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The Morality of Buying Trash

From homedepot.com:

TerraCycle
Powerful Organic Plant Food Three Pack
Model 269212

A not-to-distant-future headline

The State of Texas Recognizes that Gay Marriage is "similar" to Heterosexual Marriage. Read more »


How to make (or rather get) money in Texas.

Step 1: Recognize a well known problem in the state and bring attention to it such as a massive number of frivolous malpractice lawsuits that are driving up healthcare costs and running doctors out of business.

Step 2: Propose a bill that addresses the problem but in no way solves it. You could call it tort reform that makes it more difficult to sue doctors. Read more »


How to Save Social Security... Indefinitely

I came across this quote in a paper copy of the Austin American Statesman today (here's the whole article): Read more »


What\'s missing in Iraq?

I found this story via Bureaucrash:

One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq’s defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country’s army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq’s Finance Minister, told The Independent.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

The carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support, Iraqi officials say, making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000- strong army from Iraq, as Washington says it wishes to do.

Most of the money was supposedly spent buying arms from Poland and Pakistan. The contracts were peculiar in four ways. According to Mr Allawi, they were awarded without bidding, and were signed with a Baghdad-based company, and not directly with the foreign supplier. The money was paid up front, and, surprisingly for Iraq, it was paid at great speed out of the ministry’s account with the Central Bank. Military equipment purchased in Poland included 28-year-old Soviet-made helicopters. The manufacturers said they should have been scrapped after 25 years of service. Armoured cars purchased by Iraq turned out to be so poorly made that even a bullet from an elderly AK-47 machine-gun could penetrate their armour. A shipment of the latest MP5 American machine-guns, at a cost of $3,500 (£1,900) each, consisted in reality of Egyptian copies worth only $200 a gun. Other armoured cars leaked so much oil that they had to be abandoned. A deal was struck to buy 7.62mm machine-gun bullets for 16 cents each, although they should have cost between 4 and 6 cents.

I wonder if this is actually true. The story was first published by a british newspaper - the independent. Given that I'm not familiar with the newpaper, and that the british press occasionally has a tendency to make stuff up or exaggerate just a little when they don't have anything better to do, I' not entirely sure if this story is real or not. However, it looks pretty real. Which brings me to my next question, this seems like a pretty major story, if it is real, how come I haven't heard or seen anything about it on new outlets in the U.S.? I think it would be naive to say that if CNN doesn't cover it it must not be happening, but on the other hand could a story that big have really fallen through the cracks?

I seem to recall quite a bit of fuss being made of the billion that Saddam made off with. Surely if there were merit to a story in which 1 billion dollars (or more) disappeared from under the noses of U.S. and Iraqi officials... surely we would have heard something by now, the story is over 3 weeks old... Actually according to the article its more like 8 months old but you get the idea.

Here's more from Bellaciao.org: Read more »


Racism in Sports - America Vs. Europe

If you think America has a problem with racism, try comparing us to continental Europe sometimes. They make American race issues look like friendly misunderstandings. Nearly a year ago there was a football (aka soccer) game in Madrid in which the British team, which consisted of several black team members, were playing against the spanish team, which consisted of all spaniards. Apparently racist badgering of black players is fairly common at these games. Read more »


The Funniest Thing I heard all Day

So I'm at the movie theater to see Serenity (and no I won't tell you who wins... :twisted: ), watching the previews when suddenly the announcer says "On a remote research station on mars the last 10 percent of the human genome has just been discovered ::dramatic pause:: and all hell breaks loose."

I don't think I have ever laughed that hard at a movie preview that wasn't meant to be a comedy. The preview was for the upcoming movie DOOM. At the end one of my friends says "no! why can't you just leave it as a video game," and the whole theater bust out laughing. Read more »


Capitalism Appreciation Day

I doubt there is an actual capitalism appreciation day, but as I sit here eating a slice of a large pepperoni pizza that only cost me $5.00 from Little Caesars, and drinking coke out of a shiny stainless steel coca-cola cup, I've been inspired to put in my two cents about how great it all is.

