Monday, January 28, 2008


Another post from the HA forum that involved a bit of research...

Mississippi IS a recession...

OK, wait a second.

Yesterday, we were informed that:
"Hattiesburg residents haven't been spending as much money as they once did..."

And today, we're informed that:
"...representatives at most Hattiesburg businesses that rely on disposable income say it is too early to see a drastic change in the habits of consumers."

Something isn't adding up.

For one thing, today's story has one caveat, which is that businesses "that rely on disposable income" supposedly aren't hurting. That could be taken as an implication that businesses that don't rely on disposable income are seeing "a drastic change in the habits of consumers." This flies in the face of generally accepted notions of economic behavior, i.e., that when people have less money (which we know is true across the country), they have to cut back spending on the types of goods and services mentioned in today's article in order to be able to cover the expenses they must pay, such as rent, mortgage, insurance, daycare, health care, etc.

I'm not sure that the statement of the headline of today's story--"Hub City economy doing well so far"--can be validated on the basis of comments from five representatives of small businesses in Hattiesburg. After all, it is in the best interests of those representatives to put a positive spin on their supposed success and resilience even if in reality, they are not especially successful or resilient. In fact, the comment from McLelland along with the copy in the story regarding his business comes off like an advertisement rather than as an actual inquest regarding the strength of his sales.

In other words, to accurately say "Hub City economy doing well so far," one would not ask for an assessment of the how good or bad sales are from a representative of any given business (who will almost invariably feel obligated to paint as rosy a picture of the situation as possible), one would have to view current sales numbers versus sales numbers from a comparable period of time. And that data is surely not going to made available to a reporter for analysis.

On the other hand, it may be true that "businesses that rely on disposable income" might not be experiencing hard times despite the negative savings rate and decline in wages that plagues the entire country--we also know that a majority of the country is in massive credit card debt. So it could very well be that the businesses mentioned in this piece are doing just fine, but that does not necessarily mean that the economy of the Hub City is doing well, because people are racking up even more credit card debt.

Whatever the case may be, these two stories seem to paint completely different pictures of the state of the economy in Hattiesburg.


Negative personal savings (2006 figures):

"People are saving at the lowest level since the Great Depression, and that could be a problem for the millions of baby boomers getting ready to retire. In fact, the Commerce Department reported Thursday that the nation’s personal savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, the worst showing in 73 years."

Decline in wages (inflation-adjusted):

"Average weekly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, dropped by 0.9 percent in 2007, the fourth decline in the past five years. The lagging wage gains are cited as a chief reason many workers have growing anxiety about their economic futures."

Record credit card debt ($915 billion):

"While the fallout of the subprime loan industry collapse continues to play out, momentum is gaining on another potential economic calamity: Americans now owe a record $915 billion in credit card debt, according to a new report by Moody's Investors Service.
Credit card companies wrote off 4.58 percent in payments between January and May, almost a third more than in the same period in 2006, Moody's said.
As a result, lenders such as Citigroup, Bank of America, and American Express, already reeling from the subprime mortgage collapse, are being further weakened, according to a new report at"

And the debate over the rebel flag goes on at the Hattiesburg American forum. I did a lot of research and writing about that today, so here are two of my posts...

"U.S. Flag Protected Slave Trade"

Logik (a member of the HA forum): "The U.S. Stars & Stripes did protect the slave trade on the high seas, even after January 1, 1808."

This statement, while true, lacks a significant qualifier that puts the lie to the point Logik is trying to make about the U.S. flag. That qualifer is that the U.S. flag protected slave ships from British ships, but not from the U.S. Navy. Logik does acknowledge that the U.S. flag "prevented any foreign police actions against...slave ships."

He then erroneously states that Congress and the Navy "did basically nothing" to enforce the ban on the slave trade. To be sure, thousands of slaves were smuggled into the U.S. despite the ban, but that doesn't mean that the U.S. did not attempt to enforce the law. For instance, the U.S. Navy's "African Squadron" patrolled the coast of West Africa from the 1840s to the beginning of the Civil War in order to catch violators of the slave trade ban. It is true that the squadron was mostly, but not completely, unsuccessful.

