Jan 10, 2009

Forget snowmen - check out this snowoman!

“Olympia,” the giant snowwoman, towers over the town and can be seen from miles away in Bethel, Maine.

The name honors Maine's senior Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Olympia rises 122 feet and one inch, which beats the old record of 114 feet.

The third photo shows how the layers were built up to form Olympia.

Her eyelashes were made from discarded skis and bright red lips made from painted car tires.

She wears a giant red hat and a 100-foot-long scarf, and her blond tresses are made from rope.

She gets a little bling from a snowflake pendant that's 6 feet long.


The Devil cheers on Tour de France riders

A spectator known as Didi and dressed as a devil, jumps beside a pack of riders during the fifth stage of the 95th Tour de France cycling race in July 2008.

Reuters photo

Mexico City says do what mom told us not to

Mexico City wants you to do what your mom told you not to - swallow your gum.

The country that gave the world chewing gum is getting gummed up: The average square yard (meter) of Mexico City sidewalk has 70 blobs of discarded chew.

Now Mexico is responding with innovations ranging from expensive sidewalk steam-cleaners to natural chewing gum that breaks down quickly. It's even telling its citizens (gulp!) to swallow their gum.

When you finish chewing a piece of gum in Mexico City, you either have to put in a piece of paper and deposit it in a trash receptacle or swallow it.

Doctors say not so fast - swallowing gum isn’t good says a pediatrician at the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville.

It usually passes through the digestive system, but can ball up with other objects and cause an intestinal blockage.

The sticky problem involves the long-lasting, synthetic chewing gum base used since the 1940s to replace the latex-like chicle resin that ancient Mayans had long collected from the Sapodilla tree. The Mayans chewed unflavored chicle to clean their teeth.


Jan 9, 2009

Hang in there - the weekend is nearly here

When do the stimulus and bailouts end?

From fuel cell to fool sell for new Congressman

Here is a great story to take us into the weekend:

The newly elected Democratic Representative from New York’s 29th District, Eric Massa, found out that it’s not easy going green.

Massa apparently made a fuel of himself (pun intended) and of those that elected him. And the amusing thing is he did it on the way to his swearing in ceremony!

No waiting to actually take office for Massa. No, this man thinks BIG!

Massa had to be in the nation's capital Tuesday for his swearing in as a new Congressman.

He drove the new General Motors Equinox prototype car to draw attention to the technology, some of which is being developed in his district.

The problem is the car can’t go more than 150 to 200 miles without a refill. The trip from Corning to Washington, D.C. is 282 miles and there are no hydrogen refilling stations along the way.

However, Massa was smart enough to figure that out and had a second GM hydrogen fuel cell vehicle waiting for him in Harrisburg to take him the rest of the way to Washington where he would arrive triumphantly.

It was supposed to be a feel good move to garner the new Congressman some face time on TV and the golly-gee-wows of the country.

Then reality came a’knockin.

So, what became of the two cars? Well, actually it took four cars to pull off the stunt.

The two Chevy Equinox fuel cell cars were towed back to the starting point by two Chevy Tahoe SUV’s.

Yup, it took four vehicles to pull off the stunt that brought a new Democratic Congressman to Washington to be sworn in.

Nancy Pelosi must be proud. But how proud are the voters back in New York’s 29th District?

Maybe Pelosi will loan him her personal jet next time.

Link here and here.

Live mortar shell found in grandpa’s stuff

A Colorado man sorting through his late grandfather's belongings found a bombshell, sort of: a live mortar round from the Korean War era.

A bomb squad detonated the shell at an undisclosed site. No one was hurt.

Police said Monday the grandson discovered the shell in a firearms cabinet at his grandfather's home just outside Greeley.


Did a UFO strike a UK wind turbine?

UFO enthusiasts are claiming that a UFO caused the damage to a turbine at a Lincolnshire wind farm in west central England.

The turbine lost one 66ft blade and another was badly damaged during the night.

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The blade that broke off is being examined.

County councillor for the area Robert Palmer said he had seen a "round, white light that seemed to be hovering".

Ecotricity, which owns the site, said while investigations continued they were not ruling anything out - but the extent of damage was "unique".

Local UFO enthusiasts said they had received many reports of activity in the area and had teams searching for clues.

UFO skeptics will say all they need to do is find a damaged UFO somewhere and the mystery will be solved. Put handcuffs on ET make him pay for the damages.

Link here and here.

Abrupt halt to Obama’s two-year smooth sailing

Walking on water isn’t as easy as it looks.

Campaigning, with the media praising every move, is much easier than getting down to the nitty-gritty of on-the-job training.