I've had a great day thus far today, thanks in no small part to the talent and industriousness of other people. I had fun at work today while making money at the same time, thanks to Home Depot (my employer), Microsoft - runs our computer system, Colorspot -brings us flowers to sell (I spent a while talking to the Colorspot guys today) and many many thousands of other companies that sell products through Home Depot. I couldn't even tell you how many people and companies are involved in keeping our lights on, our hardware running, and our products stocked and moving.

Next of course was Little Caesar's. I haven't had their pizza since I was about 14 (a good 10 years), and a new one just happened to open up not far from me. They don't deliver instead they offer carryout pizzas for $5.00 all the time. They keep them ready so you don't have to call in or wait long. We just showed up and got a hot pepperoni pizza fresh out of the oven and an order of crazy bread in 5 minutes for a grand total of $7.58. :cool: Read more »


The Phantom Menace - AKA Price Gouging

Rita has now passed us by, and the big joke of the day in Austin seems to be: "how did you weather this terrible storm?" Its a joke because we didn't get a drop of rain that can be attributed to Rita. In fact we've had fairly clear skies for the last few days. Meanwhile there are thousands of Houstonites/Houstonians/people from Houston here, many of which have little hope of getting home any time soon.

The run on gas, gas cans, and generators is one of the few outstanding reminders that yes a major storm just happened nearby (relatively speaking). The only difference is that now the people desperate for gas cans, and generators seem to be by-and-large people who really need them. All day I had people asking me if anyone had returned gas cans or generators - I work the returns desk at Home Depot. They were waiting for the people that didn't need these items to return them so they could buy them the minute they came in the door.

In fact I got multiple generators returned today, and one 15-gallon fuel tank - all of which were completely unused and unopened. They were all returned by people who overreacted - just a little - to the possibility of Austin catching the edge of a hurricane. Meanwhile the people who genuinely need gas cans and generators, because there is neither open gas stations nor power where they are going to, are combing every retail store in Austin and beyond for them. Read more »


Preparing for the Storm

According to which network you choose, Austin is now barely in range or barely out of range of the projected path of Rita. The general sentiment now seems to be that Rita will miss Austin, and that you don't want to be in Houston or Southwest Lousiana at this time tomorrow night.

Nevertheless that hasn't stopped consumers in Austin from acting like we are in the path of a storm, and that the apocalypse is looming. The Home Depot I work at has sold out of D-batteries, water both bottled and 5-gallon, generators, and propane. They were almost out of plywood, gas cans, and flashlights when I left work this evening.

However the craziness I thought my store was consumed by was nothing compared to what I encountered when venturing over to HEB (a local grocery store for those of you unfamiliar with the chain) at lunch. Not only was the store easily as busy as a Saturday on a weekday afternoon, but they were completely sold out of bread, flour tortillas (except for the low carb variety - apparently even the lingering threat of a serious storm can't clear those nasties out), and bottled water (and possibly other items those were the ones I happened to take note of). Read more »


Rita\'s Coming

Its only been a few weeks since Katrina sent thousands of refugees to texas and now it looks as if another category 5 huricane is headed straight towards us. Rita is expected to make landfall somewhere between Galveston, and Corpus Christi otherwise known as the coast of Texas. Austin is also in the projected path and forecasts currently predict it will be still a category 1 hurricane as it moves through central Texas. Read more »


And Now For Something Incredibly Importantly Serious

So I'm watching Fox's new Monday night line-up, and on comes the first episode of its much talked about/advertised new series, "Bones." Actually I had decided to Tivo it, being a fan of David Boreanaz (Angel from the Buffy/Angel universe), and also of crime-meets-science dramas. The show looked promising and I was told it got good reviews from T.V. Guide. It's about a talented (and strangely attractive) forensic anthropologist who teams up with an FBI agent (David Boreanaz) to solve crimes where the only real evidence to go on is human bones. Its kind of like CSI meets Cold Case with more attractive main characters (or so it appeared). To put it more simply it's Fox's stab at the forensic-fiction/CSI audience.