There were also attempts to interdict American slave ships headed to the United States prior to the formation of the African Squadron in 1843. The following passage indicates how U.S. and other flags were used:

"The Cyane [U.S. Navy vessel] continued on to intercept slavers, on 10 April 1820 bagging nine vessels suspected of slaving. At least six were from Baltimore, Charleston, and New York, but they had changed both names and colors to Spanish at sea."

"The next day, with the temperature hovering at 120 degrees on deck and 92 degrees below deck, 'the American schooner Exchange anchored near us, a prize...She is a slave trader from Baltimore via Havannah.' The expedition returned from upriver the following day. "They left their schooners nearly ready for taking on slaves but all under Spanish colors.'"

When a slave ship flying the U.S. flag was being chased by a U.S. Navy ship, the following would happen:

"...its ostensible 'captain' would hoist the Spanish flag, substitute Spanish registration papers, and might even carry a Spanish crew hidden below decks. This stratagem would be exactly reversed if apprehended by a British man of war."

For this reason, the U.S. flag was flown by foreign slavers:

"Acknowledging that foreign slavers used the American flag as a shield against British cruisers, [Navy] Secretary [Abel] Upshur warned that it should not be imagined that 'the mere hoisting of [the American] flag shall give immunity to those who have no right to use it.'"

And some slavers intentionally flew no flag at all, only to hoist a U.S. flag at the last minute before capture seemed inevitable, as described here in the journal of a sailor in the African Squadron:

"Making all sail, we chased him, under no colours; she tried hard to give us the slip, but at 11 o'clock we came up with her but she, showing no colours, we fired a shot cross her bows, & in a twinkling of an eye, the Stars and Stripes were floating at her peak, no colours have ever been hoisted faster than these were.
She had evidently been waiting for us to hoist our Ensign first so that she might hoist false ones & thus blindfold us. She thought us to be an Englishman & hence her hoisting the American flag, as if we had been what she expected, we could not have searched her."

Long story short, the presence of a U.S. flag on the mast of a slave ship did not constitute endorsement of that ship's activities by the United States.

Also, once the Civil War started, the U.S. concluded a secret treaty with the British to let the British assume the interdictions of the African Squadron. This treaty also ended the safe haven that the U.S. flag had once provided against seizure by the British:

"In the emergency, President Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward, negotiated a secret treaty with the British to assume the nation's share of the African blockade, including the long-denied right of search of American-flag vessels by British warships."

Obviously, if a slave ship was flying an American flag, it was to escape capture by the British (who, admittedly, were far more effective at interdicting slave ships), not to demonstrate the approval of or sanction by the United States.

Info above can be found in this well-documented and very interesting article.

Confederate Vice-President says CSA based on slavery

The "rebel flag" we are all familiar with was incorporated into both the 2nd and 3rd official flags of the CSA. So in every conceivable way, the "rebel flag" is inextricably linked with the Confederacy, and we know that Mississippi joined left the Union and joined the Confederacy in order to be able to perpetuate the practice of slavery.

Even CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens knew the real reason the Confederacy came into being:

"The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negr0 in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution."

Slavery was, in Stephens' words, THE immediate cause of the formation of the CSA. He didn't say it was the only cause, to be sure. It was just the cause that had the most direct bearing on the secession. That's all.

Stephens goes on to whip up some of that good ol' "Southern pride" and "heritage, not hate" for ya:

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negr0 is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

Logik, when he's not busy reading "Complicity," might want to take note of the similarities to N@zi logic in the above statement.

But seriously, I don't know why so many people who post on this forum wish to argue that slavery really didn't have all that much to do with the creation of the Confederacy. Especially when the fucking VP of the CSA himself said that making blacks subordinate to "the superior race" was the very "cornerstone" of the CSA! He actually said that slavery for blacks was normal and constituted a great "moral truth."