In the past four days, president-elect Barack Obama (pictured), once lauded as having the smoothest transition to power in modern history, has learned how hard it is to navigate the political high wire.

His commerce secretary nominee withdrew while facing a grand jury investigating corruption charges; he backpedaled on his Senate replacement; and he infuriated top Democratic senators by failing to consult them on his pick to run the CIA.

The missteps have chafed Capitol Hill allies and proved the difficulty of converting so quickly from candidate to leader of the free world.

Democrats were especially critical of a proposed $3,000 tax credit for companies that hire or retrain workers that Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota described as "misdirected."

The latest example came Wednesday when Mr. Obama offered comments that cleared the way for senior Democrats to seat Roland Burris as his replacement in the Senate, a stunningly absolute and rapid turnaround.

Senate Democrats decided to open the way for Mr. Burris to join their ranks just hours after their insistence that any appointment made by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich should not be honored.

Some liberal activists who supported Mr. Obama in the election say they are growing weary of apologizing for his centrist moves.

The Obama promise of change is falling by the wayside with so many appointments filled by retreads from the old Bill Clinton administration.

It appears that buyers remorse is settling in even before Mr. Obama has taken the oath of office.


Top priority of labor union’s facing delay

As a reward for backing Barack Hussein Obama, labor unions expected fast action on their pet project, the Employee Free Choice Act (a misnomer because it will not give employees free choice).

Unions likely won't see action soon on legislation that would make it easier to organize workers, but Democrats are moving to back a pair of less-controversial bills that would facilitate filing discrimination suits against employers.

Labor had hoped the Obama administration would take up the Employee Free Choice Act within its first 100 days. The bill would let unions register members by collecting signatures on cards rather than through elections.

But its enactment now appears doubtful.

The bill is opposed by business. Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business-backed group that opposes the measure, said support for it is weakening and the business lobby expects to have enough votes to block it with a filibuster, as it did in 2007.

Having a filibuster-proof majority in the senate is why stealing the Senate seat in Minnesota is so important for the Democrats and the labor unions.


Jan 8, 2009

OJ Simpson in Las Vegas court

O.J. Simpson speaks to the judge before his sentencing in Las Vegas, Nevada December 2008.

Reuters photo

Obama tax plan runs into opposition in Senate

Senators say tax portion of Obama's stimulus plan is unworkable.

President-elect Barack Obama's proposed tax cuts are running into opposition from senators in his own party who say they won't do much to stimulate the economy or create jobs

They were especially critical of a proposed $3,000 tax credit for companies that hire or retrain workers. Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota described it as "misdirected."

More here.

Last minute instructions for Panetta

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Minnesota sled dog race cancelled - too much snow

The dogsled race near Frazee, Minn., has been canceled -- because there’s too much snow!

The Frazee area has received about 3 feet of snow, but winds keep creating drifts of 4 feet or more over the course, which was to host races of four to 14 miles.

“The drifting aspect is just unbelievable,” said Streeper, a native of Canada who has been involved with dogsled racing for 25 years. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”


Governors want $1 trillion federal aid

Governors of five U.S. states urged the federal government to provide $1 trillion in aid. Yes, that’s one Trillion - with a “T”.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin -- all Democrats -- said the initiative for the two-year aid package was backed by other governors and follows a meeting in December where governors called on President-elect Barack Obama to help them maintain services in the face of slumping revenues.

“The Obama team has been very receptive in listening to us,” said Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. He said quite a number of other governors back the initiative.

It started with banks followed by the Detroit auto industry. Now it looks like the states will want handouts. When will it stop?

Will the ten-year-old lemonade seller on your block be next in line for a federal bailout? Sorry for the feeble attempt at humor because it isn’t the least bit funny.

Soon after January 20, the Obama administration has promised to begin work on universal health care (a precursor to socialized medicine) which will cost billions more.

What will happen to the economy when the fed prints up enough money to pay for it all?

Link here to the state bailout story.

Prosecutors say get on with Jefferson trial

Former Democrat Congressman William Jefferson (pictured) from New Orleans was indicted on bribery charges after agents found $90,000 in his freezer.

Jefferson has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers argue that his trial should be delayed pending his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal prosecutors are urging an appeals court to get on with Rep. William Jefferson's corruption trial, saying his appeal to the Supreme Court does not have enough chance of success to justify further delays.

The 2005 discovery of the money in Jefferson's freezer led to an indictment on charges that he took bribes, laundered money and misused his congressional office for business dealings in Africa. Jefferson has promised there is an "honorable explanation" for the money in the freezer, although he has yet to make it public.

