Monday, March 31

Maritime Monday 104 Posted at gCaptain

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You can find Maritime Monday 54 from last year here. (Published 9 April 2007)

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Monday, March 24

Maritime Monday 103 Posted At gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 53 from last year here. (Published 2 April 2007)

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Saturday, March 22

Attempted Murder ="first- and second-degree robbery"

Democrat controlled Administrations are all big on keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Their excuse is that more guns will equal more crime. This excuse continues to be used (and accepted by Democrats) even though statistics show that more legally registered guns actually reduce crime.

But why is it that Democrat-hate for guns stop when it comes time to punishing those caught with illegal firearms? Last month I wrote about Cynthia Nixon who went into the building that houses Washington DC's Police Headquarters and tried to shoot a guard in an attempt to steal his gun. The only reason the guard is still alive is because her gun did not fire when she pulled the trigger. So far, she has only been charged with assault. Considered what she intended to do, that's a gift for her and an insult to the victim and the rest of us. No charge of attempted murder. No gun charges either even though she was in violation of DC's gun ban the moment she drove into the city from Virginia.

Now I find another similar story, this time in New York City, which has almost as draconian gun laws as Washington, DC. Again, the victim is able to tell the story only because the criminal's gun failed to fire.
March 21, 2008 -- A thug trying to steal a religious necklace off a man's neck in the East Village shoved a gun into the petrified victim's cheek and repeatedly pulled the trigger - but the gun kept jamming. - NY Post
So, what are the charges this time?
"I didn't hear any shots, and a burst of energy came in me," Nuñez said. "I started running. I looked back, and I saw him still trying to shoot, and the gun didn't go off."

The alleged gunman, Ashford Pyle, 18, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first- and second-degree robbery for the March 7 stickup. Pyle was being held at Rikers Island on $20,000 bail. - NY Post
Again, no attempted murder charge. Again, no gun charges have been filed. Since he is 18, there is no way that the gun was legally in his possession. Look at what a person faces if they want to buy a gun legally in New York City. He is simply too young to have completed the process.
I DIDN'T want to be Bernie Goetz. I just wanted a handgun. Legally. Something to keep at home. A move within Manhattan had taken me away from the comforts of doorman security (you know how it is). A little extra protection seemed prudent, 911 calls can take a while to answer, and Rudy isn't going to be mayor forever. Should be pretty straightforward, I thought. In my native Britain it would be impossible. But this is the United States, home of the Second Amendment, land of liberty.

Government knows its place. They do things differently in America.

But then there's New York City, a place where the old constitutional certainties have been replaced by the rules of the NYPD, License Division. If you believe that this is a local problem, a Big Apple nightmare that could never apply to you, think again. A dozen states already insist on handgun permits. Citing as always "the children," it is clear that Candidates Gore and Bradley want to expand on this at the federal level. The Brady Act was not enough. There's earnest talk of licensing, registration, additional checks to which, allegedly, only the unreasonable could object.

But the unreasonable have a point. New York City's licensing system has turned a right into a privilege. Like all privileges, it's enjoyed only by the few. There may be more than 7 million people in the five boroughs, but only 40,000 have valid handgun permits. Licensing isn't the thin end. It is the wedge. If you want to find out what that modest-sounding licensing requirement can mean in the hands of a bureaucracy that doesn't want you to have a handgun, come here, to the City. - National Review - Commented at FFI 24 Aug 07
Go read the whole story. The process is punishment for those who have committed no crime other than a desire to take advantage of one of their rights supposedly protected by the Constitution. There is no reason why a person needs to spend more time going through the process to obtain his handgun legally than people get time in jail for having an illegal handgun. You might wonder why Democrats are so willing to go soft on these people. I think it is because these criminals do the most havoc in poor neighborhoods, which are the Democrat's voter base, which help keep the neighborhoods poor. If the criminal elements are removed, than these people might have an opportunity for better lives and as a result might leave the Democrat Party. So it makes you wonder what is a more dangerous weapon. A gun or a politician.

The Supreme Court is now looking at DC's Gun ban. Hopefully when they rule, the ruling will require DC, New York City and other oppressive gun jurisdictions to loosen their regulations to permit law-abiding citizens a chance at gun-ownership.