And we're supposed to believe that the flag of such a country doesn't represent slavery and racism? And that such a flag's inclusion on our state flag doesn't hearken back to that sentiment? Really?

Well, sorry--that shit doesn't wash. Mississippi said its decision to secede was to protect slavery, the VP of the CSA said that the very basis of the new nation (not really, though, because it was never recognized by any foreign country) was slavery, and God only knows what else.

Rebel Flag=slavery, white supremacy, tyranny and racism of the worst possible kind. End of story. It needs to be removed from our state flag--we're the last state in the Union to cling to it. It's pathetic, really. The flag stands for hate, not heritage.

Take down the rebel flag!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Whenever I hear something that sounds "off" in a song I love, I like to make a note of it. Usually these "off" items are anomalies or just plain mistakes of some kind that made it onto a finished, master recording. What makes them interesting to me is that I usually don't hear them the first 10 billion times I listen to a song. Even though I know that, I still fret over such things when I'm doing my own recording.

I just heard another one and want to add it to the list, which will make now 7 entries:

1. Vince Guaraldi-"Linus and Lucy" finger slip on piano keys on return to first section :50
2. Neil Young-"After The Goldrush" finger slip on piano keys after the line "hoping it was a lie" (the first time) 1:46
3. Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads-"Crazy Train" notes in solo not doubled exactly (after joining back in unison following a harmony section) 3:05
4. Soft Machine-"10.30 Returns To The Bedroom" finger slip on organ 2:07
5. "Deliverance" soundtrack-"Dueling Banjos" 3:03 the guitar starts to go back around while the banjo is doing an ending lick. The guitar abruptly stops when he realizes that's the end of the song. (Larry G)
6. Flying Burrito Brothers-"Hot Burrito #2" finger slip on piano 0:47...lyrics on top are "And you want me home all night..." [maybe that's not a slip, because the same thing happens at 0:31 when the same part is being played...wait, maybe it is, because it happens at 1:32 and 1:36 and...]Dig the horn-like steel going on in that section...

And the new entry--Flying Burritos again! I was listening to "Christine's Tune" and listening to Sneaky Pete's fine steel work (and looking over at my pedal steel that I haven't played since...uh...). I was enjoying how the two vocal tracks were panned hard left and hard right and then I heard a cough or a throat clearing or something. So I backed it up and heard this:

7. Flying Burrito Brothers- "Christine's Tune" 2:29-2:31: vocal on left starts to hold out the word "lies," stops short, clears throat, and then picks up on next line.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


...or, macroeconomics for dummies--I transcribed this from the Alex Jones Show, top of the second hour (1/22/08):

1. Dollar losing reserve currency status

The problem we have right now is that the United States dollar is losing its world-class status. People are no longer using the U.S. dollar as a second alternative to their own currencies–when I say “people,” I mean people of other nations. They used to have great reserves of US dollars on hand and in stock; because of the Bretton Woods agreement the United States dollar was exchangeable for gold and silver for foreigners even though it was illegal to own here in the United States after 1933.

2. End of gold standard and Bretton Woods

Well, Nixon had a problem with the Vietnam War going on and deficit spending--that the United States dollar was falling so fast and gold was going up so quick that Fort Knox was going to be emptied. And in order to stop that from happening, he raised the price of gold, first from $36 to $42 an ounce, and then the dollar continued to plummet, so he just shut the gold window completely and ended the Bretton Woods agreement.

3. The crux of the biscuit: Money out of thin air

Since then, there has been no limitation as far as to how much money can be printed and how much deficit spending can go on. Since 1972, we had an economic collapse practically in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was in office.

