2006/08/31

Rules of the Road

In response to Tuesday's Blogsphere fit about the San Francisco's 'hit and murder' driver, I received quite a number of nasty emails. Most were incoherent trash, but two messages took me to task for failing to mention that pedestrians have a responsibility to look out for themselves. Another even suggested that cars turning right on a green have the right of way, and do you know what I say to that... GO BACK TO TRAFFIC SCHOOL, MORON!!!

Here's the deal... As long as that light is green--as long as there is a crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection--then pedestrians have the right of way. Period!!! But just in case your brain is so addled that an analogy would help, try this one on for size:

versus

Is about the same as...

versus

So the next time you feel like inching your 2 ton Explorer through a bunch of pedestrians, take a moment and consider how you'd feel if a 200 ton diesel locomotive tried to inch past your SUV, and then... STOP!

California Begins The End Run Around the Electoral College

California hasn't been a player in presidential elections for a long time. Our primary is late, and we've voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1988. Consequently presidential candidates largely ignore our state despite it's 55 electoral votes. But now it seems that California will be the first state to push for making the Electoral College obsolete.

The so-called National Popular Vote movement seeks to modify the electoral landscape by having states commit their electors to whomever wins at the national level (rather than at the state level). Legislation sent to the governor's desk would go into effect if states making up a majority of Electoral College votes also commit to the movement, and legislation is pending in New York, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado and Louisiana.

Predictably, conservatives are decrying the movement as an 'end run around the Constitution' and complain that it will force candidates to campaign in urban centers, ignoring rural areas. Though the latter point is certainly true (and would be a boon to California, BTW), the former is absolute nonsense. Article Two, Section 1 of the Constitution places no restrictions on whom an elector actually casts their ballot for.

Conservatives are complaining because they don't want to see a change in a system that works to their advantage, allowing them to ignore America's population centers as campaigners and as policy-makers.

On The Other Hand, Caps On Greenhouse Gases For California

So while Bu$hCo is busy burying the evidence of global climate change, California once again leads the way with an unprecedented agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 25% below current levels by 2020. The new legislation is supported by both Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Senate and will place stringent emissions reduction standards, developed by the Air Resources Board, on industries ranging from auto makers to cement manufacturers.

The initiative is already being hailed as a move that could be adopted by other states, but there's little doubt California will be sued by industries that don't want to adhere to the requirements, just as we were over fuel efficiency and tail-pipe emissions standards.

Update 2006/08/31, 8:10 am PDT -

Opening briefs are due today before the Supreme Court in the multi-state suit against the EPA for it's refusal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

2006/08/30

Bu$hCo Shutters EPA's Research Libraries

By executive order 15 EPA research libraries will be closed by September 30th of this year. 80 thousand "off-line" documents will be boxed and put into storage. And the public's access to materials in the remaining libraries is to be halted "as soon as possible".

What this means for the EPA is that many of its 134K+ internal request for information, used to support enforcement actions, will go unanswered. What this means for the public is that valuable documentary evidence of pollution and global climate change will be locked away for the foreseeable future. And for polluters? It means that Bu$hCo will be able to easily let them off the hook--can't mount an enforcement action when you've got no evidence.

Guess climate change doesn't exist if you bury the evidence. Though one wonders why Bu$hCo doesn't just go ahead and eliminate the EPA.

2006/08/29

I Was Wrong - It's Death Race 2000 In San Francisco

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that an SUV driver went crazy in the city today and spent over an hour mowing down with pedestrians with his Honda Pilot before he was arrested.

Here's the toll so far:
  • 14 known injuries
  • 7 victims in critical condition
  • 1 fatality
F*CK this makes me angry!!! It's not enough that we have to put up with the inconsiderate, the inattentive, the mornic GODDAMNED CAGERS! Now we've got crazy mother-f*ckers using their 2 ton vehicles as F*CKING WEAPONS!

Enough is goddamned enough! Ban cars in the city not just in downtown. Any cager that gets within a foot of you...stick your camera phone in their face and take the photo to the police! If that doesn't do the trick, jump on their hood and smash it into f*cking scrap metal!

"Catch-22" Florida Voter Registration Law Struck Down

Now here's the kind of news we like to hear at Blognonymous. Remember those draconian new voter registration laws in Florida and Ohio? Well Florida 2005-277, Secs. 2 and 7--a damned if you do, damned if you don't set of requirements--designed to put the kabosh on non-partisan voter registration drives, has been struck down.

Just to refresh our memories... This pernicious piece of legislation imposes a $250 fine for each voter registration form submitted more than 10 days after collection, a $500 fine for each form submitted after the deadline, and uses a "strict liability" standard. (i.e., Your office gets wiped out by hurricane Ernesto? Tough!) But what happens if a group gets in trouble and decides not to submit the forms? Well then the fine goes up to $5000 per. Sweet, huh? Political parties are exempted of course.

Now lets hope that Ohio and Ken Blackwell gets the same kind of treatment from the courts.

2006/08/28

Emancipation Day

Though I revere Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I've always been a little uncomfortable with having a national holiday in his honor. Why? Well it has nothing to do with his stature, his vision, his oratory, or his commitment to civil rights. No...it just seems to me that even Dr. King would be uncomfortable with a day dedicated to his memory. Somehow it seems too small--seems not to have the right focus.

I wrote recently that one of the most important American concepts is the notion of "Independence". It's why we celebrate the 4th of July and not the date we won the Revolutionary War or the date the Constitution was ratified. We were free from England's grip on the day we declared our independence. But what is the second most important American concept? I'd argue that it's the notion of "Emancipation".
emancipate (v.) - To set free, especially from legal, social, or political restrictions

Oxford American Dictionary
When we emancipate we fine-tune democracy, we expand independence, and we recognize that, as long as a single citizen is unable to experience liberty, we're all diminished. Thus, over the course of American history, we've had to emancipate many times:
So let me submit that Martin Luther King Jr. Day might be better celebrated as 'Emancipation Day', a reminder that we're constantly in a battle to emancipate America's have-nots. But...not wanting to gratuitously take anything away from Dr. King, how about we just choose Columbus Day (third Monday of October, the 16th this year) and celebrate the exact opposite what Columbus and the Spanish brought to the Americas...Emancipation.

