Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rebuilding under the influence

Big Easy Bar Owners Bemoan 2 a.m. Curfew

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Under normal circumstances, parties in the rollicking French Quarter last well into the morning in bars that never close. Business owners have been eager to let the good times roll again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but they say a 2 a.m. curfew is putting a damper on their plans.

"They want us to rebuild the city but do it their way," said Jim Monaghan, owner of Molly's at the Market. He's among the many bar owners frustrated with the slow pace of recovery in New Orleans.

The French Quarter was largely spared by Hurricane Katrina, and many out-of-town disaster-relief crews - along with law officers, soldiers, reporters and even tourists - have been crowding its bars and restaurants, despite the midnight curfew decreed by the mayor Oct. 6.
Good to know that those out-and-about guys carrying nail guns, claw hammers, 9mm handguns, and military assault weapons have just come off an early morning jag.

Are the miniature clown cars in jeopardy too?

MEPs call for common EU circus policy
The European parliament is set to vote on a report calling for standardised rules for circuses performing across the continent.

MEPs suggest circuses should be referred to as part of Europe's cultural heritage, but they disagree on whether they should include presentation of animals or not…..

In a bid to avoid a debate - which would in any case be outside the scope of the education and culture parliamentary committee - its MEPs voted down all references to animal welfare.

However, the document still contains a clause, suggesting "it would be desirable for it to be recognised that the classical circus, including the presentation of animals, forms part of Europe's culture"….
These are the same fools who what to “share the responsibility of overseeing the Internet” with the United States.

(nod to: lgf & EU ROTA )

Friday, October 14, 2005

How can I see the forest with those trees blocking my view?

Reporter Tarron Lively opens District expands camera program
D.C. officials this weekend will expand their automated traffic-enforcement program, even though a record-low percentage of motorists are speeding through the District.

Two short paragraphs later, the apparently clueless Lively goes on to report:
During the 30-day warning period, more than 25,000 vehicles were caught speeding by the two radar cameras. The red-light camera caught 546 violators.

According to the most recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department, 3 percent of the 733,743 motorists monitored in the city were caught speeding in August -- the lowest percentage since the speed cameras were introduced in 2001.

And there has been a 56.9 percent reduction in red-light runners since those cameras were implemented in 1999, according to police statistics.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Judge, do that King Solomon thing

I’m referring to the disposition of the remains of Army Staff Sergeant Jason Hendrix, who was killed in Iraq on February 16th while serving his country.

Judge, it’s simple. Have the cadaver cut into two equal parts, have one half brought back to California for burial and have the other half put back into the ground in Oklahoma.

An appalling way to treat a fallen soldier, you say?

Yeah, well get a load of this

Miserly crooks

Ex-Chicago Foreman Sentenced in Scheme, got my attention.

Some checking turned up the Chicago Sun-Times’ Clout on Wheels series, an in-depth investigation into what the newspaper labels “The Scandal of Chicago’s Hired Truck Program.” If even half of what is alleged proves true, “scandal” is too tame a word.

There was, however, an outlandish undercurrent in the Sun-Times' reporting. The investigative reporters and editors had their shorts in a knot because:
Most firms in the City of Chicago's Hired Truck Program are breaking state law by paying their drivers less than the prevailing wage.

And that's OK with the Illinois Department of Labor.

In a highly unusual move, state labor officials have refused to enforce the law and make 134 companies in the program pay their drivers more as required by the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act.

The law sets minimum salaries for union and nonunion workers on government jobs, but state labor officials say enforcing the law might financially cripple many of the companies, including multimillion-dollar trucking firms.

In other words, the intrepid newspaper crew felt a city program oozing fraud and corruption was worse still because the crooked drivers weren’t being enough “to do nothing.”

And what wage should the scammers have been paid?
Currently, the prevailing wage for truck drivers is between $26.90 an hour and $28.05 an hour, and another $7.40 an hour for benefits, according to Teamsters Local 731.
That’s right, at least $34.30 per hour (or $67,228/yr for a 40-hour workweek with 3 weeks unpaid vacation) for a dump truck driver. That’s a bit of problem in a program where the city is only allowed to pay $29.31 per hour for a small dump truck with a driver.

Is the city’s $29.31 per hour unreasonable? Here’s one scenario, you be the judge:

Assume a legitimate trucking company’s hourly overhead is $11.00 (i.e., amortization of a $60,000 truck, liability insurance, truck maintenance, diesel fuel, back office operation, etc.) and that it strives to make $4.40/hr profit (or about 15% – with a 10-truck-fleet the company’s owner, who is taking all the risks, nets $92,000/yr). That leaves $13.91 per hour as pay for a driver (or about $30,000/yr). Is that a fair wage for a dump truck driver? Compare it to these market-driven starting salaries: $27,317 (teacher), $37,253 (nurse), $52,563 (chemical engineer).

So why the union labor slant? Here’s a clue.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dan, Dan. We’re over here

CBS’ Dan Rather threatened to take those fake but accurate memos to the New York Times then later, the night before his on-air apology, admitted he had his doubts all along.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances….

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Jaques, in Act 2, Scene VII of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
Rather turns 74 on the 31st of this month.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What would you do for $100,000?

How about terrifying young children with an “episode of The Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.”
The short film pulls no punches.

It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand in hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom-shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky.

The Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.
The cartoon was produced to raise $100,000 for The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The account director at the advertising agency producing the cartoon said the agency's original plans were toned down.
"We wanted something that was real war -- Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head, but [UNICEF] said no."
Good to see that the levelheaded bureaucrats prevailed; bloody stumps and headless cadavers are so off-putting.