I think I have a better idea….

So Clark County School District — the 5th largest school district in the nation — has a “successful” pilot of a program to keep track of students on school busses. Parents can theoretically find out whether their kids got on the bus, and where the bus is. Roughly 700 of the 110,000 students who daily ride the bus got special ID cards and were tracked for 4 whole weeks. Clearly something short of a representative sample. However, “because of financial problems, the district has shelved any large-scale program.”

Good for administrators for realizing that there were concerns about losing passes, and concerns about the costs of the system.

However, here’s the thing. There’s already a great technology in the hands of many middle school students and virtually all high school students that parents can use to keep track of their kids. Better yet, there is absolutely zero cost to the school district for this technology; most parents willingly — nay, eagerly — pay for implementation and all necessary equipment. I personally tested it for 4 years within the Clark County School District Transportation Department, and I feel certain that other parents here and elsewhere have similar experiences. In one case, I was even alerted to a wreck involving the school bus. This of course not only delayed pickup, but changed the pickup location. Use of this amazing technology saved the school district the time and expense of individual notifications to parents in most cases.

It’s called a cell phone.

Stop trying to reinvent the wheel, and stop pretending that a child’s RFID tag is necessarily in the same location as the child.

In closing: good call; inconvenient truth for anti-porn crusaders; Heinlein; I guess none of the researchers ever played the “telephone game”, or they could have saved a lot of research; so some busybody docs and pharmacists think they know more about women’s reproductive health than gynecologists; support a political cartoonist; hackers, crackers, and black swans; Expert Ezra; what could possibly go wrong; income inequality; the Buffett Rule; sure, there’s no such thing as inflation; and Cat Heaven Island. Enjoy an early Caturday.

Just What We Don’t Need

Back in February, I said this:

Recently, people have been having a lot of success losing weight on a gluten free diet. It worked because people on these diets knew they couldn’t eat cookies, candies and cakes. They know that they have to look carefully in ingredient lists for things that might contain gluten, and for some of them this is a matter of life and death. Now I see “gluten free bakeries” and all kinds of chemistry lab crap labeled “gluten free” and I see the end of gluten free dieting on the horizon.

Now, Domino’s Pizza wants a slice of the action: Gluten Free Pizza.

Well, sort of.

First and foremost, even the CEO points out that they will be baked right alongside the gluten-containing pizzas. For pity sakes, there’s gluten all over a pizza shop. There is no guaranty that these pizzas will in fact be gluten free by the time they reach your home. I find it unlikely they will be. So right off the bat, we know that this product is not aimed at people with a genuine gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease. If you really must avoid gluten, you really must still avoid these pizzas.

Second — and of great importance to the kind of people who think they are eating healthier by avoiding gluten — I can’t find a word about what this gluten free crust is made of. Not wheat, obviously. What kind of flour is involved: soy, almond, tapioca? Sawdust? The fact that they won’t come out and say “made from wholesome [insert foodstuff here] flour” makes me suspect that this is just another chemistry lab experiment, for which they will charge an additional $3.


If you really are craving pizza and really don’t want to (or can’t!) eat gluten, you really need to check out this review of alternative homemade pizza crusts. Many are vegetarian. A few are vegan.

Follow Up: The Benevolent Beastie.

In Closing: public banking?; Body by Marilyn; black holes; Empire State Building goes green (and saves money); Buffett says to pay attention to more than the news; losing weight can prevent and sometimes even cure diabetestruth; and interest rates.

Twofer Thursday: This is Your Economy and Warren Buffett Redux

This is Your Economy:

The ADP payroll report is out today. They’re the people who print paychecks, so they have a very good idea how many private sector jobs there are. And in May, they say there were 55,000 more private sector jobs. All the gains came from the “service” sector: jobs that often begin with “how can I help you” and end with “is there anything else” (or alternatively, “would you like fries with that”). No new manufacturing jobs; no new construction jobs; no jobs doing anything that won’t be gone or irrelevant in 6 months. Tomorrow the Bureau of Labor Statistics will come out with their own numbers, which include government jobs. And since there are roughly 400,000 extra Census workers on the job right now, they are expected to announce something like 540,000 new jobs. Because those Census workers will be unemployed by Christmas, we should really call this 140,000 new and possibly permanent jobs. Once more, we haven’t added enough jobs to account for people entering the workforce (sorry, class of 2010!) let alone put the unemployed to work.

Speaking of the unemployed, the percentage of them who have been out of work more than half a year is at record levels. Sadly, unemployment is higher among parents, who have families to feed. Let’s not forget that the biggest reason for unemployment benefits is that those kids didn’t do anything wrong and still deserve roof-over-head and dinner-on-the-table. And in an unconscionable move, at least one employer is advertising that they won’t consider your application if you are unemployed! On what planet is it desirable to hire people who you know will jump ship for a better gig, when there are thousands of unemployed people desperate to work for you? Even without the public relations nightmare unfolding, how can this possibly be good business?

No wonder personal bankruptcy filings are up.

This is your economy. And now, in the face of a consumer revolt that threatens to turn into a voter revolt, Congress is actually considering doing something about the people who got us here. It sure sounds like too little too late, if it happens at all.

Warren Buffett Redux (a follow up):

Yesterday was the big day for the Oracle of Omaha. He had to sit down in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and explain how the 3rd richest man in the world let a ratings agency he had partial ownership of overlook the real estate bubble. Well, he didn’t want to “look foolish” by sounding the alarm. After all, everybody was trying to make a buck in real estate. Nobody could have seen it coming, especially the company that was paid to see it coming. Which is it: he didn’t want to be the first to say anything, or nobody could have foreseen it?