(Thanks to Granny @ Is American Burning and her post on Women's Equality Day. It got me thinking along these lines.)

Katherine Harris Explains Her Train Wreck of a Campaign


"...God is the one who chooses our rulers."

Thanks for clearing that up Katherine. I was beginning to wonder.

And thanks to Betty Cracker for the inspiration.

The ICBM - An Essential Tool In The War On Terror?

Reuters -
Rumsfeld, after that closed-door meeting, said the
Pentagon was considering a plan to replace the nuclear warheads on some intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional weapons, a move that would make the missiles less lethal and therefore more conceivable for politicians to use in preemptive strikes against terrorist groups.
Does anyone else find this strange? I mean...what is an ICMB? Well basically it's a big, expensive, high thrust, rocket designed to carry large, heavy payloads. Why would anyone want to use these things for conventional explosives? And contrary to what Mr. Rumsfeld says in the Reuters article, ICBMs are not easy to retarget. Ballistic trajectories require a lot of calculation, and unlike cruise missiles, ICBMs don't do well at in flight correction--something to do with plummeting to earth from the upper atmosphere, I think.

So what's the deal here? Is this all just bluster? Does Rumsfeld figure that, in the name of cost savings, we ought to use the cold war leftovers that we have? Perhaps he thinks that we ought to make common cause with the one other nation that has thousands of similar weapons?

I guess that when what you've got are ballistic missiles, every enemy looks like a godless commie!

2006/08/27

It's Frogger on the Streets of San Francisco

1998 was a bad year for Babylon by the Bay. That year we had 53 vehicular fatalities of which 32 were pedestrians or bicyclists. That's a pedestrian killed by a cager once every 11 goddamned days! And this year, we're on track to equal that number. In other words, the moment I step out of my San Francisco flat I have 1 in 22,000 chance of dying under the wheels of some idiot's car. It's f*cking Frogger out there, and I'd be about 200 times more safe if I took a 737 to work instead of walking!

Ironically, in a bout of tremendous wrong-headedness, the City is once again placing the emphasis on pedestrians: Countdown timers at crosswalks, brighter markings, and education programs. But in the end, we need to deal with the cagers because, let's face it...Granny not making it across the intersection before the countdown timer expires isn't going to cause a fatality, and a mobility impaired person isn't going to speed up because you've given them a "death clock".

Here are some ideas. How about confiscating the vehicles of red-light runners? And if you're a bus driver? You lose your job. Period! How about we increase the fines for speeding downtown by a factor of...oh say...10! Better still, how about we close downtown to cars altogether. Don't like it? TOUGH! I too old for video games, even one's where I'm the goddamned star!

2006/08/26

Microsoft Introduces The Fugly Zune

A day late (or a couple of years) and a dollar short (of some decent ideas), Microsoft intends to go to war with Apple. And their weapon...the Zune...is the dumbest thing we've seen in personal music players in quite a while.

How is it that something that has all the white plastic of an iPod, more pixels, and even a clickwheel lookalike can be look so shockingingly ugly? And the differentiator for this soon-to-be also-ran, "social networking". Yes indeed Microsoft thinks that using WiFi to expose your Paul Anka fetish is going to make you the life of the party.

Not just dead on arrival, but dead before it even gets shipped to the stores.

And so on this Saturday Night, here's 10 random songs from my little not-a-stupid-Zune:

1. Live - "Lakini's Juice", Secret Samahdi
2. Thelonious Monk - "I Didn't Know About You", Straight No Chaser
3. David Byrne - "Machu Picchu", Forrestry
4. Moby - "Rushing", Play
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)", Electric Ladyland
6. Prince - "When Doves Cry", Purple Rain
7. Steely Dan - "Hey Nineteen", Citizen Steely Dan
8. Branford Marsalis - "Roused About", The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
9. Neil and Tim Finn - "Weather With You (Live)", 7 Worlds Collide
10. Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls", Discography

2006/08/25

Your Browser vs. Your Bank

Sometimes being a MacOS user, a Linux user, or a Windoze user who wants the latest and greatest non-Microsoft utilities, can be a real pain. And one of the most annoying aspects of the bleeding edge is when your bank (broker, insurer, lender, whatever...) doesn't let you surf their site with your browser of choice.

But fear not Blognonyfriends, Kvatch has the solution to your dilema. You see all browsers attach a piece of information called the "user-agent" to requests for a web-pages, and in most browsers you can change that value. Now...is this the all purpose solution? Not really. A really savy web development team can employ "browser-sniffing" to try and figure it out, but most developers are lazy and rely on the user-agent. So here's the bullet:

Firefox (for power users):
1) Type "about:config" into your web address box
2) On the resulting page [ctrl]-click to get a menu that allows you to add a new entry ( "New->String" )
3) Name the entry "general.useragent.override" and for a value use the user-agent string of a browser compatible with the site you want to surf.

Try this for Windows (if you want to masquerade as Mozilla):

"Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.7a) Gecko/20040123"
You can find many, many more user-agent strings are here.

Safari (for power users):
OK, this is a bit more complex...
1) Quit Safari
2) Paste into a terminal window "defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu 1"
3) Start Safari which now has a new "Debug" entry for changing the user-agent
And if you're not a power user, why not try the User Agent Switcher plug-in for Mozilla and Firefox?

(For Sothis (Chasing Orion) who asked me for this information.)

Do Not Try This At Your Airport

What is in about male enhancement devices these days? It's as if Austin Powers put the damn things into our consciousness, and now we can't get them out.

I mean...a judge gets 4 years in the clink for using one behind the bench (EEEEEEUUUYYYY!). And so, when TSA finds one in your luggage, do not, Do Not, DO NOT say what this poor schmuck said. "It's a bomb."

News And Views You Can Use

No faking, no humor, just news and views you can use on Blognonymous today. In the last 48 hours some great posts have made it onto the blogs I read. Check 'em out:

BHFRK @ Club Lefty reports on how the Alabama Democratic Party leadership is using an dusty, mostly ignored, regulation to disqualify the lesbian winner of one particular district primary.

Chuck of Bu$hmerica has dug up a pair of graphs that really hammer home how our bungling in the Middle East makes us manifestly less safe.

