Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No Delay in Acting (Sorry about that)

Tom Delay stepped down from his post as House Majority Leader as soon as the indictment was handed down.

And I hope that if he is guilty, that he will be found guilty and punished appropriately.

And since I'm not knowledgable about Texas campaign finance laws, that's all I have to say about that.

Posted by Rich
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Why Haven’t I Seen this Bumper Sticker?

OK, so now we find out that:

A) The murders, rapes and other assorted brutalities that Fox, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, the NYT, and the rest of the major media told us about in the aftermath of Katrina never really happened. It was all just vapor.


B) That reports of the violence, including stories of armed thugs shooting at aid helicopters, played into the delays in getting help to the people who needed it.

In short: The media lied and people died.

And for all the liberals who want to rush to defend the media with claims that "They were proceeding with the best information they had," and "They were doing the best they could under very difficult conditions," and "It was a mistake, not a lie," please remember how well you accepted those explanations during the WMD and Nigerian yellow cake coverage.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, will you attack the media with the same ferocity as you did the Bush administration? Or will you fall back on the old standby, partisan hypocrisy?

Like I need to even ask the question.

But don't feel too guilty. Those stories taught me something that up until now, I didn't want to believe. You see, I believed the accounts coming from New Orleans. And that means that if institutionalized racism exist within the mainstream media, but it's in me too.

I'm a bigot.

Because I know just how incompetent and biased the mainstream media can be. I've seen it time after time, in stories that I have some knowledge of, particularly in nuclear power related articles. And considering the national exposure given to some of the more recent journalistic embarrassments, like Dan Rather's entire career, I should have known to take the media reports with a grain of salt.

But I didn't; I bought into the crap they were putting out completely.

That's something I'm going to have to think about for awhile.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dear Coach Fulmer

I don't mean to be presumptuous; after all, you get paid millions of dollars to coach the UT football team while I get paid diddly squat to write these words. You've compiled a winning record that stands with the greatest coaches in the game, and you've done so with dignity and class. You've won the big games and the little ones, and most of the others in between, so it's hard for me to doubt you.

But I've been thinking, and I think that maybe, just maybe, you might want to reconsider your decision to make Eric "What the hell was he thinking" Ainge your starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

I'm sure Eric is a great kid with a lot of talent, and if he works very hard on his short passing game, he might become an SEC quarterback.

But he ain't quite ripe yet, and you've got an accomplished veteran quarterback in Rick Clausen who has done nothing for you but win games. You might remember that the heavy ring you wear on your hand came not from the kid with the best skills in the game, but from his backup, a kid who knew how to fight, how to lead a team, and ultimately, how to win a National Championship. You might remember another special backup, another 5th year player who stepped in when the starter went down and lead the Vols to glory in the 86 Sugar Bowl against the Hurricanes.

Great athletes are fairly common, but true leaders are very special and very rare; they don't come around all that often. Against all odds, you have been gifted with another one.

Don't screw it up and waste him. Rick Clausen is your starting quarterback. Get behind him and see just how far he will take you.

With a little luck, you might even get a couple more pieces of hardware to keep the first one company.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Basic Market Theory and Gas Prices: A Primer for Damn Near Everybody

OK, I've heard enough.

"Those damn oil companies are gouging us again!"

"Why should they be able to raise the price on gas they already have in their tanks?"

"It's not fair! They're just using the hurricanes to make more money, those greedy bastards!"

"There oughtta be a law!"

We've all heard it or said it ourselves, either after Katrina or before, during, and after Rita. Listening to the radio, I've heard DJs on two separate stations talking about how the "oil companies are gouging the consumers, period, end of discussion, and don't bother to give me any facts because it just might confuse me, and I'm not that big on math anyway."

Well, for those of you who aren't willfully avoiding reality, but still don't understand how a gas company can raise prices on gas they already have in their tanks without gouging, read on and I'll take you through it. And as a bonus, the only math you'll need is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and what the heck, for the DJs, I'll even give throw in the answers.

