Give 85,000,000,000 To The American People!

October 5, 2008

The Misanthropic Mailbag recently received a message forwarded from a relative suggesting that rather than having the U.S. Government engage in the 85 billion dollar (yes, $85,000,000,000.00) AIG bailout, it should distribute the money to the adult American citizenry.  The text of the message follows:

“Subject:  BailOutPlan

Now here’s a bail out plan that will really work!

I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in “We Deserve It Dividend”.
To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+.

Our population is about 301,000,000 ± counting every man, woman and child.
So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up.
So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00.
My plan is to give $425,000 to every citizen, 18+ as a “We Deserve It Dividend”.

Of course, it would NOT be tax free.

So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%.
Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes.
That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.
But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket.
A husband and wife has $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?
Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads.
Put away money for college – it’ll be there.
Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car – create jobs.
Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves.

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who
lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting
back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.
If we’re going to re-distribute wealth let’s really do it…instead of
trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( “vote buy” ) economic incentive that is
being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult US Citizen 18+!

As for AIG – liquidate it.
Sell off its parts.
Let American General go back to being American General.
Sell off the real estate.
Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.

Here’s my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn’t.

Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work.”

But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!

How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion “We
Deserve It Dividend” more than the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC .
And remember, this plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because
$25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

There will not be any more foreclosures, or bankruptcies. Credit card debt will disappear and when the cash hits the street the taxable new business will likely pay off the remaining $59.500,000,000 because the money will be re-spent many times.

Merry Christmas!”

Admittedly, when the Misanthrope read this message the first time, eyes glazed over and the money was mentally spent several times over.  It didn’t take long, though to realize that something did not add up.

A quick trip to the old Google calculator confirmed that 85 billion divided by 200 million equals only $425 per person (click here to see for yourself:  85,000,000,000 divided by 200,000,000 equals 425.)

This also doesn’t take into account the fact that the U.S. Government is not giving AIG 85 billion dollars, it’s a loan authorization to loan up to 85 billion dollars and that guarantees the government (ie. the U.S. taxpayer) 79.9 percent of the company.  The terms of the deal stipulate that the company has to pay an interest rate of about 12 percent (8.5 percent over the 90 day LIBOR – as of today that’s just over 12.5 percent:  LIBOR definition; Current LIBOR rates).

It’s fair to say that very few Americans would be willing to sell the U.S. government 80% of their profit making ability for a loan of $425 accruing interest at a rate of 12.5 percent.  In this light, despite the fact that the Misanthrope is a rabid believer in the free market, it seems that the government has made a wise move this time.

Misanthropic Me Store Now Open

October 4, 2008

Tough economic times have forced Misanthropic Me to open a new online store.

Follow the link to www.cafepress.com/misanthropicme and show the world what you really think.

The selection of goods is limited for the time being, but includes a variety of Misanthropic wear as well as VPILF apparel.

When Will Modern Wonders Cease?

September 15, 2008

Modern wonders will cease
when modern man ceases to wonder.

-Me

Passive Millimeter Wave Scanning and Privacy

September 12, 2008

I went through Denver International Airport during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

I was not especially surprised when I came across this small sign (about 8 1/2 x 11 inches or A4 sized paper – click to enlarge):

All individuals are subject to screening beyond this point
Transportation Security Administration
Security Screening Notice
All individuals are subject to screening beyond this point

The sign was in a public area of the airport, and I thought it was reasonable to expect to be screened while in the airport.  What I never expected was what I saw next (again, click to enlarge):

Passive millimeter wave scanner in a public area of Denver International Airport

Passive millimeter wave scanner in a public area of Denver International Airport

Now, note a few things –

1.  This station is about 50m from the first sign.  According to the Wikipedia page on millimeter wave scanners, “[…] Farran Technologies, a manufacturer of one model of the millimeter wave scanner, the technology exists to extend the search area to as far as 50 meters beyond the scanning area which would allow security workers to scan a large number of people without their awareness that they are being scanned.” (note that the quote lacks any citation)

2. The sign describing what the device is has been placed immediately beside the scanner.  By the time you figure out what it is, you’ve already been strip searched.