Tuesday, March 18

IOC: We support China's Oppressive Regime, So Should You

So as Tibet burns, the international Olympic Committee is all of a sudden worried that this might effect their upcoming party this summer when the Olympics are hosted in Communist China.
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (AP) - International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge poured cold water Saturday on calls for a boycott of the Summer Games in Beijing over China's crackdown in Tibet, saying it would only hurt athletes.

"We believe that the boycott doesn't solve anything," Rogge told reporters on this Caribbean island. "On the contrary, it is penalizing innocent athletes and it is stopping the organization from something that definitely is worthwhile organizing." - BreitBart

Surely the flare up in Tibet is not the only reason to boycott the China elections. How about these other major issues:
  • China's illegal claim to and isolation of independent Taiwan
  • China's active defense of Government-backed genocide in the Sudan
  • China's vital support of North Korea's Communist regime
  • China's repression of human rights at home
  • China's restrictions on freedom of the press
  • And of course, China's Brutal occupation of Tibet
It is interesting that they would push the 'but think about the athletes who will suffer under a boycott.' angle. This was something they should have spent a little more time thinking about before awarding the Olympics to a country with such a poor record on a number of human rights fronts. The International Olympic Committee is just as guilty as China for putting the athletes in this position.

Now, most people have no control or influence in this situation. I am limited to blogging about the issue. It is not like I can declare that I am boycotting the Games as protest against China's actions as listed above, since I had never planned to go in the first place. However, the athletes are invited to attend and for most competing in the Olympics is a life-long dream. China would be facing a public affairs disaster if athletes started saying that they will not go. So at least they have some power, especially those who are already famous. If too many refuse to attend, then that will place a cloud over the Games long after they are over. This is how I remember the 1980 Games, which was boycotted by the US and others in protest of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. (Note: The Soviet Union Boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as revenge. However, looking at what has been going on over the last two days, I can't see how the Chinese are going to avoid having the games be marred by what has already happened in Tibet.

There is another issue at play here. China has a very long history. For them, time has a different meaning for them than everyone else. They are willing to let things drag out what seems to be forever for the rest of us, because at the end of the day, China has been around for thousands of years. A decade is nothing for negotiating if they can wiggle a little better deal out of it at the end. (China's accession negotiation to the WTO took almost 15 and a half years, which is a record.) However, they are quickly running out of this time luxury when it comes to pushing off pressure to deal with these issues as the Olympics are a one-time shot to make their impression on the World and they are coming with a fixed date on the calendar. With that in mind, now is a perfect time to push China to make concessions in many areas, or at least take advantage of their current position.

The Chinese wanted to host the Olympics for propaganda purposes. None of us should forget that. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is already headed down this path, calling for the US to recognize Taiwan, because China will do nothing about it. At least not before the Olympics, and after that, it will probably be too late. At the same time, they should be pushed on all the other issues listed above. Surely, these are not new tactics for China, just that they would be on the receiving end for once. The athletes need to understand that they are going to be China's 'tools' if they attend, so by not boycotting the Olympics, they in effect can be seen to be supporting China's regime.

China needs to realize that it has bigger problems, like sustainable growth and keeping it's export markets secure in order to keep the millions of Chinese at work. Turning Tibet into a real disaster will have negative implications for the whole country long after the Olympics. After all, killing monks is not an Olympic sport.

Not to forget, China is not the first country to use the Olympics for political gain. Hitler's Germany did.


The coming Olympic Games have now assumed in Germany an almost fantastic importance. Incongruous as it may seem, the key to German national policy at the moment is simply a determination to make the Berlin Olympiad a striking success.

The Nazi regime expects the Olympic Games to achieve nothing less than a complete about-face in the world's attitude toward the Third Reich. Publicity specialists in the Propaganda Ministry and the man in the street are united in the conviction that the Olympics will turn the trick and create the friendly attitude toward the National Socialist political, economic and racial aims that is so earnestly desired. - New York Times, 1936
We all know how well that turned out.

Update: 18 March 08
Seems that the voices are growing louder for some sort of protest:

PARIS (AP) - Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony.

Such a protest by world leaders would be a huge slap in the face for China's Communist leadership.

France's outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea "is interesting. - My Way News

This is probably just the first step before acceptance of a full boycott.