For now, let's take gas out of the equation since it has some unique properties that complicate things. We'll start our tour of pricing with a loaf of bread.

Now, the store owner, we'll call him Bob, decides he wants to sell bread to his customers so he goes to his supplier, Fred, who will sell him 10 loaves of bread a day for $1.00 a loaf on credit.

Now, Bob needs to price the bread so that he makes enough to get his $10 back, plus a small profit, so he prices the bread at $1.10 per loaf. (At this point, we're ignoring other costs, like payroll, maintenance, utilities, etc.) Once Bob sells the 10 loaves he bought, he makes $11.00. Counting the $10.00 he was in the hole for the initial purchase, he is now up $1.00.

Bob is happy, until he goes back to his supplier, who informs him that because of inflation, bread will now cost $1.10 per loaf. In order to restock, Bob will have to give Fred $11.00, leaving Bob once again $10.00 in the hole. He hasn't advanced his condition at all; he's still in debt the same amount as when he started.

This simple example demonstrates why a seller cannot price his goods based on what he paid, but on what he will have to pay to replace them. The former method leads to bankruptcy as you never earn enough to repay your initial debt.

Being a good business man, Bob realizes that he must pass the increased cost on to his customers, otherwise he will lose money and go out of business, so he adds 10 cents to the cost of bread, and sells 10 loaves at $1.20 each for a total of $12.00. Subtract the $10.00 he was in the hole, and Bob now has $2.00. He's made $1.00 each cycle.

When Bob goes back to Fred, he finds that prices are stable and he can still buy bread at $1.10 per loaf. He decides to buy 15 loaves this time to try and expand his business. He gives Fred $16.50 for 15 loaves and heads off to his shop. He keeps his prices the same and sells all 15 loaves for $18.00, yielding a record $3.50 profit on the transaction. Bob is well on his way to paying back the initial $10.00 investment and getting his business into the black. He achieved record profits not by raising his prices but by increasing the number of loaves of bread sold while maintaining the same profit margin. He's still making $1.00 for every 10 loaves of bread he sells.

This time around, Bob expands again and buys 20 loaves of bread at $1.10 each, costing him $22.00 and putting him $18.50 in the hole. Fred tells him that this is the maximum amount of credit he will grant. Bob isn't worried because if he sells it all at $1.20, he will wind up ahead $5.50, meaning the next 20 loaves will leave him down only $16.50, easily within his credit limit and still moving towrds a positive balance.

But as he opens, he hears that a drought in the farm belt has caused wheat prices to soar, meaning that the supplier's cost of a loaf of bread will double in the near term. Now Bob is in a very tough position. He knows that the next time he goes to Fred for bread, it's going to cost him at least $2.20 per loaf, or $44.00 for a full supply. Since he only expects to have $5.50 at current prices, he won't be able to fully restock without going over Fred's credit limit. In order to stay in business and keep serving his customers, he must raise the prices on the current stock of bread, which he paid $1.10 for, in order to be able to buy the next supply.

Bob raises his prices to $2.30 per loaf, sells them all, and makes $46.00 on the sales, netting $29.50 after paying off his credit line with Fred, truly a record profit. But, if he wants to stay in business, he has to buy more bread, and even if prices stay stable, he'll pay $44.00 for the next 20 loaves, putting him $14.50 in the hole yet again.

Now Bob is truly unhappy, because not only is he climbing out of debt very slowly, customers are complaining that he's price gouging, threatening lawsuits and demanding price controls on bread, even though his profit margin has stayed at $1.00 for every 10 loaves of bread sold.

So now, hopefully everyone understands how prices can go up even before the hurricane hits, or even when the gas is already purchased. Remember though, that this has been a very basic discussion and has left out about a zillion factors (If you want loads more detail, ask Uncle, he's the accountant in the family) that affect the actual margins, but it does illustrate the principles involved.

Posted by Rich
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An Apology

Sorry for the low(no) posting this week. I've been teaching a 40 hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response class for a group of people heading down to the gulf coast to help with the Katrina cleanup.