3.  Notice that the people operating the scanner are sitting right beside it, in apparent contravention of TSA guidelines.  This Transportation Security Administration page states that “For additional privacy, the officer viewing the image is in a separate room and will never see the passenger and the officer attending to the passenger will never see the image. The officers have 2-way radios to communicate with other in case a threat object is identified.”

4.  This scanner is operating in a public area – not a secure area for passengers.  This is happening on the concourse near the food courts.  This again appears to be in contravention of TSA policy because they specify that millimeter wave scanning  “technology is a voluntary alternative to a pat-down during secondary screening.”  The food court is not a place that you would expect to undergo secondary screening, nor is it voluntary.

5.  Understanding that the machine and operators are in public, I went around the side of the machine to have a look at what was on the screen.  This threw the girl into a fit (picture of her below).  The man operating the machine was a bit less flummoxed, but it only took him a couple of seconds to turn off the monitor.  Now, I didn’t get much of a look, but the screen seemed to show a lot more than the TSA claims on this page.  My question is that if the scanner does not allow the operator to see “too much” of a person, then why can’t a casual bystander observe the same images as the operator?

I left the area, and asked another TSA officer on patrol if it was okay to take pictures in the airport.  He said that it was no problem so long as I wasn’t taking pictures of the output of computer screens in the check-in area.  After hearing that, I went back and took a couple more pictures – the only one I’ll post here is of the bossy girl that kept insisting loudly (and incorrectly) that I couldn’t take pictures in the area.  The other gentleman standing in the back also came over, but was far more civil.  Notice the operator that turned off the screen earlier sitting behind the monitor.

Rude TSA / DHS (neither?) lackey

Rude TSA / DHS (neither?) lackey

The TSA has tried to gloss this issue over with another one of their blog posts, but the whole article just glosses over the privacy problems.  Especially interesting on that page was this remark in the comments section by “Trollkiller” in response to someone who said that since people entered the airport, and the airport has a sign, they have given up their right to privacy:

” Your rights do NOT vanish because a Government entity posts a sign.

The courts have repeatedly held that common areas of an airport are indeed public spaces and as such all rights are upheld.

The area that this abomination operates in is a public space. As [a previous commenter has] pointed out most of the time you have no expectation of privacy in a public space.

As a photographer I can take your picture in a public space without your consent and use it as I wish without your permission as long as I use the image in a way that does not imply endorsement by you or places you in an untruthful light.

If I were to use a standard Sony Nightshot video camera and an IR pass through filter to see past your clothes, even though you are in that same public space, I would be violating you right to privacy and would be subjected to the legal penalties associated with that crime.

By the TSA using this MMW device to “see” past my clothing violates my reasonable expectation of privacy. Because this person is using the device under the color of law or pretend color of law, in order to detect contraband and to act on said contraband, the use of the device violates the Constitutional protection of the 4th Amendment.”

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/08conv_dnc.shtm discusses increased security at the airports during the conventions, including application of the scanners, but glosses over privacy implications.

This page from NPR says “This past week, the Transportation Security Administration introduced new security measures at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, including a controversial “whole-body scanner.” The scanner provides guards with an image that strips away a traveler’s clothing, revealing everything that person is carrying — and their naked bodies.”  The page also has a link to the audio story.

Image from the TSA showing output of a millimeter wave scanner.

Image from the TSA showing some output of a millimeter wave scanner.

This whole situation reeks.

If the public knew what the TSA was really up to here, they would be furious.

Get the word out, and let everyone know that there is nothing reasonable about a strip search under these conditions.

Haiku Number 1

September 12, 2008

all haiku are poetry
some are better than others
this one is crappy

Kim Jong Il Ill

September 11, 2008

Recent reports coming out of North Korea state that it is likely that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has had a stroke.  Reading the reports reminded me of an article I read on Slate some time back about Senator Jesse Helms.

