gains him Democrat votes.

On the other hand, he's The Taxpayers' Best Friend and is routinely ranked either first or second in the House by the National Taxpayers Union. Something that should win over the truly fiscally conservative.

You've got my vote Dr. Paul. Here's hoping you can collect on that.

Slow and Steady

As usual. Another week has passed, and I still haven't worked up a decent blog entry. Took a stab at one tonight, only to draw the conclusion that the thoughts I want to express are still half-baked.

[I can hear it already "they're always half-baked!"]

I may not be the most prolific blogger on the planet, but I get there in the end argument wise. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

So, while I have 50 odd unfinished blog entries in the queue, at least I can say "I've got the Christmas decorations boxed and put up in record time, for this household." No need to pretend the twinkle lights on the back porch are actually there for ambiance this summer...

Curtailing Jobs for the Young and the Poor

A minimum wage hike will only help the Democrat union buddies whose constituents have incomes keyed to the minimum wage.

Minimum wage in large cities is already over the proposed national minimum wage, and raising the price of employment in areas that have not exceeded it will simply drive more poor people into the unemployment line.
There really is very little debate about this among economists. The empirical evidence is also pretty clear. Increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment among the young and the poor and the disabled. As recently as a few years ago this was a "settled issue," even in the minds of the editorial board of the "New York Times," which argued strongly against the minimum wage.
This is bad law, and should be resisted at all costs.



Mea culpa review 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. Another post I would just delete if I had a choice. I'll just point you to Robert Reich's Big Picture for Fixing the Economy dear reader. Yes, my views have changed quite a bit. 

Central Texas Toll Roads

Roads that have already been paid for by taxes (or are being paid for by tax funded bonds) belong to the taxpayers of Texas. They are our roads, not to be given to a third party at the whim of a governor who has overstepped his authority in this matter. They are our roads, built as freeways, for the use of Central Texans; they are not revenue generators serving the greater goals of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

If the residents of Central Texas wish to alter the method by which roads are paid for, I'm quite certain we are capable of presenting a question to the voters concerning tolling roads in lieu of further taxes. This is not what has happened. Roads that we have already paid for have been given to a for profit foreign company to manage. This is unacceptable.

If the residents of Central Texas wished to sell our roads to a management company to maintain, that would be our business. The sale of said roads would be used to retire bonded debt associated with the roads. This also has not happened.

What has happened is bureaucrats with more perceived authority than actual sense acted to sell-out Central Texas residents in exchange for lucrative deals that profit themselves and their families. This must not be allowed to continue.

No Mugus Currently in Residence

Hardly a day goes by where I don't get some variant on the Nigerian 419 scam. It amazes me that anyone would fall for these scams. All of them are written in very poor English, none of them correctly addressed to a single recipient, all of them clearly a scam to the skeptical eye.

But this was the subject of a 20/20 episode a few weeks ago. Thousands of people have been taken in by these stupid scams.

Years ago, back before e-mail was the medium of choice, they used to fax these scams to businesses. One of my former employers wanted to follow-up a fax that he received, offering to cut him in on a percentage of the millions if he just lent his bank accounts to the transfer of large sums of money from a country (Nigeria, of course) that was currently sitting on the funds. He probably would have done it if I hadn't been loudly skeptical on the subject. I'd never heard of 419 scams then, I wish I could still say the same thing.

Clearly, the average American is far too gullible, or the scammers would have found another way to make a living; and the process will continue until Mugu Americans wise up.