And finally, Peachchick Mary has located a piece describing how Diebold voting machines, which are susceptible to all sorts of attacks, have already been hacked...on contract...for the Republicans...for money!

2006/08/24

Alternate History - Nixon Defeated!

Nixon Defeated
Mutters "Screw you America!" as he leaves the stage.

In yesterday's post on Minnesota versus Texas, the question arose: How would history have changed if Nixon hadn't defeated Hubert Humphrey in 1968--implying, it seems, that things would have turned out for the better. But I say, not a chance, and knowing good blog fodder when I see it, I'll throw the question open to my readers.

The following is my alternate history:
Nixon loses and fades from the scene. No Watergate, no outrage, and thus no congressional curbs on executive power (i.e., no FISA). COINTELPRO happens but never gets thoroughly investigated. The FBI remains an unfettered organization of thugs. Ultimately, no Jimmy Carter to delay the Republican revolution or to give voice and teeth to the electorate's pique. Reagan is still elected but 4 years earlier and without those congressional curbs that I mentioned.
Take it from there, or let me know your alternate history.

Kvatch Kvestions - Security Measures And The Drive To Keep Us Afraid

This morning Schneier on Security gave voice to a notion that's been kicking around in my head ever since the last terrorist scare: What is the purpose of all these extra security precautions? Do they make us any safer? And why the hell do our governments insist on playing up each new incident, each new, arguably useless, response?

In a recent article, the Atlantic Monthly noted that the most intelligent response to 9/11 was the strengthening of airliner cockpit doors, and the reasoning went something like this: Though people may die in a terrorist hijacking, intrusion proof cockpits mean that a plane can never again be used as a flying bomb. And I might add that if all a terrorist wants to do is kill people, blowing oneself up at San Francisco's United Economy check-in counter would be far more effective. In other words, all of this new TSA nonsense is mostly security window-dressing that helps to reassure the flying public.

So it seems that today will be a day for "what if's?" What if every bag larger than 1 cubic foot in volume had to be checked? What if you were only allowed 1 such bag on board (or maybe two at half that size)? What if TSA searched every single carry-on...by hand? What if attempting to sneak a weapon on board meant you didn't take your trip...that trip...period? What if the threats, the investigations, and the responses were kept quiet? What if causing a disturbance, any disturbance, on an airplane were grounds for restraint? And what if airlines employed private visible security personnel to enforce the rule?

Would you still fly? Would you feel more safe? Less safe?

UPDATED, 2006/08/24, 9:15 am PDT

Cartledge @ Grub Street Journal, does an excellent job of tackling this very issue from the perspective of the airlines and how it affects their bottom line. Take a look.

2006/08/23

Minnesnowta vs. Texass

You know that old meme, "name four places you've lived"? Well in my adult life I've lived in four states, one for each point on the compass: Texas, Minnesota, Virginia, and California. Forget the last two though--they don't make for nearly as interesting a blog post--and just consider Texas and Minnesota, two states that I consider to be the antithesis of each other.


Minnesota is populated by conservative people with strangely liberal politics.
Texas is populated by libertarians with strangely conservative politics.

Minnesotans are quiet.
Texans are loud.

Minnesota is an eminently governable state that has really boring politics (Jesse 'The Body' Ventura aside)
Texas is an ungovernable mess with never a dull political moment.

Texas has bad roads, bad schools, and mild winters.
Minnesota has great roads, great schools, and winters from the 8th plane of hell!

Minnesotans really know how to spend their tax dollars (see 'good roads', 'good schools')
Texans have no tax dollars to spend (see 'bad roads', 'bad schools')

Texas politicians should not be allowed to run for President ('Shrub' and 'LBJ')
Whether or not a Minnesota politician runs for president is irrelevant ('HHH' and 'Mondale')

Minnesota has 10,000 lakes and a few kooks.
Texas has 10,000,000 kooks and a few lakes.

Canadians don't want to emigrate to Minnesota--it's just like home but with more bigotry.
Mexicans want to emigrate to Texas...by the millions--it's just like home but with more bigotry.

About the only you can say is similar about these two states is that everybody drinks a light brown, watery, caffeinated beverage. Minnesotans take it hot and call it 'coffee'. Texans take it cold and call it 'tea'.

Thanks s to The Local Crank for the inspiration.

Following Up On AOL's Privacy Troubles

Forgive me...I've got a busy day ahead and am short on time. So it's two quick posts, and then I'm going to disappear till evening.

Following up on AOL's massive exposure of search queries, Blognonymous notes that the company is in major damage control mode, claiming that it was an error in judgment on the part of a few employees. Oddly, in addition to firing one researcher and one manager associated with the project, the company's Chief Technology Officer has also resigned. Now normally you wouldn't sack the CTO for this kind failure. You'd get rid of the Chief Privacy Office (CPO), leading me to believe that Ms. Govern (the CTO) was already planning her exit, and AOL is just taking advantage of the situation. Interesting...

2006/08/22

Putting The Fun Back In Flying

We joked about it on our blogs. We taunted TSA with the idea.
And now it seems that at least one airline has caught on.


Leave it to the Brits.

Prepare For Guilt By Itinerary

Back in December '05 I posted on the CDC's attempt to mandate the creation of consolidated airline travel records under the guise of preparing to combat a global pandemic. Well it turns out that such a database already exists. It's called Passenger Name Record (PNR) and is derived from information in the three major airline reservations systems: Saber, Galileo, and Amadeus.

Now here's the kicker, the New York Times reports that DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff wants unfettered law enforcement access to that database in order to, "...search broadly through the passenger itinerary data to identify people who may be linked to terrorists." And Chertoff isn't the only official in favor of governmental fishing expeditions. The office of Franco Frattini, the European Justice commissioner, has expressed interest in this database as well.

Unlike other repositories, PNR contains a wealth of personal information. Exactly the sort of stuff that could be gathered from a visit to...say...Travelocity--like your address, primary and secondary phone numbers, email addresses, itinerary (location, hotel, and car), in addition to all your payment data. Some of this information was already available to US authorities through the reservation systems...before their access was shut down by Europe's highest court. Now Chertoff wants that decision reversed, is asking for access to the PNR, and wants to expand the circumstances under which the databases can be searched to include passengers that do not already appear on US 'terrorist watch lists'.