He lost his bid for re-election in December to Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao, who will become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

Jefferson faces up to 235 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Former Congressman Jefferson could well have been the poster boy for corruption in the House of Representatives.


Jan 7, 2009

Biden not recognized - turned away at theater

The vice president-elect was treated like Rodney Dangerfield - no respect.

Employees at the Regal Brandywine Cinemas say the vice president-elect and his wife, Jill, tried to attend the 7:45 showing of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" at the theater on Concord Pike but left after they were told the movie was sold out.

There's been no confirmation from the Biden camp, but the theater employees say they are sure it was him.

It would be hard to miss Biden and his wife surrounded by several secret service agents.


Man who helped start free shuttle accused of DWI

A Wisconsin man who helped start free shuttle for drinking drivers didn’t use the service.

A business leader who helped launch a free shuttle program to prevent drunken driving is facing charges that he drove under the influence on a night the shuttle was available.

It would be his third drunken-driving conviction, following incidents in 1990 and 1999, if he is found guilty.

The Waukesha County district attorney's office alleges that Manders failed a sobriety test after he was stopped while driving a vehicle emblazoned with the shuttle program's logo.


Economy today compared to1929

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Over-exposed skier in Vail Colorado

This has probably been the most widely repeated water cooler story so far this year.

An unfortunate skier was caught in an embarrassing chairlift mishap at the Vail, Colorado ski resort.

A 48-year-old man was not injured after being suspended for approximately seven minutes.

The unnamed skier dangled trouserless upside down until help arrived.

The chairlift's fold-down seat was not in the correct position causing the man to partially fall through the gap.

The only injuries were to his dignity and pride.

Link to story and photos here.

Obama caused Democrat rift over Panetta pick

The president-elect and his surrogates are scrambling to mend a divide in Democratic ranks over the nomination of Leon Panetta (pictured) to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Obama and his aides were trying to mend damage done on Monday when news of Mr. Panetta’s selection leaked before it had been shared with senior senators, and some Democrats responded with surprise and skepticism because Mr. Panetta lacks much intelligence experience.

Leaking the selection of the CIA head may make the confirmation of Panetta a little more difficult.

The president-elect may need to put out several other fires during his on-the-job training.


How to steal a Senate seat in Minnesota Part 5

They say it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. According to Power Line, the fat lady hasn’t sung in Minnesota -- yet.

John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Power Line have been reporting on the attempt by comedian Al Franken, aided by Democratic political activists in Minnesota to steal a Senate seat from incumbent Senator Norm Coleman.

Scott has the latest information here.

We have been reporting this story also. Our latest posting, containing several links, is here.

If you don’t click on any of the other links, go here for an irreverent picture of Al Franken (it’s the second photo). Is this a person you would want to represent you in the U.S. Senate? If he is able to steal the Senate seat, he will at least be able to give a whole new meaning to the change promised by Obama! It really is a picture of Al Franken, the comedian who wants Norm Coleman’s Senate seat to play with.

What are Franken’s qualifications? Well, let’s see now. He is a failed liberal political talk show host on the failed Air America radio. He is a comedian. Did I day he was a failed radio talk show host?

Jan 6, 2009

Two gang members are blue after seeing red

Two men from Half Moon Bay, California will be spending some time in jail after they admittedly threatened two electricians over the color of their shirts.

Jesus Delgado and Cesar Beccera entered no contest pleas Wednesday to misdemeanor charges over an incident in Half Moon Bay in December.

Prosecutors say the 18-year-old Delgado and the 20-year-old Beccera are known gang members.

They were accused of threatening the electricians because the red company shirts they wore while working at a McDonald's restaurant resembled the colors of a rival gang.


Leon Panetta to head CIA

Leon Panetta (pictured), Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, will head the CIA in President-elect Barack Obama's administration.

As reported at the link below, this is causing surprise and a bit of consternation by several individuals involved in the intelligence community.

Panetta is a surprise pick since he has no experience in the intelligence world.

Taken by surprise was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., incoming chairwoman of the Select Senate Intelligence Committee.

The report says that Senator Sen. Dianne Feinstein said: “I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director. I know nothing about this, other than what I've read. My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

(Sarcasm on) It could have been worse. Obama could have picked William Ayers as CIA Chief. After all, Ayers knows a lot about terrorism.

But why stop there - why not pick disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich to head the FBI? (sarcasm off).

It seems that the president-elect has only two groups to choose from: friends from his community organizing days in Chicago or the regurgitation of people from the old Bill Clinton administration.


Harry Reid teaches Civics 101

Senator Reid (pictured) says he has “legal authority” to bar any pick by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat held by president-elect Barack Obama.