4. The crux of the biscuit, part 2: World is abandoning dollar (see #1)

I mean, the dollar’s falling real hard, so the foreigners that are sitting on these reserves want to sell their reserves. At the same time, the market’s not big enough to absorb them. If the Chinese started dumping their $1.3 trillion of cash and bonds and bills into the marketplace, to trade back into some stronger currency, they’ll set up a stampede with other countries as well. And entire portfolios will be wiped out.

So they’re sitting in a situation where they know that the value of their resource is going down very fast, but if they try to sell it, it goes down even faster. So they’re just trying to quietly get rid of it.

Here's Bush's great idea to "save" the economy:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Friday called on Congress to give the U.S. economy a "shot in the arm" with an election-year package of temporary tax cuts and other measures worth up to $150 billion.

I like my ideas (that I posted on the HA forum)better:

Or, we could just end this goddamn war and save a good $5 billion a month--that'd be $60 billion in just 12 months!

Or, since Federal Reserve notes are just funny money anyway, just print up $150 billion, wrap it in plastic, put it on pallets, then just hand it out randomly to people across the United States. That's what we did in Iraq, after all.

Of course, that was only $12 billion--that we know of. And it stands to reason that we in the U.S. would be entitled to more of what is supposedly our own money, right?

Or, if the cash pallet method of distribution seems too likely to incite rioting, they could just put $1 million in the bank account of the head of every household with the click of a mouse. That'd come to more or less $105 trillion, but what's the harm, really? Our money isn't real anyway, so why not dream big?

Friday, January 18, 2008


Here's what I posted about this today on the Hattiesburg American forum:

February 7. That means he'll have been in jail for the majority of a year. He was thrown in jail for simply writing something--the content of which has never been specified by the authorities.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--there is no such crime in Mississippi as "cyber-stalking through electronic media." The charge is redundant--cyber-stalking can ONLY take place through "electronic media."

Yuri was originally arrested for "posting messages through electronic media for the purpose of injury to any person" as he was supposedly in violation of MS Code 97-45-17, aka The Anti-Free Speech Act of 2003.

But let's be clear--the AFSA does not pertain only to "electronic media," as the law's short title would have us believe. The law applies to "the use of ANY medium of communication." And the message does not have to "cause injury" to any specific person; the law clearly says that intent to cause injury to "any person" is sufficient grounds to prosecute.

Oh, and "injury" isn't defined in the statute. This is a monumental case which is apparently going to be the first test of a seriously flawed statute. Hopefully the judge (and jury?) will recognize these flaws and throw out or refuse to convict on the charge pertaining to the AFSA of 2003 (97-45-17).

If not, we're all going to have to watch what we say, not just on the Internet, but in "any medium of communication." And that's frightening.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


So it looks like the neocons really are bent on attacking Iran and will try to manufacture/manipulate any evidence they need to create an excuse to do so. The latest, of course, was the non-event of an "attack" by Iranian patrol boats, which has now been revealed to have been greatly trumped-up by the Pentagon.

WASHINGTON - Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the navy itself.

Then the navy disseminated a short video into which was spliced the audio of a phone call warning that US warships would "explode" in "a few seconds". Although it was ostensibly a navy production, Inter Press Service (IPS) has learned that the ultimate decision on its content was made by top officials of the Defense Department.

The encounter between five small and apparently unarmed speedboats, each carrying a crew of two to four men, and the three US warships occurred very early on Saturday January 6, Washington time. No information was released to the public about the incident for more than 24 hours, indicating that it was not viewed initially as being very urgent.
The reason for that absence of public information on the incident for more than a full day is that it was not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade. A Pentagon consultant who asked not to be identified told IPS he had spoken with officers who had experienced similar encounters with small Iranian boats throughout the 1990s, and that such incidents are "just not a major threat to the US Navy by any stretch of the imagination".

Does it strike anyone else as, um, unusual that this non-event in the Strait of Hormuz was blown way out of proportion just over a month after the Iran NIE was released saying that Iran had stopped their nuclear weapons program in 2003 and were unlikely to be able to produce a nuclear weapon in this decade? Do the neocons think we're that stupid? Do they really think we'll fall for a scenario that reads almost exactly like what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin 40+ years ago, another non-event that led to the escalation of the Vietnam War which just this month was revealed to have been even more manufactured/manipulated than previously thought?