Predictably, civil libertarians are complaining but may have no input to the process before the decision is made. So...are we all prepared to deal with guilt by itinerary? 

2006/08/21

Life's Rich Pageant - Living Our Convictions On Marriage

August 19,2006 | SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Calling their lives blessed, more than a dozen young women and girls from polygamist families in Utah spoke at a rally Saturday, calling for a change in state laws and the right to live the life and religion they choose.
When Utah was admitted to the Union, it was required to write a ban on polygamy into it's constitution, and ever since the practice has been marginalized, surviving in small communities spread thinly over a 4 state area. Now without getting into a huge debate about moral or religious values, I want to pose a simple question to of us inclined to support gay marriage, the monogamous relationship du jour: In order to gain the support of a broad coalition, would you be willing to support polygamy? And if not, why not?

Certainly many members of the LDS church support what they refer to as 'plural marriage'. Though it's not at all clear if traditionalist Mormons and liberals could find common ground. For example, I don't think that the contemporary use of 'plural marriage' includes polyandry. But for me, the answer to the question of the allowable forms of marriage is pretty simple. Though it wasn't obvious at first. I'm inclined to allow any arrangement between consenting adults, and the key word is 'consenting'. In other words no minors...period! You don't get to marry off your underage daughters. Kids don't get to marry (plural or otherwise)--shouldn't be doing it anyway. No man-boy/woman-girl relationships. Let's keep this between people who already have the right to decide things for themselves.

I know there are objections, and I could spend hours enumerating and then addressing them here, but I think that I'll leave that for the comments.

Kvatch Kvetches - Meet The New Inquisition...

... Just Like The Old Inquisition
In a move sure to have western leaders scratching their heads, Hamid Karzai and his cabinet have voted to reconstitute the Department for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, a religious police force that under the Taliban amounted to a bunch of Shariah wielding vigilantes. And where is the US in this debate? Is this what we hoped for when we ousted the Taliban--that Karzai would bring to Afghan cities the same zealot fueled misery that most parts of rural Afghanistan are once again experiencing?

Tony Feels Betrayed
Fueled by Deputy PM, John Prescott's recent comments on the value of Bu$hCo policy, UK papers are now reporting that Tony Blair feels 'badly let down' by George Bush and the US response to recent Middle East crises. But the question that we're asking on this side of the Atlantic is...who the f*ck cares?! If at any point in the last 5 years Blair had chosen to listen his party, his constituents, or a great many ministers who cautioned against getting into bed with Bu$hCo, he might not today find himself staring into the abyss. This is a situation of his own making, and I doubt very many people on either side of the pond are shedding tears for a PM who started out as wolf and ended up as a lap dog.

2006/08/20

The GOP's New Election Slogan

The entries...outstanding. The judging...strenuous. The bribes...nonexistent! But in the end it came down to just three.

First place goes to Lew Scannon for:
"The GOP, erasing the Constitution, one civil liberty at a time."

Second place goes to Sothis for:
"Be nice to America--or we'll bring democracy to YOUR country"

And a special jury prize to PT Cruiser for working the GOP into his entry:
"(G)od forgave us (O)ur (P)oor behavior, can't you?"

So Lew...what'll it be? Dish it out man. Kvatch can take it.

Blognonymous To Remain Independent - Right Outraged

San Francisco (f-A-ke. P.) -

Kvatch Kopf, famous frog and liberal commentator, announced today that negotiations with Michael Bernstein for the acquisition of Blognonymous were broken off when it was revealed that Mr. Bernstein was actually an alligator with a fetish for frog legs in truffled demi glace. Mr. Kopf could not be reached for comment, but Bill O'Reilly of Fox News remarked, "I'm going to have to keep on putting up with that squishy little sh*t? I need a bath. Where's my loofah?"

To mark the occasion, Mr. Kopf also announced the availability of nifty icons, 'chicklets' and 'stripes' that you can add to your own site to broadcast your support for his seemingly interminable presence on the Internet (...and inability to sell out for booku bucks).





(All, the price was $80K, but the dude never got back to me. Ah well...)

2006/08/18

GOP Campaign Slogan For The Midterms - A Contest

The "surprises" keep piling up: In June it's skyscrapers; In July it's tunnels; In August...airplanes again. But does Bu$hCo get any help from the hype--a bounce from the bluster? Nope! His numbers are weighted down like cement galoshes on a canary. And what does this tell us? Rove has lost his magic, and the GOP is empty of ideas.

But I say, Republicans should look to the opposition. How often has the GOP raided Clinton era policy bins for their best stuff? So my friends, let's help 'em out. What they need is a slogan with which to rally the faithful, and I think we can deliver.

Best slogan gets to make Kvatch his/her bitch for a day. Is it a political poem you want? A pithy paste-up? Template troubles terminated? How about post on a topic of your choosing? Whatever it is...Blognonymous delivers (within bounds of reason, of course). So...bring 'em on!

And my (non-competitive) entry is:

Iraq - It's just a goddamned place on the map!

UPDATED: And we have our winners!

Snakes! In My Mother-f*cking Bag

To address an imminent threat to air travel, TSA drafts new rules -

TSA Checks For Snakes

"Passengers will no longer be allowed to transport snakes in their carry-on luggage."

(UPDATED: Too many paste-ups have left me worn out creatively. Gonna take a little break today. Maybe go see you-know-what. Back with a contest this evening.)

2006/08/17

ACLU and Federal Judge Taylor Slap Bu$hCo Down

Did you know you actually have rights? Did you know that...
There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution.
Well this was the position of Federal judge Anna Diggs Taylor who issued a 48 page opinion today, ruling in favor of the ACLU in its suit against the Bush administration and ordering an immediate halt to the NSA's illegal surveillance program on constitutional grounds.

The Justice Department is going to appeal. Duh! But this is still very good news.

British Deputy PM Tells It Like It Is

So much interesting news coming from the UK these days, and really I have so little to add...
John Prescott has given vent to his private feelings about the Bush presidency, summing up George Bush's administration in a single word: crap.

The Deputy Prime Minister's condemnation of President Bush and his approach to the Middle East could cause a diplomatic row but it will please Labour MPs who are furious about Tony Blair's backing of the United States over the bombing of Lebanon.