Under the Constitution, Reid said, "We determine who sits in the Senate. And the House (of Representatives) determines who sits in the House. So there's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to do. This goes back for generations."

Reid also said there is “room to negotiate.”

So, why do we bother with elections? Just let Harry Reid appoint Senators.

Maybe, if the country is lucky, Reid will lose his bid for re-election in 2010.

A Wall Street Journal article here reports that:

Sen. Reid … faces a potentially tough fight. A recent Research 2000 poll of likely voters put his approval rating at 38% and his disapproval rating at 54%, a possible reflection of voters' displeasure with gridlock and partisanship in Washington.


Plump Oprah asks How did this happen again?

Oprah admits to her ongoing “battle of the bulge.” She blames her weight gain on failure to find a work/life balance.

Oprah Winfrey blames the mild depression she suffered after gaining so much weight last year on working too much at the expense of taking the time to relax.

She said on her television show that she was miserable. Not admitting she had depression, she vowed to change her attitude towards food.

The 54-year-old, who at one point tipped the scales at 14.3 stone (200 pounds), said she was determined to change in 2009.

It’s not about food. It’s about “using food - abusing food.”

Oprah posed next to a picture of her thinner 2005 self on the cover of January's O Magazine (lower photo).


BIG government planned with 600,000 new employees!

We have all heard about the Democrat philosophy of tax and spend and big government. Looks like we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The president-elect (pictured) says he wants to "create three million new jobs" -- this is a change from a few weeks ago, when he said he wanted the plan to create OR SAVE two million jobs.

He says the "No. 1 goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.”

If you do the math: 20 percent of three million means 600,000 new government employees.

Obama has a name for his new plan -- the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan."

His dream is to be another FDR. Let’s hope he doesn’t bankrupt the country in the process!


Obama wants more government employees

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President-elect to face a chaotic Senate

A series of major distractions await the president-elect.

The new U.S. Senate is set to convene in a swirl of allegations of corruption, and dynastic nepotism that threatens to dog the early days of Barack Obama's presidency.

The class of 2009 could face a chaotic swearing-in ceremony.

In the most high-profile standoff, Obama's designated replacement for Illinois, Roland Burris, could be stopped from taking his seat by fellow Democrats.

The Democrat claiming victory in Minnesota faces serious allegations of voter fraud. Some Minnesota precincts show more votes than registered voters. Some votes for the Minnesota Democrat candidate were mysteriously found in a poll workers car (the poll worker was a Democrat) and that is just two discrepancies in the Minnesota election fiasco.

Last, but not least, is the New York Senate seat occupied by Hillary Clinton. A member of the legendary Kennedy clan is determined to get that seat.

The senatorial to-and-fro is an unwelcome distraction for Obama as he prepares to take office on January 20, reliant on a focused Congress to enact his ambitious plans including a mammoth economic stimulus package.


Jan 5, 2009

iPhone 3G has been unlocked by tech group

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Apple iPhone G3 has been unlocked by a band of “independent programmers” allowing the owner to use it on unauthorized wireless networks.

Since the original iPhone was launched in June 2007, Apple has struck partnerships with wireless carriers world-wide, such as AT&T Inc. in the U.S. and France Telecdom SA's Orange unit.

Under the agreements, the iPhone can generally be used only by subscribers to those carriers.

A group called the iPhone Dev Team released a free piece of software called "yellowsn0w" that unlocks the iPhone 3G.

The software lets users reprogram the phones so they can work on any wireless network based on the same technical standard.

The development could lead to a loss in revenue for Apple's wireless partners. International travelers would be able to buy airtime for their iPhones on local wireless networks when they travel abroad, so they don't have to incur steep roaming charges.

An AT&T spokesman said, “the iPhone is meant to be used exclusively on the AT&T network. Any other use of the device is inappropriate and would void the warranty.”

This indicates that using the iPhone on networks other than AT&T with the “patch” is not illegal.

Maybe Apple Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs is getting his comeuppance.

Before Apple, Steve Jobs (pictured above) went into business building and selling “blue boxes” that allowed free illegitimate phone calls by faking the signals used by AT&T.

Jobs once ripped off AT&T and now a group of geeks are ripping off Apple and Apple’s wireless contractor.

What goes around, comes around.


2009: A Starbucks Odyssey

This is penned with all due respect to the memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of the book 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It all began when a Starbucks gift card mysteriously arrived in my mailbox.

Actually, there was no mystery. Lori mailed it to me last week. She is aware of my affection for iced coffee. Thanks Lori!

