Can’t find ammo? Your flaky paranoid neighbors are buying it all!

We’ll be ready for the next wave of Iraqi invaders – which we’re training
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Gun shops across the country are reporting a run on ammunition, a phenomenon apparently driven by fear that the Obama administration will increase taxes on bullets or enact new gun-control measures.

In the last two months it’s gotten very, very difficult to find ammunition,” says Richard Taylor, manager of The Firing Line, a gun shop and shooting range in the Denver, Colorado, suburbs.

“There are a lot of rumors floating around that the present government would like to increase taxes on ammunition. I think [there is] just a lot of panicked buying going on…”

Two weeks ago, The Firing Line was forced to impose a four-box-per-customer limit on ammo. Before that, the shop was selling 10,000 rounds of 9 mm handgun ammunition a day…

Karl Roos, a physician, stopped by the range to do some shooting with his Smith and Wesson .357-caliber Magnum, using some rounds from his personal stock of ammo.

“I’m not too worried about things being banned or anything like that,” he says. But he notes that many of his fellow gun enthusiasts are scared: “There’s definitely a lot of fear…”

Responding to fear with guns and ammo is as American as baseball and apple pie. Politicians lead people around by the nose – with tales of what we should fear. The NRA recruits on the basis of fear. The Republicans are back to their early Bush mantra of fear – because they can’t think of any other way to get votes.

And, though we often joke about fundamentalist wingnuts providing shock troops for the neocon brigade – fact is, it’s only the fear-based flavor, the fire-and-brimstone nutballs, who wander far enough away from thoughtful Christianity to be seriously dangerous.

As a Democrat, Specter now leads in Pennsylvania

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Senator Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party appears to be paying off with the polls now showing him ahead in his 2010 re-election race in Pennsylvania.

Last week Specter, 79, abandoned the Republican Party to run for re-election as a Democrat, a move denounced by fellow Republicans but welcomed by the country’s top Democrat, President Barack Obama…

A Quinnipiac University poll found Specter would defeat a conservative Republican who is in the race, Pat Toomey, if the election were held today by 53 percent to 33 percent…

Specter can be expected to be supported in his race by Obama, who carried Pennsylvania decisively in defeating Republican presidential candidate John McCain last November.

I haven’t seen the raw data; so, I wonder if they took a Democrat primary into account? There is – after all – at least one Democrat Congressman who planned on contesting for Specter’s seat before the switch. Joe Sestak.

Time to fire corrupt Pentagon officials who are KBR flunkies?

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The Pentagon has done little to collect at least $100 million in overcharges paid in deals arranged by corrupt former officials of Kellogg Brown & Root, the defense contractor, even though the officials admitted much of the wrongdoing years ago, two senators have complained in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The letter also said that the Army had almost completely failed to move away from the monopolistic nature of the logistics contract that has paid the contractor, now called KBR, $31.3 billion for logistics operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan…

Their letter is likely to revive allegations that the Pentagon has become so close to KBR, and relies so heavily on it, that there is little inclination or incentive to discipline the company, in response to either Congress or critics outside the government.

In 2007 the Army split the logistics contract, known as Logcap, in a way that allowed several companies to compete for each new need. The Army did this partly to avoid relying solely on KBR, whose pricing practices, even when technically legal, have sometimes received criticism as exorbitant. But the Army has seldom used the newly competitive arrangement…

To the irritation of KBR’s critics, the Army has generally upheld the bills the company has submitted to the military, even when the Pentagon’s own auditors have questioned the amounts. But the argument that the Army was overcharged appears to be more clear-cut in the cases of several former KBR officials convicted of accepting bribes and kickbacks.

Of $306 million in tainted contracts, at least $100 million of the charges appeared to be unjustified, wrote the senators.

The standard we all ask for the banking and mortgage crooks should be applied to the Pentagon. Throw the crooks and corrupt out on the street.

It’s time to shut down offshore tax havens!


President Obama has presented a far-reaching set of proposals that are aimed at the tax benefits enjoyed by companies and wealthy individuals harboring cash in offshore accounts. His remarks echoed the sentiment he voiced again and again during the presidential campaign, when he pledged to crack down on “illegal overseas tax evasion.”

The proposed tax overhaul, which will be fully unveiled later this week when the White House presents a more detailed budget, could help raise $210 billion in revenues over 10 years, the administration estimates.

Here’s the outline of the plan.

While most Americans paid their fair share of taxes, Mr. Obama said, “there are others who are shirking theirs, and many are aided and abetted by a broken tax system.” Multinationals, he said, paid an average tax rate of just 2 percent on their foreign revenues. And some wealthy individuals hid their fortunes in foreign tax havens.

The president thus set up a frontal clash with big business over the tax advantages enjoyed by companies with extensive overseas operations…

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Court grants breast removal to Oz teenager


An Australian teenage girl has been given permission by a court to have both breasts surgically removed to more closely resemble a boy.

The 17-year-old, known as Alex in court and referred to as a boy, has a psychological condition that makes him unhappy with his gender. The Family Court in Melbourne said the removal of both breasts would help Alex to build a new life as a boy.

The decision has angered Catholic groups, who view it as irresponsible.

I didn’t know that Catholic groups were supposed to be considered relevant to ‘responsible”.

Alex has “gender identity dysphoria“, a psychological condition where a person believes they are the opposite sex, the Age newspaper reported…

Family Court chief justice Diana Bryant said Alex, who lives life as a male, was socially constrained by the breasts, avoided being hugged and wore binding at the beach.

“So it was quite an impediment to his social development, which everyone thought was very important,” Judge Bryant was quoted as saying by the Age. “Overwhelmingly, the evidence was that it was in his interests. And I made that order.

“I wanted to make it quickly so that he could have the operation straight away.”

