ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, April 28, 2006

St Louis Post-Dispatch - Champion of the Outsourcing of America

Saw this Op-Ed in today's St Louis Post-Dispatch:

Return of Sen. Smog
Friday, Apr. 28 2006

Three years ago, California announced new emissions standards for lawn mower
engines. For the first time, they were required to have catalytic converters
like those on cars.

The change would cut roughly 22 tons per day of smog-forming pollutants from
the Golden State's air. That's like taking 800,000 cars off California roads
every day.

What was, arguably, good news for California became bad news for Missouri.
Giant lawn mower engine-maker Briggs & Stratton, which has two Missouri plants,
complained that it could not meet the new standards without major retooling.
That would put 1,750 jobs here at risk, the company said.

Enter Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo. Mr. Bond, who sits on the powerful
Senate Appropriations Committee, inserted language into a spending bill in 2003
to delay California's air quality changes. In 2005, he reached a compromise to
prevent other states from adopting more stringent standards than those set by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Bond also got Congress to order a pair of studies on the wisdom of
California's new rules, and the alleged fire hazard posed by lawn mowers with
catalytic converters.

Those actions were, of course, a smokescreen. What really seemed to worry Mr.
Bond was that federal regulators might adopt California's new standards. After
all, smog isn't just a California problem. It's also an issue in Missouri,
especially in Kansas City and St. Louis, where smog and ozone are problems
almost every summer. With the introduction of newer, more fuel-efficient cars
and trucks, lawn mower engines are one of the few remaining unregulated sources
of smog-forming chemicals.

Briggs & Stratton argues that meeting the new standard would add at least 30
percent to the cost of a new lawn mower. The E.P.A. says catalytic converters
would add about $20 to $25 to the cost of a new mower. California officials
estimate it would add about 18 percent.

We appreciate -- and share -- Mr. Bond's genuine concern for the health of
Missouri employers. And we understand Briggs & Stratton's need to keep its
costs down in order to remain competitive at a time when overseas manufacturers
are threatening to eat their lunch.

But we have to take a broader view of this issue. The quality of the air we
breathe can't be taken for granted, especially in places where sunshine and
engine emissions combine to create unhealthy smog. It's government's role to
protect the health of the many, not to tailor legislation to protect the
profits of the few.

Well, I guess I'd better go buy a new lawn mower before this gets passed.

But, the Post-Dispatch is essentially advocating that Briggs & Stratton follow its competition and move their manufacturing jobs overseas - to hell with the 1700 jobs currently here in Missouri. Sure, the local company will likely keep many white collar management & engineering jobs here, but if they're looking at the prospect of having to retool their entire factory to meet the new requirement (as well as retraining their workforce), they will likely make the switch to manufacture their product overseas in order to stay competitive.

No doubt that when Briggs & Stratton do close their plant, the P-D will blame the greedy executives and won't recall this particular editorial.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Its never too late..... to solo

As most of you know, I'm a pilot and a member of AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). This just hit my inbox this morning as part of their regular newsletter. It just illustrates that its never too late.

Cliff Garl (AOPA 5271619) had always been interested in learning to fly, but he wouldn't get around to it until he was almost a century old. On April 24, the 91-year-old Seattle area resident soloed in a Cessna 172. "It went fine," he said. "Maybe it's a little unusual, but I'm enjoying it." Garl wanted to fly when he was younger but couldn't afford it once he got married. He also said his wife wasn't too keen on flying. After she died, he was looking for something to do to keep his mind working. He was experiencing shoulder pain from playing golf and was intrigued by a Be A Pilot ad offering an introductory flight. He began his training two years ago, having no intention of pursuing a pilot certificate, just wanting to fly around. Then he started to get the hang of it. The biggest challenge, however, was the medical certificate. He passed the exam, but the FAA was concerned about some prior health issues. Garl didn't give up on the paperwork process and eventually was granted a medical, but only for six weeks. That provided the window for the solo at Snohomish County (Paine Field) in Everett. Following test results and more paperwork, the FAA may extend the medical for a year. Garl now is thinking of pursuing a recreational or private pilot certificate.

Congratulations Cliff, welcome to the world of flight.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

It's Just a Plant

... Or A Day In the Life of a Hippie Parent

H/T to BitchPhD, who gives us this description of where she's sending her readers:

Since this is in at least some respects a parenting blog, I thought it appropriate to pass along this wonderful little pedagogical resource, to which I was alerted by regular prog-blog commenter Spyder. The astute observer will note in its pages at least one example of the clumsy yet perhaps arguably well-intentioned racial stereotyping by presumably white hippy liberals which is being discussed a couple threads down.

To what resource is she referring? Some great new way to introduce your child to your lover while on vacation away from your husband? No, although I bet she could write that book, judging from her experiences.

No, it's a book that introduces children to marijuana and encourages them to fight to legalize it. Here is a link to the kids book, which you just know I'm going to buy right now and share with my 4 year old. It's a great read...