I took the card to the nearest Starbucks hoping to pick up a few cans of their Italian roast iced coffee. Come to find out, Starbucks no longer makes the product. No wonder I haven’t been able to find it on grocery store shelves for the last six months or so.

The Starbucks store was nearly empty. There was one other customer and three employees. I found it easy to understand why two Starbucks locations in our little town closed during 2008.

A couple of friendly barista’s rushed over and fawned over me like I was a long-lost friend. The service was great. Six hundred store closings will do that.

They even opened a can of Double Shot so I could have a taste. Didn’t like it. They gave me another sample before I ended up with two large cups of iced coffee to take home.

The coffee was too strong for my taste but it was easy to remedy. After heating the coffee in a microwave, a generous amount of low-fat whipped cream was stirred in before adding a teaspoon of vanilla. It turned out pretty good - almost as good as McDonald’s iced coffee.

Later I’ll pick up some bottles of Frappachino of various flavors. That will be another “take-out” - no fun drinking coffee in an empty store.

It’s 1:00 PM - do you know where your Starbucks store is?

A couple of years ago, new Starbucks stores were popping up like dandelions in the spring.

Now Starbucks stores are closing almost as fast. And that was before the economy downturn that hit hard in the summer of 2008.

Look for even more Starbucks stores closings in 2009.

A report from last July, found at the link below, says:

Starbucks, known for sometimes going so far as to open stores across the street from one another, has recently acknowledged that it may have lost some of its luster during a long period of rapid store openings.

Starbucks Corp. said it has drastically increased the number of stores it plans to close and could eliminate as many as 12,000 full- and part-time positions as a result.

The company said it now plans to close 600 company-operated stores in the United States.

Commuters in some locations could buy their first coffee of the day at their suburban train station, a second at a Starbucks one block from the downtown train station and a third in the lobby of their office building while walking by two others on the way.


Our favorite editorial cartoons from 2008

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Excellent Sen. Harry Reid likeness don’t you think?

Jan 4, 2009

Gov Richardson withdraws from commerce secretary post

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (pictured) is withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary.

Richardson withdrew amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract.

Richardson's withdrawal was the first disruption of Obama's Cabinet process and the second "pay-to-play" investigation that has touched Obama's transition to the presidency.

The president-elect has remained above the fray in both the case of arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the New Mexico case.

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson's political activities won a New Mexico transportation contract worth more than $1 million.

Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly.

The Obama transition team was caught flat-footed on the Richardson impropriety. One wonders why Richardson agreed to accept a post he is unqualified for even without the cloud of his “pay-to-play” scandal back in New Mexico?

The media worked hard to elect Barack Hussein Obama. The Richardson fiasco is a reminder that the media will need to work even harder to gloss over Obama’s miss steps once he occupies the oval office.


TV News winds down Iraq war coverage

America’s three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq.

The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it.


“No appetite to cover Iraq” means now that the war is being won and news from Iraq can no longer be spun into bad news for the Bush administration.


Reid blocking 3 black replacements for Obama

A report at the link below states that:

Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid (pictured) made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis and Emil Jones are all three black. Reid’s choices are Lisa Madigan who is white and Tammy Duckworth is Vietnamese.

Harry Reid says he is concerned about the ability of the appointee to win election in 2010. However, there will always be claims that Reid wants to go back to an all-white Senate as it was before Obama became a Senator.


Rare 1937 Bugatti found in English garage

A $4 million car was found in a northern England garage.

Relatives of Dr. Harold Carr found an extremely rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante -- a Holy Grail for car collectors -- as they were going through his belongings after his death.

The dusty two-seater, unused since 1960, didn't look like much in the garage in Gosforth, near Newcastle in northern England.

But only 17 were ever made, and when it's cleaned up and auctioned in Paris next month, experts believe it will fetch at least 3 million pounds ($4.3 million) and possibly much more.

This particular car is even more valuable because it was originally owned by Earl Howe, a prominent British race car driver, and because its original equipment is intact, so it can restored without relying on replacement parts.


Obama’s Ed Sec failed as a Chicago Education leader

Once again Barack Obama seems to be using the Peter Principle* as he fills cabinet posts.

The Chicago Public Schools, whose superintendent, Arne Duncan, has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to be the next education secretary, failed to meet the Illinois state standards set under the No Child Left Behind Act for the last five years.

The Chicago school district is currently on “Academic Watch” status, based on its failure to make adequate progress for four consecutive years--and in year two of academic watch for failure to make required improvements.

Arne Duncan, whom President Obama will nominate as secretary of education, was superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2008.


*Generalized, the Peter Principle states that in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their “level of incompetence.”