OK, So, we’re talking about a statistically-unusual case. One where the health of the individual should be prime.

If there’s enough evidence to support a medical decision – tell the social agenda hypocrites to butt out!

Can a big-screen Kindle save your daily newspaper?

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The iPod stemmed losses in the music industry. The Kindle gave beleaguered book publishers a reason for optimism.

Now the recession-ravaged newspaper and magazine industries are hoping for their own knight in shining digital armor, in the form of portable reading devices with big screens…

Read on, dear friends. Let’s see if newspaper publishers can be as uncomprehending and foolish as, say, the RIAA and MPAA?

Such e-reading devices are due in the next year from a range of companies, including the News Corporation, the magazine publisher Hearst and Plastic Logic, a well-financed start-up company that expects to start making digital newspaper readers by the end of the year at a plant in Dresden, Germany.

But it is Amazon, maker of the Kindle, that appears to be first in line to try throwing an electronic life preserver to old-media companies. As early as this week, according to people briefed on the online retailer’s plans, Amazon will introduce a larger version of its Kindle wireless device tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks.

An Amazon spokesman would not comment, but some news organizations, including The New York Times, are expected to be involved in the introduction of the device, according to people briefed on the plans…

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Michelle Obama’s Mama is settling into the White House – Thank You

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Marian Robinson, President Obama’s mother-in-law, moved into the White House “kicking and screaming,” said her son, Craig Robinson. She had never lived outside of Chicago and was reluctant to leave her beloved bungalow, her friends and family, her weekly yoga class and her familiar routines.

But after three months in the Executive Mansion, Mrs. Robinson is unexpectedly and decidedly savoring her new life.

She entertains visitors from Chicago. She attends White House dinners and concerts hosted by her daughter, the first lady, Michelle Obama. She dines at local restaurants and delights in events at the Kennedy Center, where she often sits in the president’s box and chats with performers.

In fact, Mrs. Robinson, 71, is so busy these days that the Obamas hired a baby sitter to watch their two daughters one evening because the nation’s first grandmother had plans…

Mrs. Robinson still spends much of her time tending to the Obama girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. She shuttles them to and from school most days and accompanies them to some play dates, the first lady said. She attends class presentations, helps with homework and baby-sits when the president and first lady need extra help.

And with her plain-spoken, matter-of-fact manner, Mrs. Robinson helps keep the girls grounded amid the gilded trappings of their new lives.

But Mrs. Robinson has also managed to carve out her own space in the White House and to build a satisfying private life, according to Obama administration officials who know the family.

Insightful article – for me, revealing a bit more a where Michelle is coming from. A modern American family without the hangups that seem to afflict the ideology of politicians who try to piggyback on “the family” all the time.

Normalcy is such a pleasant alternative to what we’ve lived with for so many years. Read it through.

Home foreclosures sprout green pools – can West Nile be far behind?

In the arid Southwest, the backyard pool was the equivalent of the white picket fence: a sign the homeowners had achieved middle-class status. But as the foreclosure crisis emptied neighborhoods, the once-gleaming pools — caked with algae and infested with mosquitoes — became fetid reminders of all that was lost.

One afternoon in Las Vegas, Robert Cole approached a 3,215-square-foot house on Bracken Cliff Court, armed with his chief weapon against the mosquito scourge: a container of silvery fish. A “For Sale” sign advertised the pool and spa out back. You could smell them from the frontyard.

The deck area near the small pool was decorated with red rocks and outfitted with a blue basketball hoop. On the water’s surface, a slick of green algae inched toward a rubber duck.

Cole tossed four fish into the spa and six into the pool, and a few drops of water splashed him. “Ugh,” he grimaced. “I got that nasty stuff on me.”

Cole, 36, is an environmental health specialist with the Southern Nevada Health District. He and six others are charged with stopping the pools from becoming disease incubators. In recent years, as Sin City turned into Foreclosure City, the team has been swamped…

“As the economy went south, the number of green pools went north,” said Chris Conlan, supervising vector ecologist in San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health, which stages weekly helicopter flyovers to spot rancid pools.

California, Arizona and Florida also rely on Gambusia affinis, or mosquitofish. The inches-long creatures can survive for months in stagnant water, and to them a batch of larvae is a prime-rib buffet.

RTFA. My guess is folks who really didn’t qualify for the mortgages they eventually defaulted on – are also the same who leave the property damaged deliberately or at least conditions like these – a disaster waiting to happen over time.

Just think. We can reintroduce Yellow Fever and Malaria, give West Nile Virus a headstart for the summer.

Am I being too cynical?

Montezemolo confirms Fiat’s interest in taking over Opel

Luca di Montezemolo with some other car company in the gruppo Fiat
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Italian carmaker Fiat has confirmed for the first time that it is interested in a takeover of Opel – the German business of General Motors.

Fiat chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Opel would be an “ideal partner” and that a takeover was an “extraordinary opportunity“.

Har! Does he sound hungry enough?

Opel has said it needs 3.3bn euros (£2.9bn; $4.3bn) to get through the economic crisis, but the German government has encouraged it to find an investor. It has said it does not intend offering Opel a bailout, but that it would offer investors state support…

Group CEO Sergio Marchionne will meet the German economy and foreign ministers on Monday to assess the viability of a deal, Fiat said.

However Canadian car parts maker Magna International has also put forward what the German government has called a “rough concept for a commitment with Opel”.

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said that any investor would have to present a plan that kept Opel plants open in order to secure government support.

Opel has been under the thumb of GM for so many decades, I’m not confident they could be moved to offering an attractive line of cars with adequate quality.

UPDATE: According to the BBC, this morning, looks like Fiat might also be interesting in picking up the other GM bookend in Europe – Vauxhall. Does anyone in England still buy Vauxhalls?