Here is how the authors describe the book:
Despite our best efforts to criminalize, restrict and otherwise hide it in every way we can... children learn about marijuana.

In fact, from the schoolyard to the classroom, kids are flooded with information on it. Unfortunately, most "drug facts" are more frightening than educational, blaming pot for everything from homelessness to teenage pregnancy to international terrorism.

Many parents are not comfortable discussing marijuana use beyond "just saying no." Some have tried marijuana themselves. Others fear that any discussion of marijuana falling short of outright denouncement may be perceived by their kids as permission to try it on their own. In short, parents have few sources of information that puts the safety of their children above political argument and moral lessons.

We believe that a child's first awareness of drugs should come from a better source than the government, the media or drug manufacturers. It's Just a Plant is for parents who want to be involved in discussing and educating their children about the effects, the dangers and the benefits of marijuana.

And from the Frequently Asked Questions:

Why bother writing a book about marijuana for kids?

Some children are trying their first "hit" of marijuana at ten and eleven years old, and awareness of the plant begins even earlier for many (whether through its heavy presence in pop culture or by simply opening their parent's door during "bedtime"). We believe there is a way to safely educate children about drugs by satisfying their curiosity but without piquing their curiosity to try them.

Does It's Just a Plant advocate marijuana use for children?

No. It's Just a Plant explicitly addresses the potential harm of drug abuse and insists that marijuana is something not to be experimented with by children. As with books that teach children about sex, It's Just a Plant encourages parents to explore the topic and their children's questions about it, all the while reminding them that trying "pot" is an experience for responsible adults.

Why did you include information about the illegality of the plant in the book? Won't that scare and confuse children, especially if their parents use the drug?

Examining marijuana without mentioning that it is illegal is misinformative, and maybe even dangerous. Some schools encourage students to "rat out" their parents who smoke marijuana, and it is important to explain the necessity for privacy on the topic. While it can be quite difficult for a child to understand why their parents might engage in illegal activity, it is an issue that should be discussed in a fair context.

Now, while the book does say that smoking marijuana is "only for adults", it doesn't address the potential harm to children.

The main message of the entire book is captured in one of the final scenes:
That night, Jackie’s family ate a dinner of squash, tomato salad, bread and macaroni.

For a treat, Jackie’s mom added some of Farmer Bob’s strawberries to their dessert.

“When I grow up,” announced Jackie, “I am going to work to make all the laws fair.”

Enjoy the book.... the illustrations are just perfect. Provided to us by Ricardo Cort├ęs of the curiously named Magic Propaganda Mill.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Zarqawi - Beep Beep

Confederate Yankee has this nice analysis of Zarqawi's recent release (perhaps timed for the Tribeca Film Festival?)...

Up until this point, I'd make the argument that this video could have been shot just about anywhere, but the gun-truck footage throws that in doubt. If this is indeed a fixed-mount, it seems very unlikely that this vehicle has been anywhere near where coalition forces could have seen it. That would seem to indicate that this is either a recently-modified truck, or video was filmed in a very remote region where Zarqawi felt safe enough for an open display of weapons that are not easily hidden.

Perhaps this was not even filmed in Iraq.

And then we have this.. well, err, rocket. It appears to be homemade, and suspiciously close to the size of a paper towel roll. It was fired by a hand-lit fuse, just like every ACME rocket delivered to Wile E. Coyote. It did actually go off, but to what effect we may never know. The warhead on a rocket this small can't be much larger or much more lethal than a Cadbury egg.

The "shell fragments" would presumably melt in your mouth, not on your hands...

This larger rocket is also "ACME-fused," and is most likely unguided, but it would potentially present a downrange threat somewhere, though the rudimentary fins indicate that cold be just about anywhere on a 90-degree arc.

CNN tells us that Zarqawi is mocking the United States military in this propaganda film.

My response?

Beep, Beep.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Monday, April 24, 2006

Boys & Girls

Traveling again, and as usual, picked up a copy of USA Today. They had this interesting editorial, which discusses the difficulty that many colleges are having with male applicants.

As boys slip behind, some feminists reject helping them
Backlash recalls fight a generation ago over attempts to help girls in schools.

With its powerhouse basketball teams, famed chemistry department and high rankings in college surveys, the University of North Carolina shouldn't be lacking for qualified male applicants. But UNC's current freshman class is 60% female.

There's no mystery behind the gender imbalance. North Carolina's female applicants take tougher courses in high school, earn better grades and score just as high on the SAT college admission tests. So the girls get more spots.

That same phenomenon is playing out across the country. Just as educators are beginning to address it, however, an unhealthy backlash appears to be developing. Some feminists, concerned that what helps boys might hurt girls, are denying that a problem exists — ironically in the same reflexive way that some men repudiated attempts to help girls a generation ago.