Christopher Hitchens writes:

“But what about the hearings on North Korea in which [Jesse Helms] made repeated references to “Kim Jong the Second”? In order to prevent any repetition of this idiotic gaffe, Helms’ staff propped up a piece of card on which was clearly written the pronunciation “Kim Jong ILL.” The senator from North Carolina duly made the adjustment, referring thenceforth to the North Korean despot as “Kim Jong the Third.” (Slate Magazine)

Update: Make Gmail Use SSL Permanently

August 27, 2008

Further to the previous post regarding how to set up GMail to force SSL throughout the email session, I noticed that I was having sporadic problems using the Gmail App on my mobile phone (The Gmail App is highly recommended, by the way).

It turns out that this is a known problem with the Gmail for Mobile application, but the fix is simple.

Go into the Gmail for Mobile App settings (on my phone it was in Menu > Go to > Settings), and uncheck the box that says “Always keep me signed in”.

Then make sure you select the option that says “Always use secure network connections (slower performance)” by enabling the check box beside that option.

Select “Save”, then Menu > Exit Gmail.

Now you can restart the Gmail App, sign in using your username and password, and re-select the option in the menu to keep you logged in (Menu > Go to > Settings, and then put a check mark in the box that says “Always keep me signed in”).

Since I made these changes I haven’t had any problems, and I haven’t noticed that the connection is any slower over my EDGE connection than it was before.

How Much Bangkok Land Does The Crown Property Bureau Control?

August 27, 2008

In a recent Forbes magazine article, it was claimed that Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej is now the world’s richest monarch with a total net worth of about US$35 billion, or about 1.1 trillion baht.  Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau (Wikipedia link because Bureau’s own website is only in Thai) and Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hotly dispute the claim.

Note that for the sake of comparison, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is now ranked as the country’s 16th wealthiest person with a net worth of “only” US$400 million.

According to this article in Thailand’s Bangkok Post newspaper, the Crown Property Bureau says that the Forbes article included land and other assets controlled by the Bureau in it’s calculations of the King’s wealth, and is therefore inaccurate.

Leaving aside for the time being, questions about who is right, and what the real number should be, let’s look at a number that is not being disputed:  the fact that the Crown Property Bureau owns 3,493 acres (14.14 square kilometers) of land in Bangkok alone.

For the purpose of illustration, I’ve taken a snapshot from Google Earth showing how much land that is:

A Google Earth image of central Bangkok showing a red circle with an area of 3,493 acres.

A Google Earth image of central Bangkok showing a red circle with an area of 3,493 acres - representing the land holdings of the Crown Property Bureau in Bangkok.

Since the picture is a bit small, note that the circle is centered on the Siam Square (Central) Skytrain (BTS) station.  It extends west as far as the Prince Palace Hotel, as far east as Sukumvit 3/1 (The Middle Eastern area), as far north as Victory Monument, and almost as far south as Sathorn road (the circle bottoms out right between Silom and Sathorn). Note that you can click the picture to see a slightly larger version.  I’ve also prepared a version that is zoomed out more, and one that is zoomed in just to show the circle.

Please note that this picture in no way is meant to display the location of any land that is under the Crown Property Bureau’s control, it is simply to illustrate the area of land under the Bureau’s control.

(Note:  Special thanks to whoever created the KML Circle Generator)

Further Evidence of Chinese Cheating At The Beijing 2008 Olympics

August 26, 2008

According to a new ABC News article, more evidence has been uncovered supporting claims that China cheated at it’s Olympics.

Chinese Government Jails Pair of Septagenarians

August 22, 2008

Congratulations to Beijing for exceeding all previous expectations of outrage.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I really almost couldn’t believe my eyes yesterday when I read about this in the International Herald Tribune.

The article starts:

“Two elderly Chinese women who applied during the Olympic Games to protest the loss of their homes have been ordered to spend a year in a labor camp, a relative said, while police squelched a pro-Tibet demonstration early Thursday.

The women were still at home three days after being officially notified they would have to serve a yearlong term of reeducation through labor, but were under surveillance by a neighborhood watch group, said Li Xuehui, the son of one of the women.

A rights group said the threat of prison appeared to be an intimidation tactic.

Li said no cause was given for the order to imprison his 79-year-old mother, Wu Dianyuan, and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, 77.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Shame on you, Beijing.