Taiwan is an independent Nation - 21 April 05
Let Taiwan Join the UN - 22 July 07
Bolton - US Should Recognize Taiwan - China Will Do Nothing - 28 Aug 07


Monday, March 17

Maritime Monday 102 Posted at gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 52 from last year here. (Published 26 March 2007)

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gCaptain editions: 99 - 100 - 101 - 102 - 103 - 104 - 105


Friday, March 14

UN Demands That US Poor Be Returned To New Orleans Slums

The UN's Human Rights Council is both an International Joke as well as a huge Embarrassment for anyone who has any sense of hope that it is the UN that will lead the world into some sort of futuristic 'Modern Society'.
This week, two Council "experts" -- an American lawyer and an Indian architect -- accused the Department of Housing and Urban Development of denying the "internationally recognized human rights" of New Orleans residents whose former homes in public housing complexes are scheduled for demolition. The demolitions, say the experts, "could effectively deny thousands of African-American residents their right to return to housing from which they were displaced by the hurricane." - WSJ
Of course, the Council has no problem with whole villages being burned to the ground in the Darfur region of Sudan. Prison camps in North Korea. Nor did they have problems with Cuba, Russia, China and whoever else you could group with them. The story also notes that the Council was silent when Zimbabwe bulldozed down the slums in their capital in 2005 leaving hundreds of thousands homeless to this day. So where do they come up with this idiotic idea that displaced people on welfare have to be returned to the same homes they had prior to the hurricane, which by the way just happened to be located in an area prone to flooding. This housing was provided by the Government on their terms. It is perfectly reasonable for the Government to make other arrangements when it is no longer possible to continue under the old arrangement. This is what people not on welfare have had to do after Katrina.

Of course, the only way that this would be some sort of human rights crime would be if the Government forced these people to return to public housing. This is what happens in other countries, where the poor are intentionally segregated or isolated. The US Government has not done that, instead offering to transport people all over the country for a chance at a fresh start. While I guess it is too early to do a study, I bet over time it will turn out that the New Orleans flood will have had an overall beneficial effect on the poor, mainly for getting them out of their high crime and unemployment areas to other areas of the country where it is easier to be self-sufficient. Until moving, the only life they knew was in these 'bad' neighborhoods. This makes them a victim of their own experiences. If your window has always had bars on them, they why would you think that it is normal for most of the country to not have bars on your windows.

Unfortunately for some, this means giving up the benefits that they have been taking advantage of. Take this recently famous long-time recipient of public housing, Sharon Jasper. She is one who has been complaining at the 'crappy' assistance she has been getting, but for some reason failed to think that it would be a bad idea to be photographed next to her huge widescreen TV. Wow! That's nice. I wish I had one. At least I can agree with her that it's a real bitch to have to pay for everything each month, including having to leave security deposits. Saving money for expenses does take a little self-responsibility to save up the the required funds. But the rest of us already know that.

This lady even has the nerve to call her home a slum. If anything, the place is way too small for the huge TV she has. It is also interesting to note that she has an apartment full of things. There is no mention if she lost her belongings in the flood or not, but for a person on welfare, she sure has acquired lots of stuff. If she was really needy of cash, she can sell some of her things.

I wonder, just what her public assistance housing looked like before. I bet it was nowhere near as nice. Fighting to get what was probably a slum back probably keeps her busy during the day.

Unfortunately, this is not all her fault. It is the Government that set up a system where a person could go and collect welfare their entire life. Of course people are going to abuse it.

One more thing. Until the rest of the world is sitting in apartments like this, enjoying movies on their large TVs, The UN should just shut up about 'human rights' in the US. Hell, I wonder how many of the Council Member has widescreen TVs?

The world would be a much better place if the third world got anywhere near the support that the poor in the US receive. Take this historical perspective:

In the Soviet Union in 1989 there was rationing of meat and sugar. The average intake of red meat for a Soviet citizen was half of what it had been for a subject of the Czar in 1913. Blacks in apartheid South Africa owned more cars per capita. The only area of consumption in which the Soviets excelled was the ingestion of hard liquor. Two-thirds of the households had no hot water, and a third had no running water at all. According to the government paper, Izvestia, a typical working class family of four was forced to live for 8 years in a single 8x8 foot room, before marginally better accommodation became available. The housing shortage was so acute that at all times 17% of Soviet families had to be physically separated for want of adequate space. A third of the hospitals had no running water and the bribery of doctors and nurses to get decent medical attention and even amenities like blankets in Soviet hospitals was not only common, but routine. Only 15 percent of Soviet youth were able to attend institutions of higher learning compared to 34 percent in the U.S. The average welfare mother in the United States received more income in a month, than the average Soviet worker could earn in a year. - Wikipedia (More Soviet Crimes listed here)

Sadly, things haven't gotten much better for most Russians, other than having much better access to more housing. Not that any UN Council is going to be concerned about it.