Then, USA Today (as always) provides space for a dissenting opinion. Marcia Greenberger from the National Women's Law Center steps up to the plate and makes an idiot of herself:
Problems plague both sexes
Recent reports on male students' crisis in schools are overly simplistic, divisive.

By Marcia Greenberger

Recent media reports about the “boy crisis” explore an important issue, but their generally overly simplistic and divisive presentation does a disservice to boys, girls and all those who care about both quality and equality in education.

These reports lump all boys into a single category, girls in another. They make broad generalizations that don't hold up under scrutiny and ignore serious problems that plague both sexes. The truth is that not all boys are alike, and in important ways they are more different from each other than they are from girls as a whole. And they both need help.
Girls are still segregated into low-wage career training programs in high schools across the country. For example, girls make up 98% of students in cosmetology programs, training for a career with the prospect of earning $10 per hour on average. Boys are more than 90% of students studying to be electricians, a field with the prospect of average earnings of $20 per hour.

Marcia Greenberger is actually suprised that 98% of cosmetology students are girls?! And that boys make up 90% of electrician students!!


The fact that Marcia is able to write those sentences and think that they make a compelling argument for her position is just unbelievable.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bitte ein Bit

This article in the Wall Street Journal is interesting... at least to a guy that lived in Germany and grew fond of their many local breweries. It also shows that the folks at Anheuser-Busch were a little slow in figuring out there was going to be a problem with the World Cup this year. I would think that these guys are brighter than this, but perhaps the Bud in the drinking fountains is getting to them.

At World Cup, Bud
Shows Fancy Footwork
To Defuse a Brouhaha
Anheuser Lets German Fans
Drink a Local Brew;
Don't Call It 'Budweiser'
April 22, 2006; Page A1

Selling cold beer to hot, thirsty soccer fans in Germany should be easy. Not for Budweiser.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. has exclusive rights to sell and market its beer at soccer's World Cup, which will be held in cities around Germany for a month beginning June 9.

Being the official beer sponsor of the world's most-watched sporting event should give the company an ideal chance to promote its brand and to associate itself with the one thing Germans love almost as much as beer, soccer.

But the King of Beers has a king-size problem: Germans hate the beer and Anheuser-Busch can't even use the Budweiser name in Germany. In a country where brews are hand-crafted and richly flavored, many drinkers dismiss Bud as light, mass-produced and weak.

"We don't want Bud at our World Cup," says Johannes Schnitter, a 25-year-old student at the Freie Universit├Ąt in Berlin, who has set up an anti-Bud Web site, "I'm not anti-American. This is just the worst beer you could imagine."
Even the name Bud is out because one of Germany's most popular beers, Bitburger, is called Bit and German courts have ruled that "Bud" is too close to "Bit." As a result, the American company is forced to sell its beer in Germany under the awkward name Anheuser Busch Bud.

Anheuser-Busch has been a sponsor of the World Cup since 1986. And it didn't expect to find itself in this bind when it paid an estimated $80 million in 1998 for exclusive alcohol rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cup tournaments. Germany wasn't selected as host country until 2000.

Anheuser-Busch executives in St. Louis, Mo., realized they had a problem in late 2004.
German newspapers were reporting that beer fans were furious about the prospect of drinking the American brew at the tournament.

If Anheuser-Busch insisted on enforcing its exclusivity, it was clear it would annoy some Germans who wanted to drink German beer and generate bad publicity for the company. Executives decided it was more important to get the Bud brand in front of fans world-wide than to make Germans drink their beer.
So Anheuser officials undertook an unprecedented act of beer diplomacy. Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch vice president of global media and sports marketing and the executive who signed the World Cup sponsorship deal, flew to Bitburger's offices in the small town of Bitburg to discuss a deal.

He proposed letting Bitburger sell its beer along with Bud at the stadiums and at some promotional events. In return, the American company would gain the right to use the name Bud, instead of just Anheuser-Busch, on billboards along the fields -- and visible to viewers watching on TV at home.

Bitburger said yes. "For us, this is a way to make the brand Bitburger more popular," says Dietmar Henle, a spokesman for Bitburger Brauerei Th. Simon GmbH, the brewer.

"We could be bullies," Mr. Ponturo says. "But that's probably not smart."

Bitburger will probably out-sell A-B at the events. It's a quite tasty pilsner and while the same color as a Bud, it's much drier.

The fact that the A-B execs didn't realize they would have a problem for four years is disturbing. If I were the master brewer or a marketing guru for A-B, when Germany was announced as the site for the 2006 World Cup, I would've immediately begun brewing a new beer to launch at the event (or shortly beforehand), one that would be appreciated by the European fans and might increase my marketshare of the fragmented German beer market. Not just putting some stupid World Cup packaging on the same old Budweiser, which can't be called Budweiser and which doesn't have any success in the market.

But, hey.... I'm not a high paid marketing exec - what do I know? All I know is that if I were going to be at the World Cup and had the same choice, I'd be saying: Bitte ein Bit!

and I can't blame the Germans for doing the same.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler