Life Imitates Art !

Last night we were watching a DVD movie called “The Day the Earth Stood Still” with Keneau (spelling?) Reeves.  It is a pretty stunning science fiction show and in one scene the alien (Mr. Reeves) gets feed up with the incompetent polygraph examiner and “mind blasts” him.  The poor guy falls backwards and freezes in mid-air!  About two feet off the ground, he just hangs there like he is levitating or something.  After about ten seconds of this we started looking at each other.  The freeze frame was still there.

Now we heard a humming noise. 

It turns out the DVD machine was busted.  Loaded another disk and it too froze up after a few seconds.  We couldn’t watch the end of the movie but last night will always be remembered as “The Day the Movie Stood Still.”

Always Read the Signs

On May 5, I went to Keeneland racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky.  I checked into a motel and they gave me room 5.  On the way to the track I noticed the speed limit was 55.  When I got to the window I bet 5 dollars in the fifth race on a horse named Double Nickel.  The nag went off at 5 to 1.

Yep.  You guessed.

The horse came in fifth.

I’m Confused (So What Else is New?)

It appears President Obama told the CIA the other day that none of them would be prosecuted for illegal torturing because “they were only following orders” from the Bush White House.  Since when is following orders a defense if a crime was committed?  Isn’t that the same defense the Nazis used at Nuremberg?  Obama is a lawyer.  He knows better than that.

Now today it appears that Justice Department attorneys who authored the legal analysis memoranda may be subject to prosecution.  Strike two.  You don’t prosecute lawyers for advising clients in America.  Ted Kennedy and others tried that with the Kennedy Kasselbaum amendment to the Medicaid Act which said it was criminal conduct for any lawyer to advise an old person about how to qualify for Medicaid assistance.  Despite that law passing, attorney generals with prosecutorial powers announced that they would not enforce the law.

Finally, when I was a draftee in the U.S. Army I was told that I did not have to follow an illegal order from a superior.

I must be missing something somewhere.  This is all very disappointing.

Cold Fusion

Watched 60 Minutes last night about the possibility that cold fusion will become a reality.  If it is ever solved, coal and oil will become completely worthless overnight.  Coal will be nothing but dirty rocks, and oil will be sticky goo.  Better keep that in mind if one lives in West Virginia. 

Somalia Pirates

The news account of the Navy SEALS taking out three of the four pirates as the lifeboat was being pulled by the frigate is interesting.  “When Navy Seals heard gunshots coming from the lifeboat, they were able to get a clear view of the pirates and took three direct kill shots to each of the pirate’s heads.”  Really?  How does hearing gunshots allow one to get a clear view of the pirates?  Another story stated that the Seals saw the pirates “threatening” the captain with their rifles which lead to the shots because they feared the captain would be killed.  Now wait a minute.  The pirates are being towed by a Navy frigate so they decide to shoot the captain, the only thing keeping them out of captivity and alive?  Hardly.

My conclusion is that the Seals took the shots just as soon as they were available, and I don’t quibble with that at all.  That is the same thing SWAT teams do in hostage situations. 

Of course, the American public needs to be told something other than at the first available opportunity, the pirates were killed in order to save the life of the captain. 

WVU Football Prediction

Don’t be surprised when commentators start comparing Jarrett Brown to Tim Tebow.  Same type of guy.  Big, strong, good arm, not afraid of collisions, etc.  The commentators will wonder where WVU has been “keeping this guy” and then realize that he was “standing in the shadows” of superstar Pat White.

If the offensive line can play “smash mouth” then Jarrett Brown is going to be fun to watch.  It will still be hard for this team to finish better than somewhere between ten and twenty.  However, with a little luck (and don’t fool yourself – luck and injuries have a heck of a lot to do with college football success) the Mountaineers could turn some heads and rack up a decent year with some good quality wins. 

Remember our short yardage problem from last year?  Ever seen how the Gators usually make a short yardage gain?  You guessed it – Tim Tebow.  Hmmm.  Might work for us too. 


Non-Stop to Charleston

While attending the ceremonial arrival of the first American Eagle non-stop flight from LaGuardia to Yeager, I could only imagine the corresponding party which must be raging in New York.  Mayor Bloomberg I’m sure was promoting the event throughout the Big Apple.  “For the first time in many years we can now travel non-stop to Charleston and back again in the same day.  In the past it took hours and several stops to get to Charleston but now you can catch a cab in Manhattan, twenty minutes to LaGuardia and in a little over an hour you are strolling down Quarrier Street,” the mayor explained.  “Think of it.  Our citizens can wake up in New York, catch the early flight to Charleston, shop at the Town Center Mall, grab lunch at the Blossom or SoHo and be back in New York by nightfall.  Remarkable!” 

Municipal Pensions

Here’s the problem.  In the early 1990’s the state legislature mandated that city contributions to municipal fire and police pensions had to be actuarily sound, something called the forty year rule.  When cities saw how much that would cost them, they raised a stink.  The legislature then passed an alternative method by which cities could comply with the funding obligations for their pensions.  This is the so-called 107% of last year’s contribution rule.  Simply put, each year the city had to pony up 7% more than it had put in the year before.

Now what this does is push out the day of reckoning as the 7% multiplies on itself each year.  Sort of like compound interest.  So cities followed this rule handed down by the legislature which created in large part the huge underfunded liabilities.  Under the alternative rule eventually the ever compounding 7% rule will solve the problem but it will solve it by becoming so huge that the city budget is devoured by the pension obligation.

The 107% rule is sort of like credit card debt where the minimum payment is so low that the debt never decreases but steadily gets bigger!  The legislature made a bad move when it handed down the “relief” alternative method.  Of course, cities were stupid when they followed it.  What a mess.

The best thing the legislature can do is at least allow cities to freeze their present plans and switch to a FINANCIAL SOLVENT method of providing pension benefits for new hires.  Some type of matching defined contribution plan is what everyone else in the world (other than government) uses.  Try that.

Cities can then at least proceed to “attack” the present problem.  More home rule authority will be needed in this area.  The legislature should allow cities to impose their own taxes and fees.  Presently, cities that don’t have pilot home rule can only collect what revenues the legislature tells them they can.  If cities aren’t given the power the fix the problem, it is a lot like telling the cities to mow a huge lawn but oh by the way you can’t purchase any lawnmowers!  Figure that one out.

Here’s hoping the legislature will simply shut down the broken system which it in part is responsible for creating and set the cities free to set up a solvent system and find a way to pay the unfunded liabilities.  Unfortunately, West Virginia has a history of micromanagement which cuts against trusting anyone to actually make a decision for themselves.  However, this problem is so big that maybe real progress will be forthcoming and no more rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.