Your U.N. at Work -- III - WSJ

Welfare queen decries New Orleans public housing - Snopes


Thursday, March 13

Mercedes Benz Tearing Through Paris

A while back I posted a dramatic video of a car racing up Pikes Peak.

Now I have this video of a car racing through Paris streets, blowing red lights and just being reckless in general.
C'était un rendez-vous (It Was an Appointment) is a short film made in 1976 by Claude Lelouch, showing an eight-minute drive through Paris at 5:30 AM.

Shot in a single take while Lelouch was directing another film, it is an example of cinéma-vérité. The length of the film was limited by the short capacity of the reel, and filmed from a gyro-stabilised camera mounted on the bumper of a Mercedes-Benz. - Wikipedia



Link: ferrari in paris

The guy was lucky he didn't kill anyone. Then again, that was of course what he was counting on.

Racing up Pikes Peak - Video - 9 Feb 06


Wednesday, March 12

I bought a HandGun this Week

I have been living outside of Washington, DC's gun ban for about two years now. Buying a gun has always been in the back of my mind, however it was only after learning that there was a gun range only 15 minutes away at the National Rifle Association Headquarters that finally got me to go and buy one.

So last Saturday, I took a ride to the less urban parts of Northern Virginia to a gun dealer and was promptly told that they didn't have the model that I was looking for. I was shown a couple similar models and after trying them, I decided to order the specific model that I had initially wanted. They checked and I was told that there are none around to order. On the bright side, they informed me that I was welcome to have one shipped to them if I managed to find one. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. I have ordered lots of things on the internet, but never a handgun. My query to the manufacturer, Springfield-Armory, was replied to with an apology in that the model would probably not be available again for another six months. But, they encouraged me to try to find a dealer that still had some in stock. I finally did find one in Florida, and purchased it on the phone. I also made arrangements to get it shipped to Virginia. All the work involved was in finding a dealer that had this in stock. Once I did, the whole transaction took less than ten minutes. The gun shipped today and I should be able to get it transferred to me by Saturday. No permit required, just a quick background check.

This is what I purchased:
I went with the classic Model 1911-A1.

The M1911 is a single-action, semiautomatic handgun chambered for the .45 ACPcartridge. It was designed by John M. Browning, and was the standard-issue side arm for the United States armed forces from 1911 to 1985, and is still carried by some U.S. forces. It was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War. Its formal designation as of 1940 was Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911 for the original Model of 1911 or Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911A1 for the M1911A1, adopted in 1924. The designation changed to Pistol, Caliber .45, Automatic, M1911A1 in the Vietnam era. In total, the United States procured around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols during its service life. and the

The M1911 is the most well-known of John Browning's designs to use the short recoil principle in its basic design. Besides the pistol being widely copied itself, this operating system rose to become the pre-eminent type of the 20th century and of nearly all modern pistols. - Wikipedia

Updates as I get back into shooting. I was nationally ranked one year. I was sixth from the bottom, but that was good news as the rest of the team proclaimed: "Holy sh*t! There were actually five people who shot worse than you!" Of course, it's all relative. They were very good competitors and I was filling in for someone who couldn't go.


Monday, March 10

Maritime Monday 101 Posted at gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 51 from last year here. (Published 19 March 2007)

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As linked below or click on the label ‘MaritimeMonday’.
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gCaptain editions: 99 - 100 - 101

Saturday, March 8

Michigan and Florida Never Wanted Their Votes 'Counted'

There is talk of letting Democrats in Florida and Michigan vote again, because their first votes didn't count as they were against party rules.

Before they go down this road, everyone needs to re-think the reasons why Florida and Michigan violated Democrat (and Republican) Party Primary voting Rules. These two states wanted to give momentum to a candidate that would eventually win each party's nomination. News coverage of the winner would influence the votes that followed in their wake. In the end, their 'votes' would not need to be counted because the winner would have handily clenched victory. Kind of like what John McCain has done on the Republican side.

They would have gotten away with their plot if it were not for the DNC actually punishing them for breaking party voting rules. The candidates at the time had also agreed to not campaign in the two states.