The remark is said to have been made at a private meeting in Mr Prescott's Whitehall office...
Forgive me, but I just couldn't resist this little gem. (And thanks to a blog called ChicoTown for the image.)

2006/08/16

42% of Americans Believe in Demonic Possession

Secretary Rumsfeld addresses the press corps.42% of Bush administration officals admit to being demons.

Coincidence? I don't think so!

(Thanks to the Reality-based Educator for the inspiration and for giving me a chance to finally use this particular paste-up of Rummy!)

Brits May Go Soft On Criminals and Terrorists

Until it was relaxed, Britain had a right against self-incrimination (often referred to as the "Right to Silence"). An impediment to effective law enforcement, this pesky right was dealt a blow in 1994 by giving juries the ability make inferences from a suspect's silence. (No biggie, right? Only the guilty keep silent.)

Then in 2000, the Empire Upon Which the Sun Never Sets took another needed step. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) added a provision requiring citizens to turn over their encryption keys and passwords to the police (or to decrypt potential evidence) on demand. After all, you can't catch pedophiles and terrorists if they're going around encrypting all of the evidence of their dastardly deeds. Moreover, if you make the penalties for failing to cooperate really stiff, then the general public simply won't encrypt their data, and that will make police work so much easier.

But now it appears that Britain may retreat from this very reasonable position. Members of the House of Lords are questioning RIPA as if it could somehow undermine liberty. In fact, Lord Phillips of Sudbury (who we can only conclude is some kind of terrorist-loving liberal) commented:
You do not secure the liberty of our country and value of our democracy by undermining them. That's the road to hell.
Pray that our closest ally doesn't falter in the battle with the evildoers, and in addition push here at home to get rid of that annoying 5th Amendment.

2006/08/15

$500 Billion For Defense And The Shoes Still Come Off

Kvatch is kringing:

The New Yorker notes that US military spending... Is now half a trillion dollars; 40% higher than it was in 2001; Comprising 50% of all discretionary US spending; And more than all other nations spend...combined!

And while we're spending all that money on defense, TSA has made passing our shoes through airport scanners mandatory again--despite the fact that those machines can't detect explosives. Now I ask you, dear readers. Is this news to anyone? DUH!

And while we're on the subject of dumb... Guess which country has the second highest percentage of adults who doubt evolution. You're right! The good old U S of A! Second only to Turkey. Turkey, for pete's sake!

We're doomed.

Voters - Six States a' Screwing

What are the trouble spots voting-wise in 2006? Where are we likely to see Republicans twisting election law to suppress, disenfranchise, or deny voters? Salon has a great piece this morning on six states where voting irregularities are reaching a fevered pitch. And though I can't really do justice to the article, I'll summarize for those of you without a Salon membership:

Arizona - This state has a long history of disenfranchising voters, especially Native Americans, and state elections officials are doing their level best to live up it. For example, Arizona is the only state in the nation to require proof of citizenship for voter registration. They require Native Americans to produce forms of ID that don't exist, and in Maricopa County (Phoenix) they dumped 70 percent of new voter registrations for lack of photo identification.

Indiana - With the large number of competitive House races, Indiana officials are busy purging voters from the registration rolls as fast as they can. In fact, they're doing it without due process, and estimates are that between 8 and 23 percent of all registered Indiana residents are in danger for lack the "proper" kind of photo ID. And how hard is it get that state approved ID? HARD! Residents are being dumped into a requirements minefield, while being given false and misleading information by state departments.

Ohio - You've all heard of OH Sec. of State Kenneth Blackwell's "80 lb." rule for voter registration card stock? "If it's not submitted on a paper type that doesn't exist, we dump your registration." Well, the shenanigans in Ohio don't stop there. Blackwell has made the penalties for minor infractions of registration procedures so onerous (12 months in prison and $2500 in fines for turning registration cards late, for example) that registration drives in Ohio have practically ceased.

California - Ahhh...land of the never ending Diebold controversy. Voting machine slumber parties (officials taking the machines home for weeks before elections); Hacker contests to see who can most effectively compromise the infernal devices; Report coverups; Illegal certifications; Decertifications; Illegal recertifications; Voters being dumped from registration rolls for mismatches in state internal databases. The fun never ends.

Florida - The only state that is likely to go from abysmally bad to worse. Like Ohio, Florida now has fines that are so stiff, that registration drives have ceased. But as if that weren't enough, Florida state law now endorses the concept of arbitrary challenges to the right to vote. In other words, any bozo (or hired Republican thug) can challenge your right to cast a ballot and state officials must toss it in favor of a "provisional ballot" that will likely never be counted.

Missouri - This is one of the few states that tolerates different registration standards in different parts of the state. In other words, black and Democratic St. Louis gets a much more rigid standard than white, Republican St. Louis County thanks to former Gov. Ashcroft. And what are they doing about it? Nothing! In fact, they're going to make it worse with a new photo ID law derisively called the "Jim Talent Protection Act" (after Senator Talent R-MO). Knock 200,000 Democrats off the voter rolls and Senator Talent, in a close battle this year, wins.

Read this article if you can. It's an eye opener.

2006/08/14

Hezbollah Declares, 'Mission Accomplished'

Hezbollah Declares, 'Mission Accomplished'
Hassan Nasrallah thanks the Great Satan for teaching him,
"...everything I know about strategy." 

HMO vs. PPO, Speed vs. Attention, Kaiser vs. HealthNet

I've got a health problem. About 8 months ago I developed tinnitus (ringing in the ears), most profoundly on the left but to some extent in both my ears--a high pitched screeing that never abates. It only varies in volume, going from barely noticeable in the morning to very noticeable in the evening--sometimes affecting my concentration.

Now please bear with me. I'm not here looking for solutions, though if any of you have experienced this and managed to get rid of it, I'd love to hear how. No...this is a post about the differences in health care systems because at about the same time the tinnitus developed I switched from HealthNet, a Northern California PPO I'd been with for years, to Kaiser Permanente.

