The Lodge of Shingebiss

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thank you thank you thank you

I love getting these class action suit notices telling me that, like, I can get $3 off my next purchase a Ford truck. If I respond within 90 days. And use the credit within 6 months.

Some people rail at trial lawyers about this, pointing out that the asinine scrip dispensed in these settlements is of no use to anybody, and that the only people who win are the lawyers. THESE PEOPLE ARE WRONG!

I think that this is all just a vast conspiracy and that corporations have just come up with a clever way to distribute coupons. We all know that coupons work. They're a great gimmick. And what is the difference between the scrip you get from a class action lawsuit and a coupon? None!

People throwing away your junk mail? Ignoring your newspaper ads? Sending your spam to the bit bucket? Have no fear, that official communication from Judge Tapeworm of the Circuit Court for Turdhole County Ohio will get opened.

But doesn't this approach tarnish the company's reputation? No. Here's why:

1. People who think that all corporations are sinful and should be sued already think the company is evil and its reputation will not be further damaged in their minds. These simpletons make up 1/3 of the population.

2. People who think these lawsuits actually have some relation to justice will believe that the judgment or settlement expiates the company's sins. These naive fools account for another 1/3 of the population.

3. People who know this is all a scam and that the consumer is but a pawn in it, but perhaps disagree on whether lawyers or the corporations are the greater beneficiaries, will just laugh. This group accounts for the remaining 1/3 of the population.

So there you have it. Any company who would like to distribute coupons please send me an email and we will get the lawsuit going next week.

Oh, yeah, this whole thing arose from an email I received about a class action settlement in West v. Carfax, Inc., No. 04-CV-1898, for the silly details of which see . What do you get?

Class Members who remain in the settlement can claim a Voucher good for $20.00 off a vehicle inspection by a designated third party within six months of final approval of the settlement, a Voucher good for two free Carfax Vehicle History Reports from Carfax within one year of final approval of the settlement, a Voucher for one free Carfax Vehicle History Report from Carfax within two years of final approval of the settlement, or a Voucher for 50% off an unlimited number of Carfax Vehicle History Reports (for personal, not commercial use) over 30 consecutive days within three years of final approval of the settlement. The Court will also order Carfax to make certain changes in its disclosures and contracting process with customers.

I have no doubt at all that in long term Carfax will benefit mightily from this grave chastisement.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

PC is Good Stuff

PC is good stuff because it is an endless source of amusement.

On March 3 an Iranian student ran down nine people at UNC Chapel Hill with a rented jeep. He said that he did it to "spread the will of allah." See,2933,186946,00.html

This gives UNC the distinction of being the first American university to be the target of a terrorist attack.

UNC is also the university where chancellor James Moeser thought in 2002 that he was being very clever by forcing entering students to read passages from the Koran.

It would be interesting to speculate whether Moeser appreciates the irony in all this, but given that he is an organist (yup, that's right, an organist -- PhD. in Musicology -- ideal qualifications for a chancellor) I rather doubt it.

It gets worse. On March 27 students a UNC held a CANDLELIGHT VIGIL (gag me with a spoon) to promote healing or some such nonsense. See If Moeser had played "Pop Goes the Weasel" on an accordion it would have been the completest thing...

Climate Change is Good Stuff

I grew up in a place in Michigan that 14,000 years ago was under an icecap. For this reason, I do not think that climate change is unnatural. Nor do I think that it is "bad". It may have good or bad consequences for you, depending on what the change is, and where you are. Climate change is inevitable -- man has lived with it for a long time -- and it is foolish to think that man can maintain the climate in a state that prevailed at one fleeting interval of time. So let's just stop whining about it.

I look forward to seeing Al Gore's documentary on global warming, though it might be more convincing if it did not come from a man who went through his entire college career without taking a single class in mathematics or the physical sciences. As an alternative view I commend the following article from the Scientific American:

How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?; Scientific American Magazine; March 2005; by William F. Ruddiman

"The scientific consensus that human actions first began to have a warming effect on the earth's climate within the past century has become part of the public perception as well. With the advent of coal-burning factories and power plants, industrial societies began releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the air. Later, motor vehicles added to such emissions. In this scenario, those of us who have lived during the industrial era are responsible not only for the gas buildup in the atmosphere but also for at least part of the accompanying global warming trend. Now, though, it seems our ancient agrarian ancestors may have begun adding these gases to the atmosphere many millennia ago, thereby altering the earth's climate long before anyone thought.