And what's with Bush kissing Saudi Arabia's ass now? Here's what I wrote about that on the Hattiesburg American forum today:

It's no accident that all this is happening while Bush is trying to kiss up to Saudi Arabia and ask them to pump more oil (isn't more and cheaper oil what we're supposedly in Iraq for?). It's Saudi Arabia that would welcome an attack on Iran (even SA's enemy Israel supports this). Iran is Shiite, SA is Sunni. Iran is moving away from the dollar, SA is clinging to it (for political reasons rather than for economic reasons).

Essentially, this falsely trumped-up Iran situation looks like Bush is demonstrating that he'll give the Saudis what they want (i.e., an attack on Iran) if they'll give us what we want (i.e., more and cheaper oil).

So let us count the ways the neocons have tried to manufacture excuses to attack Iran--we'll put this latest non-event at the top of the list:

1. Accused Iran of provoking U.S. warships using small patrol boats
2. Accused Iran of having a secret nuclear weapons program
3. Declared Iran's Revolutionary Guard to be a terror group
4. Accused Iran of providing weapons to the Iraqi insurgency
5. Accused Ahmadinejad of wanting to wipe Israel off the map

And so on. What am I leaving out?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I was thinking about the Sneaky Pete story I told last night and wanted to make sure I was telling it right. I knew I had the gist, but today I hunted down my CD copy of the interview and did this transcription:

"I saw an ad in the paper that said ‘Animators wanted.’ ‘Animators wanted’–and that’s all it said. In those days, people just let it all hang out--they didn’t sneak it in or anything. So I called them because I was interested in animation in those days. When I was a kid living with my family, I made a big dinosaur out of clay on our dining room table. My folks were photographers and my dad showed my how I could do a single frame at a time with their camera. It didn’t work very well, but anyway..

That leads me to the day when we were living in Glendora and that happened to be near where the studio was that they were working on Gumby. I didn’t know what Gumby was, but I called them up and said ‘I’d like to be an animator.’ Art Cloakey, who was the father of Gumby, said ‘Oh, you’d like to animate–well, why don’t you come on over’–just like that. It was another world in those days.

So I came over. To make a long story short, I walked in and there was a bunch of nice people in there and he asks ‘Have you ever animated before?’ and I said ‘Oh yeah, I know all about it’ [we both laugh]! Well, I kinda knew about it.

So he said ‘Waddy over here, he’s the foreman, he’ll give you a chance.’ Waddy told me to just walk around the stage there and watch these other guys–there was about six other guys there animating in different stages–and they were all nice. And I walked around and looked at it and they were doing lousy animation.

But I walked around there and came back the next day and they set me up with a little stage to do the animation. And it was wonderful because they had ball-joint armatures which you could control and so forth so I was in heaven again there!

So I started animating and the very first day I did some animation that they used! And from that point on I just got better and better and that was my entrance into stop-motion animation...I was a natural at animating, let’s put it that way. I just had a talent for it.

When you look back on it, it seems amazing to me, too..."

Pretty much as I remembered it. So he did have some experience in stop-motion animation--as a kid--but certainly no professional experience or training. However, he did have BALLS and wasn't above a certain amount of BS. Ya gotta fake it to make it, as they say...

Still, though, it's amazing that the studio head just basically took Pete at his word that he knew to do animation. At least in this telling of the story, there was no checking of Pete's resume, calling past employers to verify anything, background checks, credit checks, etc.

As he said, it was another world back then...

Monday, January 14, 2008


So there are going to be recounts in New Hampshire. That’s good, because the machine tallies confounded the expectations created by the pre-primary and exit polls, while the paper ballot tallies comported with the expectations created by the polls. Not only that, but at least two townships originally reported zero votes for Ron Paul but admitted they had made a “mistake” when voters from the townships said they had in fact voted for Paul.