It's been a long time since I've been with a pure HMO, and I'd heard a lot (bad and good) about Kaiser Permanente, but I must admit that my first experience with Kaiser was very positive. Last December before the tinnitus developed, I got some kind of infection and made an appointment with my primary. Voila! A same day appointment! That is something that never happens with HealthNet. Then I arrive at the office a little early, and again... Voila! They take me early. But here is where things get a little odd. My primary spends exactly 15 minutes diagnosing my condition, giving me a prescription, and sending me on my way. Now part of that is the fact that Kaiser has computerized everything--your chart, hell your whole history. But the 15 minute rule is not limited to the primaries, it seems. When it came time to deal with the tinnitus, an EEN&T specialist put me through an extensive hearing test, then took 15 minutes to examine me and delivering his verdict: "We don't really know what causes tinnitus. You'll probably just have to learn to live with it." Now I'm no dummy, I know that there are factors that can start or aggravate tinnitus. So how come he didn't mention: Caffeine, TMJ, aspirin, or hyper-tension? Come on! I'm dealing with something profound here.

So...fast forward four months. I'm back with HealthNet while I'm between jobs, and I'm still dealing with the tinnitus, but HealthNet is a very different system--one that the Frogette and I have learned to play over the years. First, do you need a same day appointment? Well forget it. You won't get one. HealthNet schedulers vet patients and assign appointments based on their perception of the urgency of your condition. Vomiting your guts out? Tomorrow or the next day to see the "on-call" doctor. Tinnitus? How about 3 weeks from now? The only way to get a same-day is to show up at your doctor's office unannounced and plant yourself in the lobby until they take you, but be prepared to wait and be sure to do a lot of coughing and sneezing. (Gets you in faster.)

On the other hand HealthNet is not without it's advantages. My primary (I've had two) has always been very concerned with my condition. Some years ago I had a brief bout with a neurological disorder, and my primary after admitting that he really didn't know how to treat it, pulled strings and got me in to see the best neurologist in the City, and as far as allergies go, my primary has paid attention to and taken care of things that even my allergist didn't notice or care to treat.

So here is my dilemma, and it's one that I'm sure many of us have faced. If I need urgent care, I'd go with Kaiser in a minute. But for long term attention to an ongoing issue, I'd go with HealthNet. So for the future, which is it, speed or attention? HMO or PPO? And why can't I have both?

2006/08/13

Is this the future of travel?

After last week's bhouhaha over liquid explosives on airplanes, I got to thinking about the how the authorities responded. TSA handled it poorly, but they didn't come close to the draconian measures that the Brits imposed. No beverages, no reading material, no carry ons, no electronic devices. That latest page turner? Nope. Your iPod? Forget it. And don't think that TSA isn't headed in this direction. Not that I'm saying that such precautions may not be warranted. The first time an airliner goes down because someone smuggles nitro onboard in an Evian bottle, the cry will go up for passengers to fly in the nude, but at what point do we just give up and say, "Screw air travel. It's just too damn burdensome."

United WagonlinesI mean...what the f*ck do the authorities expect us to do on board? Watch a badly cut version of 'Little Miss Sunshine'? Listen to inane programming about how to relieve stress. Or how about that music channel devoted entirely to Kelly Clarkson's greatest hits? Read the fascinating in-flight mag with it's 5 articles on golf and 500 ads for unaffordable condo developments in Florida? Yeah right! You may not think that this is a big deal for the average shuttle from NYC to the nation's capital, but try this on the 14 hour haul from San Francisco to Sydney!

The economics for the airline industry are looking bad as well. Do you remember when airports were populated by small unknown fast food joints, selling the nastiest eats in the developed world? Well, we may get there again. With airlines trying to shave every minute they can off your connection time--with TSA lines stretching into the hours--you may never again taste a Big Mac at Denver, and you certainly won't be able to take it on board. Shops that survive on selling you $5 water and $2 mints are going to abandon the airports like rats off a sinking ship. Who cares that you won't be able to take the latest John Grisham novel on board, their won't be anybody to sell it to you anyway.

So here's how it looks going forward: 20 minutes to the airport; 30 minutes to check in; 45 minutes get through TSA; No food, water, or newspapers on a concourse that looks like Tombstone, AZ; 2 hours of excruciating boredom on the flight; and finally 45 minutes of waiting for the bags you were forced to check. In all your "short hop" to L.A. is now a 5 hour trip through hell. But...what are the alternatives? Trains? Bwahahahahaha! Not in the US my friend. Cars? The gasoline costs more than the ticket. Nope. I'll tell you the alternative. Stay the f*ck home, and watch the airlines go down the tubes. Don't get me wrong though. I don't think that this is a good thing. I think it's terrible, but until we get creative and find solutions that provide a reasonable level of protection while keeping flying from becoming a nightmare of boredom and privation, we don't have any alternatives.

2006/08/12

Kvatch Kvetches - Dumber Than a Bag of Hammers

Ideas so obviously dumb even a frog can figure it out -

Assume Big Brother Is Watching You
Here's the deal--and I tell this to my colleagues and my subordinates--when it comes to computers, you don't have a right to privacy at work! Those computers...belong to the company. And so does the bandwidth; and the time you spend online; and the time you spend in the office. In short every bit that enters your workstation belongs to your employer, and you better assume they're watching. So if your comfortable with that off-color joke in email, that photo, or that MP3 better hope your employer is too! In short the only place you have a right to privacy at work is in the restroom, but if your take your laptop in there with you...all bets are off!

It Doesn't Spread Casually, So Don't Freakin' Vaccinate For It
I've resisted blogging about the new vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) because my feelings, in response to calls to vaccinate pre-teen girls (and now boys) for this disease, are...uh...strong. Here's the deal: It doesn't spread through causal contact people! So unless we're worried about 5th and 6th graders suddenly engaging in mass orgies, we don't have anything to worry about. Moreover, administrators who insist that this vaccine be administered as a prerequisite for entering school have taken leave of their flippin' senses. I'm all for a vaccine that ultimately cuts down the incidence of cervical cancer, but when it comes to teen and pre-teen girls, it's a private decision for the young lady and her family to make. Nuff said.

2006/08/11

Kvatch Konsiders Selling Out

Well sooner or later a message like this one shows up in your email...
From: mikebernstein8@gmail.com
Subject: Your domain blognonymo.us
Date: August 11, 2006 7:57:55 AM PDT
To: xxxxxxxx@yyyyyyyy.zzz

Greetings,

I would like to buy your domain blognonymo.us, if possible.