They took precedence over this blog.

But I will be back Monday, or sooner.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Helping Hand for DUcks and Other Idiots

I know, I know. It's hard to keep the faith these days, isn't it?.

I mean, there you were just drooling over all the ways you could use this tragedy to hurt Republicans in the elections and now things are recovering way to fast, aren't they? New Orleans Mayor "Potty Mouth" Nagin is reopening large portions of the city just 2 weeks after saying the city would be deserted for months. Electricity is back on over much of the city, and the flood waters are receding slowly but steadily. And worst of all for you, the vast majority of those 25,000 body bags are going empty, as casualties are now estimated to be somewhere around 700 for the entire Gulf Coast, and projected to total around 1000 after all is said and done.

It's almost enough to make a dedicated moonbat lose faith in Mother Nature, isn't it?

Well, fear not, my sociopathic friends, because I've got a way you can use this good news to still rail against Bush. (By the way, you do know he can't run again, right? Just checking.)

All you have to do is say in your snarkiest tone of voice, "You know what really scares me? Even Mother Nature at her worst, hitting a densely populated city built beneath sea level with the biggest storm in US history, couldn't murder as many innocent Americans as George W. Bush has in Iraq."

See, it's all in the angles.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We Can All Relax Now; All Is Well.

The problems are solved and now we can all rest securely in the knowledge that, if another disaster hits New Orleans, the response will be swift, sure, and effective, all because Mike Brown, head of FEMA, has resigned. In one swift move, we know longer have to worry about things like:
  • Mayor Ray "Potty Mouth" Nagin failing to follow his own evacuation plan by utilizing city and school busses to transport folks out of the city.
  • Governor Kathleen "CryBaby" Blanco failing to call out the National Guard and refusing assistence from other State Guard units, and the Red Cross.
  • Thugs breaking into gun stores, stealing every weapon they could get their hands on, then using them to shoot at helicopters bringing in aid, contractors trying to restore power, and anybody that seemed to be trying to help.
  • Cops walking off the job, turning in their badges, or worse, joining in with the looters, making sure they got their share of the spoils.
  • The local government refusing to allow food and water to be staged at the Superdome because they didn't want people there anyway.
  • The local government failing to call for an evacuation until about 20 hours before the storm hit.
  • The local government failing in fact to follow virtually any part of its emergency response plan

No, we don't have to worry about any of that anymore because Mike Brown has resigned. Forget about the fact that he had no input into any of these colossal blunders. Forget about the fact that FEMA is not designed as a primary response agency. Forget about the fact that this was the biggest natural disaster ever to occur in the US, totally decimating the infrastructure which a national response would require. Forget all of these facts, because we as a nation are not interested in facts anymore; we want somebody to blame and Mike Brown is taking the fall.

It turns my stomach to see America the Proud turn into "The CryBaby Nation" but that's where we are going. And don't think I'm just nailing the liberals on this one because the Republicans have been equally at fault. President Bush stood up and accepted responsibility for the fqilures of last week, a noble gesture that will help the Republicans in the next election and is completely counterproductive when trying to asses what really went wrong and how to correct it.

But we don't want that, do we? We want Daddy to say he'll fix it so we can get back to our lives and not have to worry things. Do you realize that virtually 99.9% of the blowhards pontificating about what went wrong here, or how we failed there haven't got the faintest clue about the logistics involved in a rescue operation this size? They're blissfully spouting off from a position of utter ignorance, which of course frees them to say pretty much whatever they damn well please. And so now we get mainstream editorials suggesting that the response in Florida last year was better because the President's brother is governor there. Never mind the fact that none of the storms were as big as Katrina, and more importantly, Florida sits above sea level. Never mind the fact that FEMA reacted somewhat slower in Florida, but nobody noticed because the state and local governments had a plan and actually followed it (Are you paying attention, Mayor Nagin?)