And it’s not surprising that the voting machine chicanery has already begun. It turns out that Ken Hajjar, the marketing and sales director for LHS Associates--the company in charging of programming all of New Hampshire’s (as well as 4 other states in New England) Diebold voting machines–is a convicted felon. His crime? Selling narcotics.

Traffic Tickets vs. Selling Drugs

Which leads me to a question–how does a convicted felon get hired by an election services company? I mean, ex-cons have to make a living too, but do they have to make a living working in elections? Hajjar must be a REALLY good marketing and sales director to be able to get such a job. Or, as it turns out, being an ex-con is almost a job requirement to work in the elections industry.

But this brings me to my own job search. I fill out applications all the time that ask whether or not I’ve been convicted of a crime (I haven’t) and for details if I have. Some applications ask me to volunteer information about my traffic violations, whether driving is a big part of the job or not.

Was none of this done in Hajjar’s case? Or was he just part of the good ol’ white boy club, in which all is forgiven, and nobody checks a good ol’ boy’s criminal record–it just isn’t done. That shit is for the little people–the little people have to be haunted by the paper trail being created for them to “keep them safe” from “terrorists.” Only the little people have to wear the scarlet letter.

Getting vs. Finding Jobs

A lot of people use the terms “find a job” and “get a job” interchangeably, as if “finding” and “getting” are the same thing. I’ve “found” lots of jobs, but I don’t “get” lots of jobs. What I’ve discovered is that if you want to get a job making say, I don’t know–the tubes that are inside paper towel and toilet paper rolls–you either have to have experience doing THAT job, not one kind of similar, OR you have to have a degree in making paper towel/toilet paper rolls. If you don’t have that, forget it.

But it seems to me that the job market has not always been this way. In fact, my parents always told me it wasn’t–they’d say, “You just need a college degree, it doesn’t really matter all that much what it’s in.” Boy howdy, has that not turned out to be true. But again, I’m not sure it’s always been this way, with a degree for everything and nothing without a degree.

What Sneaky Pete told me

Who told me so? Sneaky Pete. You know, of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Pete Kleinow, who died just over a year ago this month, may he rest in peace.

I interviewed him a few years ago in my last job. The reason I got to talk to him was because his new band Burrito Deluxe had just released their debut album. Anyway, he told me that when he moved to California, he didn’t have a job. This would’ve been in the late 50s or early 60s–I can’t remember exactly. I’m not transcribing this from the tape, I’m just going off what I remember.

So when he got to Los Angeles, he had to look for a job. He looked in the newspaper and saw an ad for a studio that needed animators. He said he’d never done anything like that in his life but was intrigued, so he decided to see if he could get a job there. He said he went down to the studio, and the guy in charge was showing him around. At some point, they let Pete kind of sit in with some of the workers. The guys that worked there showed Pete what they were doing, and being a quick study, he caught on and started doing it also. Long story short–Sneaky Pete got a job in the animation studio even though he’d never done any animation work in his life.

And that animation job wasn’t just something he did for a little while until he got on his feet or whatever. It turned into a career for him. Here’s how the Washington Post described Pete’s animation career:

Mr. Kleinow also won acclaim as an animator, special-effects artist and director of commercials in television and film. His credits ranged from the original "Gumby" series -- he wrote and performed the theme music and designed cartoons -- and the relaunched "Twilight Zone" to the movies "Under Siege," "Fearless" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

To be sure, Sneaky Pete’s a genius, but that’s not the point. The point is that he was able to get a job with no experience or education in the field. That’s virtually unheard of these days.

Just sayin’...

Sunday, January 06, 2008


The city of Hattiesburg will be treated to a sales presentation by Traffipax, a company that sells intersection camera-enforcement equipment. Here are a couple of posts on the subject that I put up at the HA forum:

"This is just a stepping stone for us to get used to. Just wait till Big Brother has us watched every where we go to be sure we are not planning to overthrow the socialist regime that is coming to the U.S."

