Archive for January, 2010

Well Mr. Bell, it looks like your good friend Larry Langford left you a present.  Despite Larry’s claims that Birmingham had the money to pay for the many projects that he was proposing, it seems that Birmingham is now staring at a massive revenue shortfall for 2010.  Amazing, a one-cent tax hike does not give you an endless stream of revenue.  Who knew?

$50 Million Deficit Looms For Birmingham

That was awfully kind of Larry to leave such a large gift.  Always thinking of others that guy is.  Maybe that’s why he didn’t think to put over $20 million of necessities (you know, things like phone bills and utilities, unimportant stuff) into the original budget.  One can only think of so much you know.  And Larry had a lot on his mind.  Taking bribes and covering it up can take up a lot of one’s mental capacity.  But he was doing it all for the good of the city he loved (just didn’t love it enough to actually live in it)!

Obviously this is going to put the future of lot of projects, including the dome, in doubt (and please, let’s kill the committee looking into the Olympics NOW!).  But maybe that’s not necessary.  I have a plan!  In fact, it involves the man who helped get us into this mess!  Of course, that man is Larry Langford.  You see, this man has a gift.  It just so happens that he is the luckiest man alive (OK, lucky in gambling, not legal matters)!  Over the course of 3 years, Larry won more than 500 jackpots raking in more than $1.5 million dollars in earnings!  Sure, there is some jealous gambler that claims this was a fraud.  But a man of Larry’s character has to be believed, right?

So this is what we have to do.  First, we have to bust Larry out of jail.  It’s for the greater good.  Then we will have to give him a disguise.  If I have learned anything from Superman, it’s that removing his glasses should suffice.  Also, stay away from green glowing rocks and bald guys.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Next, we give him some money out of the city’s reserve.  We will then send him to Vegas, where he can win some real money!  It will be just like The Hangover, except everyone will still have all their teeth and will be wearing pants!  When you need money, you can just win it, certainly when you are as talented as Lucky Larry!  Larry should be able to win $50 million in no time.  Send that money back to Birmingham and, just like that, problem solved!

Brilliant, right?   Oh, and Birmingham, you’re welcome!

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Looks like Obama is going to bow to public pressure and move the 9/11 plotter trials out of New York City.  Something just doesn’t smell right about all this.  It just seems too much is being made about the security and logistics of these trials that for some reason is supposedly has to be far beyond the security and logistics provided for any other trial.  The cost estimate is $200 million a year?  That is just exorbitant.  I would love to hear exactly how that figure was calculated.  Generally speaking though they are talking about having to have car checkpoints, helicopter patrols, bomb-sniffing dogs, rooftop snipers, and otherwise treating the area around the courthouse as if it is a war zone.  This seems to me like a case of a) overestimating the capabilities of terrorists (i.e. on par with the Legion of Doom) and b) trying to achieve an unreasonable level of safety (i.e. 100.00000% safe).

Here’s the problem with moving the trials.  It is not like the planned site for these trials was the courthouse in Hazard County with Roscoe P. Coltrane in charge of security.  This is one of the most secure courthouses in the nation, if not the most secure.  Concerns for the trial at this courthouse would apply even more so at most other possible locations.  Cynically I think we are creating excuses not to have these guys tried in our criminal justice system, but rather to use the military tribunals (the use of which is dubious at best).

I just don’t like where this is going.

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The New York Times had an interesting article a couple of weeks ago.  You should go read it:

Meet Mikey, 8:  U.S. Has Him On Watch List

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.  Oh, and for you ultra-conservatives, go right ahead.  I won’t tell anyone that you read something in The New York Times.  It will be our little secret!

So you’re back?  Good!  Because I sure do have some thoughts on this one:

  • “A third grader at a parochial school in Clifton, N.J……” First, for goodness sake, you are frisking a third grader!  In what possible way could that be making us safer?  I mean maybe if the child was named Damien or Sadako, or maybe even Kevin McCallister (oh wait, that would be if we wanted to make planes safer for bungling home burglars!), I could understand.  But the kid is named Mikey.  And we all know that the biggest crime ever committed by a Mikey is being a picky about his cereals!
  • “His father, also named Michael Hicks, was stopped for the first time on the Bahamas trip.” Wait a minute, 8-year-old Michael Hicks gets harassed every time he tries to board a plane, but grownup Michael Hicks just now got stopped for the first time?  How the heck does this work again?  Is it because it is a lot easier to take a hard line against an 8 year old than it is against an adult?
  • “A spokesman for the T.S.A., James Fotenos, said that as a rule, “there are no children on the no-fly or selectee lists,”…..” Um, Mikey disagrees.  The problem with going by names is that while “only” 13,500 are on the “selectee” watch list, because many of us share the same name, in reality the number of people on the list is much larger.  (That’s not to mention the larger list that at least at one time included 1 million records!)
  • “Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,…………..Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.”, “Some travelers purposely misspell their own names when buying tickets, apparently enough to fool the system.” Wow, this system is secure!  Fortunately no terrorist will ever be able to figure out this complex workaround!  Unless they read this article!  Doh!!!!!  Why did you print this, The New York Times, why?!!!  It’s a terrorist blue print!  But it’s OK, because they are adding birth dates to the system.  I am sure the real terrorists will be completely honest about that.
  • “Mrs. Hicks recounted. “A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don’t catch him. But my 8-year-old can’t walk through security without being frisked.”” Good point.  Maybe if the watch list actually made things safer, it would make some sense to put up with some level of ridiculousness.  But when 8 year olds are being patted down, while grown adults with actual explosives are walking onto planes without being harassed at all (even though he used his real name that’s on the watch list and, you know, actually WAS the guy on the list), it makes one question the whole system.  It doesn’t stop the real people on this list.  You can trick the list simply by misspelling your own name.  In addition you have, considering we are frisking 8-year-old boys, the whole idea that the system obviously assumes you are guilty until you can prove your innocence, which is antithetical to our justice system.  Plus such activity sure does seem like it is a search without probable cause (does having the wrong name constitute probable cause?).