At the end of the day, the votes in the two states did not amount to much of anything. However, that is not our problem. Their intent was to make a repeat of 2004, where John Kerry had an early win, and that was all it took to power him to party victory. Despite not being officially counted, their votes did influence this primary season. There was lots of press coverage and Hillary thanked the voters of these two states, counting them as victories for her.

This was never about delegates. This was about power and influence over voters in other States, damn the rules. The real enemy here is the two states Committees who played this game.

These same people are now demanding a do-over and hold a re-vote. That really shows utter and complete contempt for the whole election process. So, your plan to anoint a winner doesn't work, no problem. Just hold another vote and choose from the finalists. If they are the last two 'big states' to vote, their results will be the ones setting the 'momentum' at the convention. Do they deserve this recognition and influence now?

Lets say they do this. All those who voted in Florida for Edwards, Kucinich or whoever now get to change their vote. No one in the other states will get that opportunity. Any way you slice it, they are giving these states the opportunity to vote twice. How unfair is that? Hell, I bet even Rudy would like a do-over.

How to get around this problem? How about re-voting in all the states, on the same day. Of course, to be fair to both remaining candidates, they should be able to keep the delegates that they already won. The re-vote will assign a second set. All except for Florida and Michigan, which would be electing their first. See, everybody wins this way.

This mess has had the side-benefit of showing once again what a snake Hillary Clinton is. She refused to remove her name from the Michigan ballot after agreeing not to campaign there, winning by default. She campaigned in Florida after agreeing not to do so. She is using the excuse that the two states delegates must be seated for the people’s voices to be heard. That reasoning is sound, in a box, but these two states decided that the voices of the people in the others states did not matter. And for that very reason, they should not be permitted to do any more damage.

* * *

Man Attacks CIA HQ with Snowplow

I am somewhat surprised that this story didn't get more press than it did, given that any maniac that attempts to climb the White House fence gets national press coverage.
A man drove a pickup with a snowplow into a gate at CIA headquarters in McLean and threatened to detonate a bomb before being taken into custody by shotgun-carrying CIA officers, according to court documents and law enforcement officials.

Antoine Lowery, 30, of the District appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria yesterday on a felony charge of making a bomb threat in the Feb. 22 incident. A judge ordered him detained pending a hearing Wednesday. - Washington Post
It gets stranger:
An affidavit said Lowery's speeding white Chevrolet pickup left the George Washington Memorial Parkway onto Dolley Madison Boulevard about 1:55 p.m. and crashed into the gate, causing the metal barrier to swing open. "Due to concerns for the safety of CIA personnel and my own safety," wrote CIA police officer Robert Ellis, "I grabbed a shotgun, aimed the weapon at the driver . . . and gave him strong verbal commands to turn the vehicle off and exit the car."

Lowery left the truck and made a series of threats, including "the truck is going to blow up" and "I have a bomb," Ellis wrote. Lowery also counted down from five several times as if waiting for an explosion, the court papers said. As it turned out, there was no bomb, and the scene was declared safe after the CIA closed the ramps to the parkway. - Washington Post
This guy is lucky to be alive. There was probably any number of ways that this incident would have ended with officials shooting him dead. This is a great credit to the professionalism of those who work protecting the CIA office. One thing I find very strange is that after all this, he was let go and was free a full two weeks until being arrested again on 6 March.

Why would they release him? At least he was ordered held at his court hearing.
At Thursday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Poretz ordered Lowery held pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Lowery requested the appointment of a public defender.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. - DC Examiner
Mini Protest at the CIA Sunday Morning - 15 Oct 06
Terrorist-Rights Protesters at the CIA - 30 June 07

Friday, March 7

Norway and UK Pay Nuke Money as Russia Threatens West

This is amusing on all sorts of levels.

Not only did the UK have to pay to clean up nuclear material spread all over London by a Kremlin assassin, they also have to pay to clean up Russian nuclear mess back home, at the same time that Russia is threatening the West with a new cold war:

Norway and the United Kingdom will again combine funding and expertise to dismantle an aging Russian nuclear submarine under the aegis of the Global Threat Reduction Plan, Britain’s Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks announced in a statement Wednesday. Charles Digges, 26/02-2008 The cooperation represents the first time the two countries teamed on a nuclear dismantlement project in Russia since the somewhat acrimonious dissolution of Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) of which the UK, Norway, the United States and Russia. - Bellona

For starters, there is no reason why Russia can't pay to do this themselves. They either don't feel like it, or won't because they know that the 'West' will take care of it for them. Considering the large number of inadequately funded nuclear waste sites in Russia, not to mention the large number of derelict submarines awaiting a similar fate.