This statement is exactly right. Right now, they're trying to convince us to accept cameras for "safety" reasons. After all, who can argue in favor of running red lights?

But it's the beginning of the control grid. Soon we'll have the cameras scanning license plates (if they aren't set up to do so from the get-go), checking inspection stickers, and issuing tickets for that.

And then the argument will be "who can argue against making people renew their license plates and inspection stickers?"

Then the cameras will be reading lips if not recording the audio of conversations. An arrest or two of some bad people will probably be attributed to the efficiency of the cameras, and who can argue against arresting bad guys?

By then, there will probably have been more cameras installed and then we won't be able to go anywhere or do anything without being watched.

The initial cameras are proposed to be installed at 3 of the busiest intersections in Hattiesburg--hence the most lucrative for the city and/or Traffipax. The reason that those intersections are supposedly so dangerous is simply because they're so busy; one has to go through one of those intersections to get almost anywhere of significance in the city.

Here's Traffipax's arrangement with the city of Lufkin, TX:

"If each person had to pay a fine that ran lights during the "warning" month of October, the city could have raised a total $121,950 due to the red light cameras. Since the money raised is divided between Traffipax, Lufkin and the state, that's a possibility of $36,585 for the city if citizens keep running the lights at the same rate they did during the warning period."

That may or may not be the exact arrangement that Hattiesburg ends up with, but we can be sure that Traffipax (a U.S. subsidiary of a German corporation) is going to make a lot of money off of us. And it will be money we give them voluntarily by giving them permission to spy on us.

I for one, am uncomfortable with the whole arrangement, mostly because we are being asked to sacrifice our freedom to do the impossible: make everyone safe at all times. The cameras aren't going to do that because it can't be done. The cameras are only going to inure us to the increasing surveillance society and make money for a German corporation. Oh, and turn more of us into law-breakers with more and more fines to pay.


Reading the story a little more closely, it does look like Traffipax will be sharing in the ticket revenue:

"Bierma would not reveal the cost of the system but said the city would not have to put up any money to start the program.

'The program pays for itself through the revenue of the citations,' she said. 'Regardless of what happens, the city would never owe more money than the program brings in.'"

We'll never "owe more money than the program brings in?" What does that mean exactly? Does Bierma mean to say that if, for instance, as Ms. Delgado wishes, no red lights are run because of the monitoring, that we'll owe nothing to Traffipax?

In other words, what if the cameras are the excellent deterrent that Delgado and Bierma make them out to be and therefore don't "bring in" any money at all because the cameras successfully deterred every violation? According to Bierma, that must mean that the city would then owe nothing for the cameras.

On the other hand, we know all too well that corporations like Traffipax don't do things that won't make them money. And they know that red lights can easily be disobeyed by accident and in fact are rarely disobeyed willfully (no study to back this up, just my opinion). They know that due to human error or miscalculation, they will make money (and get to surveil us in the process), allowing Bierma to make a statement like the above.

But the human error factor really defeats the argument of having the cameras in the first place, since we all know that red lights are going to be "disobeyed" whether cameras are present or not.

I'd be interested to know what, if anything, city council members may or may not be getting out of this unnecessary arrangement. Have they been on any Traffipax-sponsored trips or received any "gifts" of any kind from a "friend" who has connections to Traffipax? Just wondering--don't mean to cast aspersions or make insinuations. And note that I am not making statements, I am asking questions.


According to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Columbus, MS and Tupelo, MS use red light cameras.

The IIHS reported that studies in California and Virginia show that red-light cameras reduced red light violations by 40%. However, the IIHS also admits that different studies have shown that red-light cameras can increase rear-end collisions.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also says that red-light cameras reduce violations. However, in Los Angeles County, for example, the results from 3 different intersections varied wildly:
92 percent, 78 percent, and 34 percent. The article containing this info gives no explanation for the variance. It also strikes me as unlikely that red-light running could ever be reduced by almost 100% for an extended period of time.