Here is their official rundown of the show:

Bones

From executive producers Barry Josephson (“Hide and Seek,” “Like Mike”) and Hart Hanson (“Joan of Arcadia,” “Judging Amy”) comes the darkly amusing drama BONES, inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs. Forensic anthropologist DR. TEMPERANCE BRENNAN (Emily Deschanel, “Boogeyman”), who works at the Jeffersonian Institution and writes novels as a sideline, has an uncanny ability to read clues left behind in a victim’s bones. Consequently, law enforcement calls her in to assist with murder investigations when the remains are so badly decomposed, burned or destroyed that the standard identification methods are useless. Brennan’s equally brilliant colleagues at the Jeffersonian’s Medico-Legal Lab include earthy and bawdy ANGELA MONTENEGRO (Michaela Conlin, “The D.A.”), who’s created a unique way to render an original crime scene in a three-dimensional computer image; Brennan’s assistant, ZACK ADDY (Eric Millegan), a young prodigy whose genius IQ actually gets in the way of his finishing the several doctorates he has begun; “the bug guy,” DR. JACK HODGINS (TJ Thyne, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”), who’s an expert on insects, spores and minerals, but conspiracy is his hobby; and Brennan’s boss, imposing lab director DR. DANIEL GOODMAN (Jonathan Adams, “American Dreams”). Brennan often finds herself teamed with Special Agent SEELEY BOOTH (David Boreanaz, “Angel”), a former Army sniper who mistrusts science and scientists when it comes to solving crimes. Brennan and Booth clash both professionally and personally, but so far the chemistry between them has only played out in a fictionalized account in Brennan’s latest mystery novel.

One of the premises of the story was that said FBI agent, Seeley Booth, regretted all those people he killed as a sniper and wanted to catch as many murderers as people he had killed... (does this sound familiar to anyone). Add to this the fact that the title character Dr. Temperance Brennan, happens to be exceptionally good at Karate because she was orphaned at 15 and had to learn to defend herself. As a result of this teenage trauma she has trouble connecting to people, and "letting people in" and consequently prefers to be around dead people ::cough:: ::cough..Buffy.. eh rrrmm:: instead of the living. Read more »


Should Looting be Legal?

In general the answer is no. But suppose you are sitting in New Orleans right now, your home has been destroyed and all the places that you might have normally gotten food (grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations) are all closed with no personel on hand to sell you food even if they had the means to do so. Read more »


The Million Dollar Question

As I believe I have mentioned here before I happen to work at Home Depot. One of the places I regularly get assigned to work is the return desk. When I first started working at returns it was a pretty easy job. You scan the receipt (presuming they have one) you scan the item, you glance in the box to make sure the item is there, you ask the customer if the item is damaged or not working correctly and then you process it accordingly. Now things have changed considerably, not because the process has changed (though it has changed in a few minor areas, it is still basically the same system), but because I have changed.

I've gone from wanting to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and believing that everyone was likely telling the truth when they showed up at returns with some bizarre reason for why they needed to return or exchange something to believing that "everybody lies." Every time I work returns I encounter at least one customer making up a story. Quite often they don't even need the story they just think it will help smooth the transaction if they stretch the truth a little. Read more »


Just Curious

If they invented the social security system yesterday, and had to sell the idea to the 18-50 year old demographic today how would they go about doing that...

That's right kids we're going to deduct a portion of every pay check to go towards funding your retirement. There won't be any correlation between how much you put in now and how much you will later be able to get out, and in fact we will use the current funds to pay people who never paid into the system, but who just didn't happen to bother saving for retirement. You don't want your grandparents starving do you? Read more »