Now the event above can be looked at as two activities. First is the removal of the nuclear fuel and then dismantling of the ship and securing of the radioactive metal scrap. Looking at all the radioactive sites in Russia, they might as well just beach these suckers someplace like a bunch of empty beer cans. I was going to say that the money could be better used to clean up worse radioactive sites in Russia, like Andreyeva Bay. However, it seems that Russia have been 'gifted' even more millions for dealing with that mess.

Norway is to provide $2.4 million (58 million roubles) for the overhaul of the notorious Andreyeva Bay nuclear waste storage facility in northern Russia, a spokesman for the Murmansk Region governor said on Thursday, RIA Novosti reported. - Bellona

But it seems like the Germans put in some real cash for this deal:

Germany has signed a €300m deal to help Russia safely store floating submarine reactor compartments located in the Kola Peninsula's Sayda Bay, where approximately 50 irradiated hulls—some still loaded with their spent nuclear fuel—bob, rust and sometimes sink at dockside while the navy awaits a safer storage solution.

The German-Russian deal, equal to $354m, is aimed at cleaning up the ever more crowded and contaminated Sayda Bay and providing, over the course of the next six years, an temporary onshore reactor compartment storage facility that will safely hold its current 50 radioactive reactor compartments—plus approximately 30 more compartments that the German and Russian governments expect will be shipped to Sayda within the next ten years as the Northern Fleet retires more submarines. - Bellona, 10/14/2003

The first four reactor compartments in storage at the storage facility - 2006

Transport of the dismantled reactor compartment on the floating dock - 2006

At least, it appears that much good work is being done. My problem is who is paying for it. Because it seems that Russia is getting a free pass for creating this mess, and by not forcing them to clean it up it produces no disincentive for them to do it again. So while Russia is going back to its old habits of being an international nuisance and having fun, we are the ones paying to clean up their old radioactive messes. How convenient is that! After all, it is hard to build up national pride by doing things like environmental cleanup. That would require telling the population what a disaster your country is. Instead, let the Europeans, Japanese and Americans take care of the messy work.

For example, remember the sinking of the submarine KURSK? Despite it being such a tragedy in Russia and President Putin claiming that all would be done, guess who paid to raise and then dismantle the submarine? You did.

Of course, one could say that Russia is incapable of building such a modern facility as pictured above and they need the West to clean up their own backyard because they are incompetent in this field just as they have no competence in the safe handling of nuclear materials. (Which is how we got here in the first place.) This is probably true to some degree, since social issues never seemed to have been a priority of the Soviet Union and they just never built up the technical competence to do these things. Too bad you can't clean up nuclear waste with propaganda.

Keep in mind that the money mentioned above is in addition to the $10 Billion that was already pledged for cleaning up Russia's nuclear mess.

Here is a parting thought:

It is estimated that approximately 20% of the world's nuclear reactors are located in the Murmansk region. - BMWi

Fishing in contaminated waters - Russians Just don't get it...

* * *

Norway and UK to share £3.9 million burden of dismantling Russian November class sub - Bellona
Germany signs off on 300m Euros to clean up Sayda Bay (Saida Bay) - Bellona

Russia's Seriously Disturbing Ticking Nuclear Time Bomb - 10 June 07
US Assistance to Russia (2006) $949.3 Million - 15 Aug 07
US Assistance to Russia Funding Iranian Nukes - 21 Feb 07

Thursday, March 6

"Requiring banks to produce the paperwork at a foreclosure hearing is a nuisance"

Imagine, it takes a melting housing bubble to find out that all the paperwork you were forced to go through was just an exercise to keep you busy. Funny how now the owners of these loans are complaining that they can't deal with it. Maybe they should not have shoved it in front of their customer to sign:

Requiring banks to produce the paperwork at a foreclosure hearing is a nuisance, said Jeffrey Naimon, a partner in the Washington office of Buckley Kolar LLP.

``It's a gigantic waste of time,'' Naimon said. ``The mortgage may have transferred five, six, eight times. It's possible that you don't have all the pieces of paper, but it was enough to convince the next guy in the chain. There's no true controversy over whether the owner owns the loan.''