If you are able to sell and release the rights to this domain please
let me know. I am looking to buy within a week or two so let me know
how much it would cost to take over this domain.

Regards,

Mike Bernstein
So dear Blognonyfriends...should Kvatch sell out? Let's assume for moment that this isn't a scam--and it very well could be as the author hasn't acquired any similar domains. Might be a domain aggregator in which case they're not going offer enough to make me want to sell. But...if it isn't, how much is Blognonymous worth? Hell I don't even advertise. So how attached am I to this particular body of work?

Help me out. What would you do? Name my price!

I'm Sure The Bible Has Something To Say About This

Cavity searches, explosive baby formula, cats and dogs living together and now BEDBUGS! Eeeewwww, the nightmare creatures that most of us can't even remember, and they're back...with a vengeance.

"Goodnight. Don't let the bedbugs bite." We've all heard it, right? But have any of you ever been bitten by one? I haven't. So now imagine waking up to find your sheets teeming with these little blood suckers. AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH! I'm sure that Pat Robertson is swooning--probably latch onto this latest infestation as if it were a biblical plague, a sign of the second coming. Bedbugs--harbinger of the End Times.

Blognonymous - Part of the Axis of Evil?

Well...after yesterday's fireworks, and owing to the fact that the news today is really boring, I think it's time for some lighter fare. But before I leave the sujbect of TSA and everything that they are doing to protect our flabby asses, I'd just like to the thank the Senate Office of the Seargent at Arms for stopping by yesterday...about an hour after I put up my 'August Surprise' post.

2006/08/10

Future Headlines - TSA FREAKS OUT!

Washington (f-A-ke. P.) -

Responding to the new terror alert level, established when a plot to bomb US bound airliners was discovered in the UK earlier today, the Transportation Safety Administration issued new guidelines for passengers traveling in the US -
    TSA Paper Gowns
  • All passengers will be required to pass through TSA screening naked. Though travelers will be issued paper hospital gowns prior to boarding their flights, TSA officials feel that this is the only way to catch really determined terrorists.
  • To prevent terrorists from ingesting explosive substances, all passengers will be required to throw up prior to boarding their aircraft.
  • Passengers that are part of TSA's Registered Traveler program will be required to shave all of their body hair in order to maintain their status.
  • And finally, no reading material will be allowed to pass through TSA screening. Though passengers concerned about boredom will be glad to know that TSA has thoughtfully decided to place copies of the Congressional Register on board all domestic aircraft.
TSA spokespersons had no comment on rumors that requiring passengers to wear revealing hospital gowns on board would lead to wave of attempts to join the Mile High Club.

(I just knew that I wouldn't get away from this topic today. Ah well...)

Surprise! It's August and Another Plot Is Foiled

Details are still sketchy--almost deliberately so--but the headlines this morning are screaming about the most recent terrorist plot foiled by British authorities. 10 planes were to be destroyed by bombs in liquid form (one report said "fizzy drinks"), smuggled on board in hand luggage. And so, predictably, the US and UK are now both restricting either hand luggage in total (the UK) or liquids and gels (the US).

Bush has called it a direct threat to the US. Chertoff has suggested that it's an Al Qaeda operation, though there isn't any evidence as yet of a connection to Bu$hCo's favorite bogeyman. I call it The August Surprise and, don't get me wrong, nobody is more pleased than I that our vigilant authorities are out rounding up the terrorists, but I'm still betting that this is just one in a series--like the "June Surprise" and the "July Surprise"--count on a September surprise, and then...for October...the biggie!

I've got an idea about that, but I'm not saying right now. Tell you next month.

2006/08/09

To Record Is Corporate, To Refuse...Denied

One of the many telecom troubles I've had over the last week is recorded solicitations on one of my cell lines, and so I've been on the phone with T-Mobile to try and get the caller blocked. I won't go into detail about the calls, but during one the representative asked me if I was recording our conversation. Somewhat surprised I replied, "No, but what if I were?" He then informed me that T-Mobile doesn't allow customers to record service calls, and that T-Mobile would terminate any conversation that they determined was being recorded by anybody but them. Interesting, huh? They can record you...and will, but they won't let you record them.

But the story is so much more complex than simple recording. State and federal laws are involved. For example, California law (Section 632 of the CA Penal Code, as well as the laws of 11 other state) requires that all parties consent to being recorded. And what happens if you withhold your consent? Well...I naively thought that all carriers would be the same, applying a draconian standard that just cuts you off if you refuse to be recorded or admit to recording. Not so, in fact after a little experimentation I found that the policies are all over the map. So here's a little chart containing the results of my experiment. (I've ranked these roughly in order of their responsiveness to customer desires) -
    CarrierRecords Customer CallsShutoff on RequestAllows Customer Recording
    Sprint PCSYesYesYes
    Verizon WirelessYesYesYes
    AT&T BroadbandYesYesNo
    CingularYesNoYes
    T-MobileYesNoNo
So there you have it, a tiny table of paranoia, and of course T-Mobile, my carrier, is the worst.

Kvatch Konsiders - The Liebermeleon

The LiebermeleonLooks like Joe Lieberman is going down, but by all reports this won't stop him. So what are we to make of this label-defying politico. Is he a tree hugging liberal? He shared the presidential ticket with one. Is he a Republicrat? He talks like one when supporting of Bu$hCo's war. A traitor to the moonbats? A fellow traveler with the wing-nuts? Every rightist talking head from Coulter to Limbaugh has stepped up to support him. Is he a Naderite spoiler? Almost certainly, as he'll mount an independent campaign that will certainly take votes from Lamont.

In the end, perhaps all we can say is that he's The Liebermeleon.

Thanks to John Good for the pointers and to Lew Scannon for the inspiration.

2006/08/08

Bushilizer Bunny

Bushilizer Bunny
It just keeps lying and lying and lying...

(In honor of AT&T finally restoring my Internet connectivity.
It's really hard to upload one's latest pasteup at 160 baud.)