By the way, as an exercise for the class, compare and contrast the actions of Rudy Giuliani on 9/11 with those of Ray Nagin during his September calamity. That's the difference between a leader and a parasitic politician.

But you know what? It really doesn't matter anymore, not because Mike Brown resigned, but because of what that signals. The crybabies have won. We're going to let Daddy fix it for us. Of course, the tradeoff is that we'll be treated like children instead of free adults, but that's a small price to pay, right?

The Bush Administration has sent the message that they now consider disaster management primarily a Federal responsibility. Until last week, FEMA was a support agency, designed to come in and assist the local government in recovering from a disaster. After all the investigations and hearings that will take months and cost millions, the decision will be that FEMA will be the primary response agency, and state and local governments will provide assistance. That's right ladies and gentlemen, the lovely people who run your post office will now be in charge of responding to every disaster.

May God help us all.

When the cost of housing doubles because of new federal construction codes, thank the crybabies.

When your property taxes double to pay for federally mandated insurance, as well as the new layer of bureacrasy required to prepare for an manage emergencies, thank the crybabies.

When you can't build on your new property because some bureacrat in Washington has decided that average wind velocities in that vicinity indicate a possibility of tornado damage, thank the crybabies.

When you are evicted from your home because some faceless twerp in Washington declares that it is in a flood prone zone, making it non cost effective to protect, thank the crybabies.

When environmentalists get wise to the awesome new power of FEMA, and private ownership of cars becomes restricted because air pollution is "an emergency!", thank the crybabies.

Look, even if you think I'm going way off the deep end and you're expecting me to start ranting about black helicopters any minute now, surely you can see that the very mindset behind this basic change is terrible. What we are collectively sayig is that we are no longer capable of taking care of ourselves when things go wrong, and we have to have the federal government to come in and rescue us. Worse, we're saying we can't even take care of ourselves for a couple of days while the feds get their act together to come help us?

Have we really sunk that low? Are we children that need to be taken care of or are we adults capable of caring for ourselves, even, or better, especially when things get tough?

I don't know about y'all, but these crybabies don't speak for me. Taking care of myself and my family is my job, not some idiot in Washington's. If the shit hits the fan, and things really get rough, then sure, a helping hand is a great thing to have around, but we're not talking about that anymore. We're talking about a government that will tuck us into bed at night and turn on a nightlight to keep the boogie man away.

It's grotesque.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard was even more blunt.

"Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area," he said on CBS' "Early Show." "Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

OK, you're fired. So is the mayor who failed to order an evacuation, or provide bussing for those without transportation. SO is the governor for failing to mobilize the national guard in a timely matter, and for refusing help from other state guard units.

That should take care of most of the useless idiots.

Oh, wait, I forgot. Let's also fire the New Orleans police officers who ran away, or joined in the looting, instead of doing their jobs. And hey, while we're at it, why not fire the useless parasites in Congress who want to divert attention away from actually rescuing poeple to investigating why they needed rescuing in the first place. Shouldn't we wait until after the crisis is over and people are safe to start backstabbing and making political hay out of death, destruction, and suffering?

Or am I being hopelessly old fashioned?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What He Said

Insty linked this, and while I usually try to avoid the redudancy of duplicating an Instalink, I'm linking it too, simply because it's that good.

Get a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice because this one takes a while, but it's worth every minute it takes.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, September 05, 2005


The games had been played but the parties went on into the night. A rivalry that stretched back for decades was renewed as both the Crimson Tide of Alabama and the Volunteers of Tennessee won their home openers. Even though the two teams have yet to meet for this season’s contest, emotions are running high on both sides. Here in Nashville, there’s a large group of Tide supporters, an oddity attributable to the proximity of the Alabama border, hearing Rocky Top one damn time too many, the futility of being a Vanderbilt fan, and possibly some impurities in the air or the water leading to minor brain damage. Whatever the cause, these Alabama fans are among football's most militant partisans and living in Tennessee territory only makes them that much more fanatical. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the Southern religion of football, Alabama and Tennessee are huge rivals, both on the field and off. The rivalry is so intense that it has been known to end engagements when the wrong allegiance is discovered.