Judges are becoming increasingly impatient with plaintiffs who produce no more proof of ownership than a lost-note affidavit or a copy of the note, said Michael Doan, an attorney at Doan Law Firm LLP in Carlsbad, California. - Bloomberg

I can understand his position, but only when the party that is foreclosing is the bank that originated the loan. After all, all the paperwork will have their name on it. But, if the loan has been sold of many times, I would expect that they be able to document all the sales of the loan. That is normally done by the seller signing the mortgage note over to the buyer, but it seems that this is yet another area of the housing industry that just tried to collect as much money as possible while the market was good.

Each time the mortgages change hands, the sellers are required to sign over the mortgage notes to the buyers. In the rush to originate more loans during the U.S. mortgage boom, from 2003 to 2006, that assignment of ownership wasn't always properly completed, said Alan White, assistant professor at Valparaiso University School of Law in Valparaiso, Indiana.

``Loans were mass produced and short cuts were taken,'' White said. ``A lot of the paperwork is done in the name of the original lender and a lot of the original lenders aren't around anymore.'' - Bloomberg

I find this pretty unbelievable. There is already talk about blaming mortgage brokers for approving loans for anyone 'with a heartbeat'. Well seems that they were just one of many careless operators in the industry.

I wonder if any loans were sold more than once. I also wonder how hard it would be for people to now foreclose on properties that they don't own, by filing a fraudulent lost-note affidavit. I am aware that there is an electronic tracking system for mortgage notes, but that is not what is being referenced in court. It is the paper work that is.

This is pretty crazy. Really, if you bought stock, would you accept a copy of the stock certificate? I see if this was something limited to isolated cases, but the story states that this is a pretty widespread problem. Unbelievable. But imagine if you were one of these lucky homeowners, you no longer have to make payments on your house, and the 'owners' of your loan are unable to kick you out. Lots of people are going to go from being very distressed owners to very big winners in getting what is essentially a free house. Sure, they might never be able to sell it because they lack a clear title, but nothing says you can't strip the place clean if you ever decide to move out after living rent free for months if not a year or two. Or better yet, just rent the place out.

I wonder, can a local government foreclose on the property if they can't clearly identify who owns it? Would clearing up matters with the taxman be the path to getting a clean title?

Banks Lose to Deadbeat Homeowners as Loans Sold in Bonds Vanish - Bloomberg


Wednesday, March 5

Being Less Poor - Avoiding 'Convenience Fees'

I recently received a notice that my apartment complex now accepts credit card payments through a site called

My first impression was that this is great!

Then I found out that it was going to cost me $44.95 for the 'convenience'.

Strange too was that the fee was the same regardless of paying by credit card or by direct bank account transfer. Usually, bank transfers are treated differently than credit card payments, mostly in recognition that there is no processing fee for the bank transfer.

Now before you go blaming this company, they do offer a no fee plan. Whether you have to pay a fee or not depends on the type of deal your apartment complex makes with the website to process payments. Seems that where I live, they were perfectly happy to have me bear the full cost of using this service. It would have been nice if they mentioned that in the notice. It would have saved me the trouble of looking into it.

Still, nice idea. Needs some work though, especially if all the rental places decide to put the fee burden on the renters. The company will get a negative reputation as a gouger with fees like that. Really, why is the fee so high? What, $5 was not enough? Sure some people will get cash back, and they were selling that benefit to paying with a credit card, but in my case, a 2% cash back still would have cost me over $15 to take advantage of the service. There is not much benefit in that.

So yesterday, I did what I do every month, I dropped my check into the slot at the bottom of my stairs. Only this time, I had the satisfaction in knowing that I just 'saved' $45.

Does your complex also use this service? What are they charging you, if anything?


Tuesday, March 4

'Free Trade' is Not Ohio's Problem

It seems that the Democrat's think that NAFTA is a problem, especially for the State of Ohio:

