Weird 2.0 (3-23-2010)

Weird 2.0
March 23, 2010
(datelines March 13-March 20) (links correct as of March 23)

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"A little learning is a dangerous thing"—Alexander Pope
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, 7-18-64A.D.

Woo-wee! Investigations are starting to pay off on those breathtaking episodes of theft of freshly-minuted $100 bills that Americans looted from their own government in the weeks after the 2003 invasion of Iraq! Was there anyone at all involved in Coalition Provisional Authority contracts who took only what the official paperwork said he took? New York Times

ITT Technical, Le Cordon Bleu, University of Phoenix—examples of trade schools that are catching a major tailwind, generated by (1) the bad economy, creating people so desperate that they take on massive loans for dubious classes; (2) the government's need to put "stimulus" money out, in the form of more Pell grants; (3) lax oversight standards, in that only recently have trade schools become more popular for loans than the much more transparent colleges and universities; and (4) the short-term greed of the schools, figuring that they better milk the government for as much as they can before Congress and the Administration notice. Actually, it looks like they've still got plenty of milking time left. New York Times via MSNBC

Heckuva Job, Fellas: They didn't get millions like the bankers did, but the federal regulators overseeing bankers did get bonuses. After all, it took skill to ignore so much mumbo-jumbo in the economy. The Associated Press reported that the bureaucrats only got "thousands" of dollars each, totaling at least $19 million over the four years 2003-2006. But all of the regulators blew it; no one "regulated"; why are there bonuses? The answer, said agency spokespersons, is that those people "worked hard." Associated Press via Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Senate managed to pass a bipartisan bill to align the federal criminal penalties for possession of cocaine (crack and powder). A 20-year-old law set the penalties for crack at approximately 100 times those for powder, allegedly owing to you-know-who's preference for crack versus you-know-who's preference for powder. The more logical, rational Senate majority now believes that possessing crack is only about 18 times worse than possessing powder. Chemists' heads are about to explode. National Public Radio

Just in time for the health insurance debate: Previously undisclosed records in a September 2009 court case revealed that Assurant Health (formerly, Fortis) had a routine algorithm in place to target any premium-payer who came down with HIV to be immediately suspected of fraud, requiring a top-to-bottom investigation. (And of course, there's a reason why these records were "previously undisclosed," despite their relevance to the court case decided in September.) Reuters

Recurring Theme: Expensive ($20,000 each) British dowsing rods are now captivating Mexico. It was bad enough that Iraqi police trust them, laughably, to detect bombs moving through Baghdad [NOTW M137, 11-22-2009]. Now, though, another British company has produced a mighty similar wand that allegedly is so sensitive that it can detect drugs on you if you've used any time in the last two weeks. And the Mexican police love it! The British government has warned Mexico not to waste its money, but when ignorance establishes a foothold, it's difficult to dislodge. New York Times /// New York Times [Iraqi police]

BS-Spotting Exercise: Researchers writing in the journal Pediatrics revealed that the cutesy ads and giveaways for Camel No. 9 cigarettes are extremely popular among girls age 12-16. R.J. Reynolds, which promised in 1998 never to advertise to the underaged, responds with two barely-relevant head fakes: (1) 85% of Camel No. 9's are sold to those over 18 and (2) Smoking rate among underage girls is down in the time since the ad campaign started. Therefore, RJR says, STFU. But . . RJR makes money if it merely increases the number of underage girls who might be willing to try Camel No. 9s; they don't need a majority of them in order to make money, and they don't need to turn around the whole underage-smoking rate, itself, in order to make money. It's a winner for them if they just pick up a few more lifetime smokers. In other words, it's a brilliant campaign. The 1998 agreement is better stated as a promise not to get caught doing something they can't plausibly head-fake around. USA Today

It's not just the Catholic Church in Germany, Ireland, et al. Last week the Boy Scouts went on trial in Portland, Ore., under similar charges, i.e., our good name is more important than stopping scoutmasters from diddling and sucking little boys [ed.: Oops, sorry, I'm supposed to use the politically correct term, "abuse"] The plaintiff's lawyer has 1,000 Scout-related-perv case files, which the Scouts say they needed to keep to themselves because they were doing their own perv-investigation/prevention (but obviously doing it poorly if there are 1,000 of them). The Oregonian /// Associated Press via Washington Post

[Weird 2.0 is a kinda-upmarket rendition of News of the Weird / Pro Edition. No perverts, no drunks, no stupid criminals. Just scary important stuff.]