I was out with a small group of friends and family, all big Alabama fans, touring some of the clubs of downtown Nashville. (More about that later.) They’d been partying fairly hard (I was the D.D.) and as the night was winding down, we decided to grab some food, and headed to a nearby IHOP. We’d only been seated for a few minutes when two black Tennessee fans came in. Well, a few words were exchanged and a lively discussion, a few steps shy of a full blown riot, broke out. We did get very loud, but for the most part, it was all in fun and there were smiles all around as both camps supported their teams with tremendous enthusiasm and volume.

Except one man took things a little more seriously. Like most members of both groups, he’d been drinking steadily over the course of the day and night, and suddenly the alcohol began to do the thinking for him. He began to take real offense at the good natured ribbing each side was dishing out, and it began to look like we’d be eating our food on the fly, as it were. In the passing of a few seconds, he went from jovial, to combative, to a brooding sulk. We tried to get him out of his mood and back into the party, but he was too involved in nursing his grudge against the UT heckler to respond.

Tensions eased a bit when our food arrived and it seemed like the crisis was over, but then a new group of people came in from a third school and it all started up again. Once again, it got loud and raucous with several school fight songs filling the air, then my brooding companion stood up and went over to the table of Tennessee fans, and I was afraid a fight was about to begin.

Instead, he looked down at the loudest Tennessee fan and said in a booming voice, ”This is all bullshit! What about our friends and neighbors to the south? Let’s think about them for a minute instead of a stupid game!”

His message was picked up and echoed by others throughout the restaurant, and his Tennessee tormentor jumped up and shook his hand. He told us he was a preacher in his local church, taught Sunday school and wanted to know if we would pray with him for the victims of Katrina. And that’s how, at 3am in a Nashville IHOP, a group of Tennessee and Alabama fans, blacks and whites, joined together in prayer for the folks whose lives had been devastated by the tragedy. All thoughts of rivalries and partisanship evaporated as we all connected over the tragedy in Mississippi and New Orleans.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our political leaders could do the same?

Posted by Rich
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Friday, September 02, 2005

A Few Questions for the Monday Morning Quarterbacks

  • Do you have a "go bag" or "bug out kit?"

  • Do you have enough drinking water stowed away to last your family for a week?

  • Do you have an alternative source of power, batteries or a generator?

  • Do you have a battery powered or dynamo powered radio so you can get information?

  • Do you have several flashlights, all with good batteries and extra bulbs?

  • Do you have a basic first aid kit stocked and ready to go?

  • Do you have spare prescription eyeglasses?

  • Do you have a place to bug out to, in the event that you have to evacuate?

  • Do you routinely keep your car topped off with gas and serviced regularly?

  • Do you have a firearm and are you competent in its use?

If the answers to these questions are "No," you just might want to take a few moments to assess your own preparedness before blasting the federal government for their response to Katrina.

The federal government cannot ever meet the needs of everyone affected in a widescale disaster like this one. Any organization big enough to respond rapidly to a crisis of this magnitude would be exceptionally unweildy and inefficient, not to mention budget bustingly expensive, particualrly when tragedies of this scope only happen once in a lifetime.

The only way to be able to effectively respond to catastrophe is if every citizen, even those affected, are willing and able to do their part.

The Bug Out Kit
Let's start with the big out kit. The first and most important item is a place to go. Talk to friends, neighbors and relatives. Put together a list of places to go to, both locally and remote. Make sure they know that, in the event of an emergency, you are coming, because it's highly likely that you will not be able to get in touch with them after the deal goes down.