Sen. Clinton denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) as "flawed" and blamed it for closing factories in Ohio and upstate New York. Sen. Obama claimed that "if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements." Both pledged to withdraw the U.S. from Nafta if Canada and Mexico refuse to add "enforceable" labor and environmental standards. - WSJ
Sounds bad right? Surely, NAFTA must be retooled to help Ohio. Or should it:
Ohio workers would pay a heavy price for pulling out of Nafta. Canada and Mexico are the top two markets for exports from Ohio, accounting for more than half of the state's exports in 2006. According to the Ohio Department of Development, 283,500 workers in the state earn their living in the export sector, with machinery, car parts, aircraft engines and optical/medical equipment among the leading exports. A trade showdown would put those good-paying jobs at risk. - WSJ
One thing that has not come up while Senators Obama and Clinton have been blaming Ohio's problems on NAFTA, is that perhaps, that Ohio's problem are more the result of poor State Governance. You see, if NAFTA is such a bad deal, then why isn't the whole country suffering? Why is Ohio ranked so poorly?
Since 1970, Ohio's share of the nation's personal income has declined from roughly 5.3% to under 3.8% today. In the first quarter of 2005, Ohio had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the U.S. at 6.2% versus the overall unemployment rate of 5.3%. Meager Ohio employment growth of 0.3% through the first quarter placed the state third-to-last nationally, far behind the U.S. overall rate of 1.7%. With falling relative incomes, high unemployment and poor job growth, it is no wonder that people are voting against Ohio with their feet. State-to-state migration shows Ohio losing residents, while total population growth of 0.2% ranks it a dismal 47th in the nation. - Opinion Journal, July 2005
If the NAFTA critics are right, then perhaps the Agreement should have been called the:
F Ohio Treaty of North America.
For a moment, let's say that NAFTA is the reason why OHIO is suffering. One could also say that NAFTA is just as much benefiting many other states. It would be crazy to trash a treaty that the country as a whole is benefiting from because some people lost their jobs in the process. Chances are, many more jobs were created elsewhere to more than compensate for the ones lost. If the treaty is changed, any jobs that do return to the US most likely won't end up in Ohio. They will instead go to a more business-friendly state as they are going to already.
Let's start with the fact that Texas's growth puts the lie to the myth that free trade costs American jobs. Anti-Nafta rhetoric doesn't play well in El Paso, San Antonio and Houston, which have become gateway cities for commerce with Latin America and have flourished since the North American Free Trade Agreement passed Congress in 1993. Mr. Obama's claim of one million lost jobs due to trade deals is laughable in Texas, the state most affected by Nafta. Texas has gained 36,000 manufacturing jobs since 2004 and has ranked as the nation's top exporting state for six years in a row. Its $168 billion of exports in 2007 translate into tens of thousands of jobs.

Ohio, Indiana and Michigan are losing auto jobs, but many of these "runaway plants" are not fleeing to China, Mexico or India. They've moved to more business-friendly U.S. states, including Texas. GM recently announced plans for a new plant to build hybrid cars. Guess where? Near Dallas. In 2006 the Lone Star State exported $5.5 billion of cars and trucks to Mexico and $2.4 billion worth to Canada. - WSJ
Of course while doing little to improve Ohio's employment situation, changing NAFTA will probably greatly increase unemployment in Mexico. That will probably increase the problem of illegal aliens trying to get into the US. (See my post "Mexico and the US Governments are the Immigration Problem") After all, every Mexican that is working in a factory in Mexico is one that it not trying to walk across the border into the US.

As for those jobs created in Mexico, who is to say that they all came from the US. How many of those jobs ended up in Mexico because of NAFTA instead of ending up in China? Take Volkswagon. They manufacture the New Beetle in Mexico and have been manufacturing Beetles there long before NAFTA came around. As for the jobs that came from the US, how many of those would have just gone to China instead if it were not for NAFTA? There is nothing to say that if Clinton or Obama get to 'fix' NAFTA that the jobs no longer needed in Mexico, will just move someplace other than the US.

And speaking of moving, if you have no job, how about moving out of Ohio. No, this is not to belittle the situation, but acknowledgment that there are lots of jobs out there, just not in Ohio. I currently live in Virginia. Do I want to live down here? Not really. I refuse to buy a house because I don't know when I'll just come home and decide to move because I can't stand it here any longer. But until that happens, here I live, a transplant from New York, along with many other transplants from across the country. That is called mobility of the workforce. Maybe Ohio's workforce is not as mobile as other parts of the country. Hopefully, that will change, as they have already learned, jobs can be very mobile.

Of course, if Ohio was for sure going to go for a Republican in the General election, the BS about telling our trade partners to F-Off by the Democrats would not be so great. As it is, you can bet that this will blow up in their faces before November.

Spend Less, Grow More - A cure for bad tax policy in the Buckeye State. - OpinionJournal