So is the “watch list” increasing our safety?  Or does it simply create the illusion of safety by making innocent folks jump through more hoops?

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Birmingham had a chance to vote some actual new blood in today. But they instead chose for more of the same, electing William Bell over Patrick Cooper.

http://blog.al.com/birmingham-elections/2010/01/william_bell_wins_runoff_elect.html

That’s a pretty solid vote for the status quo.  Oh well, the people have spoken.  At least the 41% of registered voters that could be bothered to show up.  Perfect weather and not even half the voters could show up?  And this is getting praised as a good turnout.  Pretty sad.

Reading Sunday’s paper, it actually appeared that Cooper’s education was actually hurting him.  Something that  is bothering me more and more is the idea that having an education is a negative for those seeking public office.  For black politicians, it is viewed as not being “black enough”.  For white politicians, it is viewed as being “elitist”.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize that education is not the only ingredient to effective leadership.  But it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as a drawback.  It’s not enough just to have “common sense”.  It is nice to also have, you know, actual knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Sorry Patrick, I so jinxed you with my “endorsement”.

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I just have to post this:

LOL!!!!!  I guess we know what Sarah’s ‘go-to answer’ is.  Watch it Glenn Beck!  She is going to accuse you of being one of them evil mainstream “gotcha” journalists!  You know, the kind that asks the hardball questions, like Katie Couric!

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I really have no idea what the quality of wireless service AT&T provides.  But what I can tell you is that my land line has “zero bars” right now, and has been that way since at least Tuesday!  When I discovered the problem, I promptly went to their website and followed their troubleshooting guidelines.  I tested the “Network Interface” box and found nothing was working over there either.  So I follow the instructions on the website, which asked me to fill out a online repair request.  But it tells me I need a special code.  So fine, I click to see where I find this special code.  And it tells me that somebody will kindly CALL me and provide me with the code.  Well obviously that can’t happen, that’s why I am trying to get the stupid code in the first place!

But there is a link to click if you have no dial tone, so I click that and it tells me I can either e-mail them or call the 800 number provided.  So hey, it’s 2010, I will just e-mail it in using the form.  I do all of this on Tuesday.  And then I wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  And probably show way more patience than I should.  Finally hearing absolutely nothing, and still having no phone service, I decide that perhaps I should choose option B, and call it in.  At least that way I would talk to somebody.  Or so I thought.  But no, I instead talk to Mr. PreRecording.  It uses voice recognition.  Oh what fun it is to try to guess what words Mr. PreRecording actually knows!  (I was at work at today, and was wondering if anyone would say anything as I was talking on the phone saying “no” and then frustratingly “NO!!!!!” when the stupid thing wouldn’t recognize what I was saying.  It was like having my tonsils pulled all over again.  But no one said anything.)

I get to the end finally, and Mr. PreRecording tells me that there is a problem with my phone (well, gee, thanks, sort of why I was calling but I am SO glad you agree Mr. PreRecording).  Then it tells me that I can expect the problem to be fixed on Wednesday.  Wednesday?  Are you kidding me?  This is what I am paying for?  Gee, I may know one reason people may be switching to Verizon, and it doesn’t have anything to do with maps!  The small piece of good news is that I least now when I visit the website, it does recognize that I have submitted a problem report.  Small victories I guess.

Sorry, just needed to rant, and I realized that I have a place to do it.  Oh, and Luke Wilson can bite me!

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As I am sure you have heard by now, the nation of Haiti has suffered from a horrible earthquake, with just a massive amount of damage and loss of life.  Complicating the situation is the fact that this nation is poor to begin with and simply doesn’t have the systems and infrastructure to handle such an emergency.  As many as 3 million may be homeless.  3 million!  They need as much help as they can get to deal with this.  Please consider giving a donation to one of the many great organizations that do have the capability of getting in there and helping.  Not many of us can personally make a trip to Haiti to help out, but we certainly can give financial support to those that can.  The link below is a website provide by Yahoo which has links to popular help organizations, as well as a search engine that will help you find another organization should those not be to your liking.

Now while we are on the subject, could we all agree that the next time there is a disaster somewhere, we just issue gag orders for certain people?  Pat Robertson is just a troll that can’t seem to help himself from saying something stupid following some disaster.  I know he seeks publicity, I just don’t know toward what end.  Surely saying the things he does is not helpful to his income, which I guess comes through speaking engagements.  But Pat Robertson saying something stupid after a disaster is almost expected.  I didn’t think we would see somebody try to outdo him in stupidity.

But Rush Limbaugh apparently wanted to step up to that plate.  Rush really had some gems today.  He said this disaster “will play right into Obama’s hands,” and this would bolster Obama’s credibility in the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country,” further adding that this is why Obama “couldn’t wait to get out there” to comment on this.  Then he goes on to say that “We’ve already donated to Haiti.  It’s called the U.S. income tax.”  He even threw out the old conservative talk show chestnut of ‘you can’t just keep throwing money at the problem’.  Wow!  Just wow!  That somebody could be that clueless is stunning.  That this same somebody is a multi-millionaire because he has a radio show listen to by millions is mind-boggling.  Then again, I used to be fan.  I cannot tell you why I was, but I certainly can tell you why I am not anymore.  He may not actually be the “Worst Person In the World”, but if you had a spectrum of people from best to worst, he would be way on the wrong side of that spectrum!

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