     Posted By: Chuck - Tue Mar 23, 2010

theft- graft and theft over iraq? now there's a suprise. wonder what the war would cost without all that.

trade schools- even if a school is legit if there is no market for the trade then it's useless.

bonuses- well they did such a great job! when will they be required to return their bonuses?

crack vs coke- am i a bigot if i point out that crack does more damage to the user and should be discouraged some way?(they are both bad i know)

insurance- hang these guys by their balls right along side the bankers. but don't worry we have much worse coming. buy some vaseline healthcare passed.

dowsing- the uk warned them? how about they stop the fraud where it begins since they know it is fraud.

camels- kids smoke because thier friends do not because of advertising. peer pressure.

hey, what did the scout master and the priest have in common? timmy. the boy scouts aren't the great outfit many think they are.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/23/10 at 09:04 AM
I'm not sure Eric, doesn't crack present a fire hazard too where powder doesn't?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 03/23/10 at 02:44 PM
The major problem with the trade schools is that the cost of the degree doesn't match up with expected earnings. I went to Le Cordon Bleu and graduated in 2005. The cost of my degree was $32,000. My first job after graduating paid well, but when the economy tanked, my position was eliminated. Now I can't find work that even pays a living wage. I love what I do and I'm very good at it, but kitchen jobs don't pay unless you're a super-star. The only things a person has to do to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu is show up to class every day. Attendance is 75% of your grade, which means any idiot can get a degree. This has made things especially difficult for the LCB graduates who actually know what they are doing, as many Atlanta employers are wary of hiring anyone with a degree from LCB because most of them are morons. And last I heard, tuition is over $60,000 now!
Posted by Caffeinated Katie in Atlanta, GA on 03/23/10 at 02:58 PM
wow katie that's expensive. and i know you are right about wages especially in this economy. good luck!
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/23/10 at 03:01 PM
my understanding (and i may be wrong, i often am) is that crack changes the user's brain chemistry permanently from the first use. This change makes the person more violent and a higher risk to commit violent crimes thus a bigger danger to scociety. also (again as i understand) powder form does not cause the same thing though it is still damaging but more to body than mind. even so(and i did not make this clear earlier) more severe criminal penalties for crack is not the answer clearly as they have not worked up to now, but something should be done. keep in mind the same people everyone wants to have shorter jail terms will still be users and thus will be mentally damaged and unable to lead productive and sucessful lives.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/23/10 at 04:26 PM
You've, obviously, never seen me boil water!

They won't let me anymore, you know.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 03/24/10 at 12:42 AM
Expat, forget just boiling water, boil water with sugar! The burns last longer!
I also went to a cooking trade school - French Culinary Institute - and, including interest, I'm paying off a $50,000 loan (for less than 10 months of classes!) Even the founder of the school laments the fact that lawyers get super salaries to help pay off their loans, whereas in NYC, a beginning line cook gets $10/hour. I make more than that at my desk job, so that's where I stay while my mad cake decorating skills lay unloved and unwanted.
Posted by Leshka on 03/24/10 at 09:34 AM
what is the percentage of kids who could remember a favorite cigarette ad? how big was the study and then was it half of 1% or 25% or 75% of that number that actually started smoking by adulthood. then what other factors were at work in those kids lives? do their parents smoke? older siblings? how strong willed are they? how impressionable? there are too many variables that could effect the outcome which won't be the same for all the kids in the study. therefore you can't necessarily blame one thing in particular for the choice.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/24/10 at 11:32 PM
and i never started smoking because my mom smoked. mainly because the dirty ashtrays grossed me out so much. i was a nurse aide for 14 years and cleaned up everything imaginable without once getting sick. dirty ashtrays, then and now, make me puke. it's just how i am.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/25/10 at 12:41 AM
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