Next, pack the bug out kit with everything you might need for a 3-4 day trip. Travel conditions are likely to be horrendous, and what might usually take 3-4 hours may take as many days. Pack some extra seasonally appropriate clothing. (Yes, this means you'll have to re-pack your kit twice a year. Isn't your family's safety worth a couple of hours every six months?) Add several gallons of drinking water, at least one gallon per family member. Add non-perishable food items that need no preparation. Trail foods like beef jerky and trail mixes sealed in airtight containers will do just fine. The idea is not to pack food to live on, but to survive on. Presumably, your bugout destination will have a ready supply of food when you get there.

Next, add in all the items you may need to survive for 4-5 days on the road. Blankets, flashlights, pocket knives, portable radios, gas cans, a siphon, a first aid kit, any prescription medicines your family needs, matches, lighters, water purification pumps or tablets, books and/or games, and anything else you might need to survive 4-5 days on the road.

The kit should be sized to fit easily in the trunk of your car, and should be kept there. This prevents you from giving in to the temptation to raid items from it as you need them around the house.

The Car
Now that we've mentioned it, let's examine what we need to do to keep it ready. This is very simple and requires only two steps. First, keep it serviced. Change the oil, align the steering, rotat the tires, and so on. Performing routine maintenance will amke sure that when you most need your car, it will be there for you. Second, keep the tank full. When the shit hits the fan, there will be no gas, and you won't want to wait in the lines to get it, so keep it full.

Standing Your Ground
Either you're too stubborn to run (me), or you can't for some reason. What measures do you need to take to ensure your survival while the disaster runs its course? Well, let's start with the basic components of the bug out kit, and expand on them.

I live out in the sticks and get my water from a well. I've got alternative means to power my well pump to keep water flowing should the power go out for an extended period of time. Folks on city water don't have that luxery, so it would be a good idea for them to either install a water storage tank (50-100 gal.) or lay in a good supply of bottled water. Increase your food stores. You don't have to go nuts, but make sure you always have a pantry full of canned foods and other non-perishables. Have an alternate means of cooking. A coleman stove will run for a long time on a 20lb cylinder of propane. Samre goes for lighting. Kerosene lanterns and Coleman lanterns give off plenty of light and are cheap to run. Just make sure you have several cylinders of propane/kerosene.

Expand the medical kit to include anything you might need. Add suture needles and thread. Ask a vet friend for antibiotics to treat infections. Keep a good supply of aspirin, Tylenol or the pain reliever of your choice on hand. Children's chewables come in very handy as well. Keep several tubes of antibiotic ointments on hand as well. Get a good first aid handbook. Take a course in first aid and CPR. You may have to be your own doctor for awhile, so learn as much as you can.

Be Prepared
Get in shape. Learn to start a fire without matches. Take stock of your family and the skills you have. Decide which skills you would need to survive for a few weeks if necessary, and get family members to learn them. I can't tell you everything you need to know, because it depends a great deal on where you live, and the nature of the emergency.

Defend Yourself
This one will really piss off some folks. If you follow the advice given here, you will be better off than 99% of the people around you and they will hate you for it. We don't want to think that our friends and neighbors will turn oon us, and most times they won't, but your neighbors will surely take me out and mine will do the same for you. If you don't believe me, look at New Orleans and what's going down there. Some people will do anything when they're hungry; other need no justification, just opportunity. You will be a target, and unless you are prepared to defend yourself and your family, you will pay a steep price.

Buy a gun. Learn to shoot it. Buy another one. Keep one loaded and available at all times once the bottom drops out. Have one in your bug out kit. Have plenty of ammunition on hand for each of your guns. As for what guns to buy, on that, I'll defer to others with more expertise, as it will depend greatly on your situation.


Now, let's take stock of where you are. If disaster strikes, you are prepared. You have a way to evacuate, and if you decide to ride it out, you have food and water for a couple of weeks, enough to last until help arrives. You will have heat, and light, and hot meals. You will be able to defend yourself. In short, you are taking are of yourself to the best of your ability, while waiting for help to come from outside. You're not a victim; you're a survivor.

And all for the cost of a few hours planning and training, and a few hundred dollars in equipment and supplies.

It's a bargain at any price.

Posted by Rich
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