The FHWA study found that in San Francisco, violations were down by 40% in the first 6 months of the program. While that is positive, no mention is made of other possible contributing factors to the decrease in violations, such as publicity surrounding the presence of the cameras. Also, no mention is made of whether or not these positive results continued beyond the 6-month period, presumably once the publicizing of the cameras had died down or stopped altogether.

In fact, an IIHS publication mentions a few important factors that likely play a much bigger part in reducing red-light violations than the cameras do. First, the setup: In Philadelphia, cameras were installed at what happened to be a couple of the most crash-prone intersections in the country (no indication if the crashes were necessarily caused by red-light running or by being poorly designed intersections with say, poor visibility or something similar). The red-light violations went down significantly--approaching 100% decreases, in fact.

However, the article also notes two other factors that came into play in reducing violations: extended yellow lights and "conspicuous signs [that] warn motorists as they approach camera-equipped intersections." The article then ignores the effect of the signs, plays up the cameras, and acknowledges the helpfulness of lengthened yellow lights but downplays their effectiveness.

One wonders whether or not similar results could be achieved with less privacy-invading tactics. For example, if red-light running is such a big problem, the fine for red-light running could be made more punitive, i.e., substantially increased. Or, dummy cameras could be used so that drivers think they're being watched when in fact the mounted cameras are not recording anything. Or, if municipalities wanted to really get serious about stopping red-light violations, they could install barriers that rise out of the intersection when red lights are on, then recess back into the street when the light turns green. That way, it would be impossible for cars to move at all until the red light ends.

None of the articles I consulted mention how much money Traffipax and other similar companies have contributed to the IIHS or how many former or current camera-enforcement company personnel work for or in concert with the FHWA.

We can see then, that the argument that cameras in and of themselves necessarily reduce red-light violations is very weak and that similar results could likely be obtained through other means which lack the privacy-and-civil-liberties-violating potential of cameras.

And here's another article that raises similar points...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This was on New Year's Day, just outside Gulfport, MS...and whaddya know, oil hit $100/barrel today!

Very interesting info from Americans Against Escalation In Iraq:


Wolfowitz: “[Iraq] will finance itself relatively soon” with oil

“The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100
billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of
claims on that money, but… We are dealing with a country that can really finance
its own reconstruction and relatively soon.” [Institute for Policy Studies, Paul
Wolfowitz, 3/27/03]

US Spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, But in 2003 Gov Officials
Insisted Iraq Will Not Require Sustained Aid

“The White House projected yesterday that postwar Iraq will not require
long-term U.S. aid, in part because of oil reserves that the Bush administration
contends will offset many of the costs of reconstruction. "The United States is
committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require
sustained aid," said a report from President Bush's Office of Management and
Budget.”” [WP, 3/29/2003]

Colin Powell “Iraq will not require the sorts of foreign assistance
that Afghanistan will”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made a similar point Wednesday on
Capitol Hill. "Iraq will not require the sorts of foreign assistance Afghanistan
will continue to require for some time to come," Powell said, explaining that
Iraq's talent and resources will be "put to productive uses, instead of buying
and manning weapons and palaces for Saddam Hussein." [WP, 3/29/2003]

Let's remember our lesson: (War + Iraq)Republican President=Record Gas Prices!

Oh, and apparently, it turns out that the more troops we send in to this quagmire, the more we lose as it now turns out that 2007 was the deadliest year for American troops.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I usually don't make resolutions, but I'm making this year an exception. I have only one resolution, which is this:

Accept how awesome I am.

It's something I've struggled with for years--feeling like I was awesome, but then not really being able to truly perceive the magnitude of my awesomeness. I hope all that will change this year!

Check out what the Kirbys did today:

Click to play A+New+Year's+Day+Moment
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My wife made this!