Kind of unimpressive testimony. It’s almost like he was trying to invoke his right to remain silent.

In Closing: Androids don’t play Tetris; Wal-Mart’s lawyers warned the company not to be misogynist prigs in 1995; obligatory Gulf of Mexico oil spill items; Congressional slap-fight may make it hard to buy a home anywhere floods are a remote risk; Driving While Black (I feel certain that “brown” is close enough in many areas); cooking is hard; health insurance limbo; vaccine refusal puts everyone at risk; National Association of Evangelicals might actually be ready to face reality, that birth control prevents abortions; farewell Mercury; the 50 year “anomaly”; Governor Gibbons made the Real ID Zombie walk again, but the ACLU’s got a boomstick; and Star Trek insignia. Yes, I do try to always make the last item fun.

Oh Great Oracle of Omaha, START TALKING!

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has requested the company of the world’s 3rd richest man next week. And then, when he declined their invitation, they sealed the deal with a subpoena. CNN helpfully points out “If you don’t know how a subpoena works, this one begins with capital letters, ‘YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to appear and give testimony.'”

Why have they summoned the Oracle to Washington?

Warren Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire owns a lot of things; some of the ones you are likely to recognize are Dairy Queen, GEICO, Fruit of the Loom, Acme Bricks, and Pampered Chef. Berkshire also holds a lot of big stock positions in things like American Express, Bank of America, General Electric, Coca Cola, and Moody’s. Moody’s is a company that does business and economic analysis. While you might think that AmEx and B of A are what the FCIC is interested in, they want to know more about what happened at Moody’s regarding the investment ratings of mortgage backed bonds.

I wonder what the FCIC expects to hear from Mr. Buffett.

In Closing: the 3 ring circus that is the Nevada race for Senator; California health insurance rates going up (again); none of the 10 Commandments are in the Constitution; Social Security is sustainable; American citizen almost deported to Mexico; Wish List; joblessness among those under 24 at record levels; and Cat Cafes.

Shorties Row

Follow Up on Sexting Case: Remember a while back we learned about a Pennsylvania prosecutor who decided to prosecute girls whose pictures had been taken unless they submitted to a re-education class on what it means to be a girl? A judge has ruled that the parents have the right to block the prosecution. No ruling on the fundamental Constitutional issue of not letting anybody see the evidence.

Stick a fork in the airlines, they’re done: TSA official has gone on the record that full body scans will very likely become mandatory for airline passengers, despite the fact that the scanners don’t really do half of what they would like us to think they do towards deterring — let alone preventing — terrorism. That’s over and above the health and privacy issues. Heck, if they want to strip search everybody, just be honest about it.

In Memoriam: There will be a memorial garden in honor of the pets killed by tainted food. Scroll down for information and links on how to donate.

Why do we need Health Insurance Reform to stop this crap?: Fortis (and probably other insurers that just haven’t been caught yet) has been actively trying to find ways to cancel the policies of HIV positive customers. Stopping recission and punitive cancellation should be a simple, 3-5 page bill that should have unanimous support in both houses of Congress (or else), but no! They want to pass a monster-behemoth bill that nobody has read that’s loaded with oodles of political favors.

Hey Mister, Wanna Buy a Factory?: Factory utilization is near an all time low. This means we have lots of currently unused capacity. Pair that with the current unemployment rate and it sounds like an opportunity to make some stuff and get the economy going again. Maybe you could even get a piece of that new $38,000,000,000 jobs bill to do it.

Modest, by Billionaire Standards: Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, makes do in a 5000 square foot home.

Oh, you knew I couldn’t resist giving you some obligatory Health Insurance Reform items: Susie Madrak got to interview Michael Moore, and here’s part of what he had to say. Ok, the bill is supposed to cost roughly $940,000,000,000, but it’s supposed to save $1,300,000,000,000. Did the progressives win anything here? Enh, a little. This is why buying your abortion coverage separately is a terrible idea for every woman. Well, actually it’s only one of several reasons. And thankfully, Grayson’s Medicare-for-Anybody bill is up to 75 co-sponsors. I love the fact that it’s short, and politically difficult to stand against. It gives me hope that some things can be fixed with this turd in the punchbowl of a bill after it gets passed.

Where Health Care Meets the Scandal of the Day: Senator John Ensign’s office “organized a telephone call Wednesday night to thousands of Southern Nevadans represented by Rep. Dina Titus, where he spoke out against the pending health care reform bill and urged his audience to call her about it.” A local political scientist called the move “clumsy”. Rep. Titus, if you hadn’t guessed, is a Democrat, newly elected in 2008. Now, the interesting thing about this is that today, Senator Ensign got subpoenaed by the Department of Justice. Oh, and his wife. His Chief of Staff. His political advisor. A few local businesses. Probably the local power company. And a veritable “who’s who” of local political rainmakers. And they don’t just want stacks of documents, they want people to appear before the Grand Jury at the end of the month.

No Child Left Behind: What the heck went wrong? I mean, other than “better” as a standard, and rules designed to make even good schools fail.

You mean they want the banks to pay up? Crazy Talk!: It so happens that 82 of the roughly 700 banks that got TARP funds aren’t paying the dividends they owe the Feds.

And now, a moment of Spring: how to tell if last year’s seeds are still good.