"New evidence suggests that concentrations of CO2 started rising about 8,000 years ago, even though natural trends indicate they should have been dropping. Some 3,000 years later the same thing happened to methane, another heat-trapping gas. The consequences of these surprising rises have been profound. Without them, current temperatures in northern parts of North America and Europe would be cooler by three to four degrees Celsius--enough to make agriculture difficult. In addition, an incipient ice age--marked by the appearance of small ice caps--would probably have begun several thousand years ago in parts of northeastern Canada. Instead the earth's climate has remained relatively warm and stable in recent millennia."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Coal Mines Safer Under Bush

The NY Times moved instantly to blame the Sago mine disaster on President Bush, crying about the "Bush administration's cramming of important posts in the Department of the Interior with biased operatives from the coal, oil and gas industry..." See

Then a couple days later the Times discovered, no doubt to their dismay, and no doubt after being prompted by some blogger, that mining fatalaties have actually declined during the Bush presidency. See

This is true, as these numbers show very clearly

There is of course a problem with these numbers. It would never occur to the geniuses at the NY Times that the fatality rate per FTE or per hour worked is a much more revealing number than total fatalities, since the number of people involved in coal mining has changed very significantly over time. I mean, ask me if I am surprised that coal mining fatalaties are lower today than in 1910. Yet even when these numbers are consulted, the result does not change. See "Number and Rate of Coal Operator Mining Fatalities by Underground and Surface Work Locations by Year, 1995-2004"

For this chart in original context see . Note that the 2001 figures can be only partly attributed to Bush, since his administration began in that year, and that the 2005 figures, not shown on the chart, were lower than any prior year in history, as shown by

Not than the government can take much credit for any of this. Better mining technology and the desire of mine operators to avoid costly accidents has more to do with the improvements than anything the government is doing.

Still, in researching this I was frankly impressed by the highly intelligent safety advice offered by the MSHA. For an example see

And their operational planning seems pretty sound, too. See

Caesar Builds a Wall

Even though two-thirds of Americans think that a barrier on the Mexican border would be a good idea, my governor Janet Napolitano thinks otherwise.

“Show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder,” Napolitano said. This asinine remark was greeted with idiotic grins by our local broadcast media stooges, as if it were a coinage of the most profound genius.

Now, first of all, anyone who has seen Napolitano will agree that she won’t be climbing a five-foot ladder, let alone a fifty-one foot one. Even assuming she did manage to get to the top, say by being carried up there, how would she get down the other side? Rappel? Rope ladder? Climb down a piece of clothesline? I mean, the accordion wire on the top would snag her polyester blazer and leave her dangling up there while the buzzards nibbled on her plump carcass.

But seriously, we all know that walls work admirably to prevent the kind of low-level infiltration that occurs on the Mexican border.

An excellent example, foremost upon the minds of many, is the wall built by Julius Caesar to contain the Helvetians. “..a lacu Lemanno, qui in flumen Rhodanum influit, ad montem Juram, qui fines Sequanorum ab Helvetiis dividit, milia passuum decem novem, murum in altitudinem pedum sedecim, fossamque perducit. Eo opere perfecto, praesidia disponit, castella communit, quo facilius, si se invito transire conarentur, prohibere possit.”

This wall, sixteen feet high and nineteen miles long, with a ditch, and forts at convenient intervals, sufficed to keep the savage Swiss at bay. Eventually the Swiss made a deal with the Sequani and passed through their territory, had their asses promptly kicked by Caesar, and retired back to their fondue pots and goat-wives.

An even better example, of course, is Hadrian’s wall, which marked the northern frontier of Roman Britain and worked splendidly for hundreds of years, except when local commanders withdrew the garrison to promote their own bids for the emperorship – the late Roman equivalent of jockeying in the Iowa caucuses.

The unbroken line of barbed-wire entanglements constructed by Rodolfo Graziani on the Cyrenaican-Egyptian border also worked very well at its intended purpose.

I will not waste time on such commonly-known successful examples as The Great Wall, or the Israeli security fence on “the green line” that cut attacks by Samaria-based terrorists by 90%. Analogy to the Berlin Wall is idiotic, because it was constructed by East Germany to keep its own citizens from escaping; if Mexico constructed a wall to keep its own citizens prisoner, the analogy would be apt. Cripes, there are far too many successful walls to be discussed here. Check out the
LIST OF WALLS and the SEPARATION BARRIER articles at Wikipedia for more wall mania.

Interestingly, the Romans almost invariably constructed barriers, even if only symbolic, at places where no “natural” border such as a river or mountain range existed. This resulted as much from their obsession with order as from their desire for security.

So yes, walls are extremely effective at controlling low-level infiltration. Whether the benefits of such a barrier on the Mexican border will exceed the cost of the barrier’s construction is one that could be answered easily – if politicians and journalists would shut their stupid mouths and do a little analysis instead.