AOL's Massive Data Breach

And they gave it all away without even a federal court order. In fact, it wasn't even a DoJ request for search queries like we saw last spring with Google and MSN. AOL put up this stuff for "research" purposes, and took...you know...reasonable precautions like anonymizing the user names--not that it matters. The information is so specific that one could probably narrow down an individual with just the data on hand. You also won't have to worry about the information disappearing from the Internet. AOL removed it (DUH!), but the whole database had already been mirrored.

And what a treasure trove it is too. Take user 311045 for example. This person apparently lives in Florida, owns a Scion XB that could use some brake work, and has an ex that elicits queries like these:
how to get revenge on a ex
how to get revenge on a ex girlfriend
how to get revenge on a friend who f---ed you over
replacement bumper for scion xb
florida department of law enforcement
crime stoppers florida
With portals like these, who needs a subpoena?

2006/08/07

Republicans Swift Boat Global Warming

You know Al Gore's Penguin Army--that dopey spoof of An Inconvenient Truth posted last week on YouTube.com? Well turns out that it wasn't actually produced by "toutsmith" the supposed 29 year old that claims to have posted it. Actually the video is merely Astroturf from the Republican public relations firm DCI who proudly list Exxon as one of their clients.

Let the swift-boating of global warming begin!

How did it come to this?

Monday morning and again I'm war-riding someone else's connection because, after 4 days, AT&T still can't find the problem with my Internet connectivity. At least at this point they're admitting there IS a problem. They can see it. They can test it. They just don't seem to be able to fix it.

Anyone remember acoustic-coupler modems? Well that's what I've got: 1.6 Kbits per second, or 200 bytes/sec (that's what we would have called 200 baud back in the day). So basically I'm now connected to the Information Superhighway through a straw.

And...It's driving me FRACKING CRAZY!!! Can't get to my bank. (I don't get paper statements anymore.) Can't make reservations for restaurants. (OpenTable) Can't make reservations for a car. (CityCarShare) Can't find phone numbers. (Dusted off the only Yellow Pages I could find only to discover it's from 2003!)

How the f*ck did I become so dependent on the World Wide Wait?

2006/08/03

Blognonymous Down For the Count

Dear friends, at about 9:30 this morning (PDT), the Blognonypad lost it's Internet connectivity. Though I'm war-riding another connection right now, the bandwidth is too slow and flakey for me to do anything of note, and since AT&T has basically told me to go and f*ck myself, I don't know when I'll be able resume posting. (Got to figure out what's wrong first. Probably the DSL modem, but I guess we'll see.)

Please bear with me while I get this issue sorted. Thanks.

- Kvatch

Kvatch Kwotes His Fellow Bloggers

Some days there's so much good material, you just can't help yourself...

Betty Cracker on our beloved Deciderer:
George Bush's cranium is as empty as a dried gourd...

Denisdekat opines on what ails the Democratic party:
The Dems are paid to loose the fight. Our political system is not much different than Italian soccer...

Peacechick Mary takes a nailgun to the coffin that is Bu$hCo's State Department:
Condolezza doing diplomacy is like a very pregnant pole vaulter. The thing is just not going to get off the ground.

2006/08/02

Government Ends Funding for Spanish-American War

The DoD Fox Allowed to Guard The Pentagon Henhouse...Again

By now half the blogsphere is covering Congress' admission that they knew that the Pentagon and the FAA were lying to the 9/11 Commission about how they handled the aftermath of 9/11. But are any of us really surprised that the executive tried to cover up their bungled response? Duh! Of course not. What's really at issue is the fact that the Commission didn't refer the matter to the Justice Department, but instead turned things over to the inspectors general of the DoD and DoT for further action.

So perhaps it's really Congress that should be investigated since, once again, they've abrogated their responsibility and are acting like unindicted co-conspirators.

2006/08/01

"Books? Sorry I'm too busy vetting blogs."

Congress' newest attempt to substitute industry curbs for parental responsibility is the recently passed DOPA act (Deleting Online Predators). This loony piece of legislation will force schools and libraries to filter websites that have a "social networking" component. Trouble is...the legislation is written so broadly that just about anything fits the definition. Blogs? You betcha. News sites with chatroom extensions. Yes siree! And if that weren't enough, the FCC is left to deal with enforcement as they see fit. Ah...I can see it now, blacklists of sites deserving of the FCC's ire--sort of in the spirit of television stations that use the any of the 'sinful seven words'.

Of course adults are exempt from the filtering and can request that teachers or librarians grant them access to any site, but in the presence of an overzealous FCC, we can expect our librarians to take on a new, all-consuming role--that of the 'net monitor/vetter'. Need help finding a book? I don't think so! Librarians will be too busy keeping up with the FCC's 'predator' lists.

Thanks Congress. Perhaps you should have named this act DOPEY.

Kvatch Kalled It - IRS Phishing Has Begun

No sooner did I blog on the potential abuses of the IRS using email as the primary method of communcation with taxpayers, then the Blognonypad receives this:
    From: admin@irs.gov
    Subject: IRS Notification - Please Read This .
    Date: July 24, 2006 8:36:45 AM PDT
    To: xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxx.net
    Received: from 207.115.57.77 (EHLO ylpvm46.prodigy.net) (207.115.57.77) by mta117.sbc.mail.mud.yahoo.com with SMTP; Mon, 24 Jul 2006 08:36:46 -0700
    Received: from koti.armas.fi (koti.armas.fi [81.16.64.159]) by ylpvm46.prodigy.net (8.13.6 inb/8.13.6) with ESMTP id k6OFYvFY002664 for ; Mon, 24 Jul 2006 11:34:58 -0400
    Received: from koti.armas.fi (koti.armas.fi [127.0.0.1]) by koti.armas.fi (8.13.6/8.13.6) with ESMTP id k6OFajXm023566 for ; Mon, 24 Jul 2006 18:36:45 +0300
    Received: (from anna@localhost) by koti.armas.fi (8.13.6/8.13.6/Submit) id k6OFajYU023565 for xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxx.net; Mon, 24 Jul 2006 18:36:45 +0300
    Message-Id: <1153755405.45800.qmail@irs.gov>
    Content-Type: text/html


    After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $63.80. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.

    A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

    To access the form for your tax refund, please click here

    Regards,
    Internal Revenue Service
I suggest that you don't 'click here'!