2007/04/30

Livable Cities - Pizza Flyer Redux

A lot of factors contribute to making a city unlivable. So-called quality of life crimes: Graffiti, vagrancy, panhandling, etc... are pretty high up on the list, but if you asked me on any give day, I'd probably say, "Trash!" Trash everywhere: On our sidewalks, in our gutters; people treating our streets like their own personal dumpster. And nothing hacks me off more than those those goddamned menus that every bloody mom and pop restaurant insists on attaching to my gate, dumping in my lobby, or simply dropping by the dozens onto the sidewalks outside my flat.

I've written about this before, both on this blog and to my city councilman without success. Because although San Francisco has a supposed commitment to clean streets and a livable city, just try and get the Department of Public Works or the police to actually do something about a practice that accounts for tons of refuse.

But perhaps all is not lost. New York City, which Mayor Gavin supposedly looks to for inspiration--when he's not getting testy about his latest peccadillo--may put in place an ordinance restricting the distribution of flyers. Place a sign on your door saying that the little missives aren't wanted...and VOILA! A fine for anyone who ignores your instructions. Now if only we could that kind of law here.

You listening Mr. Mayor?

2007/04/29

Our Fragile Infrastructure, How Tempting A Target?

You want to paralyze the San Francisco Bay Area? Would you bomb our bridges? Almost certainly not. Suspension bridges are remarkably durable structures. No...you'd go for BART's Transbay Tube or the I-580/I-80/I-880 East Bay interchange--otherwise known as the 'MacArthur Maze'--because, unlike LA, we don't have hundreds of alternate routes to get everywhere. You want in or out of San Francisco from the East Bay? You go through the maze or through the tube...but not tomorrow!

Was this an act of terrorism? Probably not, but it does demonstrate how easy it would be to majorly screw the Bay Area. And if history has a lesson for us, it's that the pukes in Sacramento, who treat the Bay Area like a f*cking backwater, will probably wait a decade before getting our traffic flowing again. Hell...a decade would be great. It's been 18 years since the Loma Prieta quake, and we're still waiting for a replacement for the seismically unsound eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

2007/04/28

Kvatch's Kommandos Vote To Impeach

Kvatch's Kommandos take to the streets of San Francisco in support of A28.


Click the photos for a larger image.
Additional photos posted at If I Ran The Zoo and Kommandos Project.

2007/04/27

Good News Friday - Totally Green

I'm sick, sick, sick of all the bad news. Bullsh*t legislation, presidential vetoes, administration dissembling, lies, scandals, and fear. Paul Wolfowitz' career is deader than disco. Dana Perino is another lying Bu$hCo tool. Giuliani and McCain could be part of a right-wing whore sandwich. So today on Blognonymous, we're going to focus just on the good news, and if you look around there's plenty of it. In fact, here are some cool environmental tidbits:

Green Mortgages
England's Liberal Democrats are drafting legislation that would allow homeowners to take out so-called "energy mortgages", special loans that would help pay for energy-saving improvements. The loans would be tied to the houses as a way to ensure that homes are brought up to tough new energy standards.

Green Cabs
San Francisco is getting it's first "green cab company". Green Cab is committed to putting a fleet of hybrid taxis on our streets--a great boon to the cab taking public but also to the drivers who have to pay for their own fuel and can cut that cost by 75%.

Power Your Home...From Your Car
PG&E is talking about a pilot program that would have owners of "plug-in hybrids" selling their excess electricity back to the grid at a modest profit or using it to power their homes. The gist is that power could be purchased from renewable sources--off-hours when it's cheap--and then stored in a high-capacity hybrids and then used later.

Build Small
Think you need a 3000 square foot house in order to live comfortably? Think again. A Northern California artist-builder has created a home that measure 96 square feet--loft, kitchen, and living room--a testament to the notion that layout (and storage space) are everything. And just imagine how energy efficient this little abode is?

2007/04/26

Paul Wolfowitz - We Hardly Knew Ya

EUROPEAN LEADERS VOTE OVERWHELMING TO REQUEST WOLFOWITZ' RESIGNATION

WOLFOWITZ RESIGNS FROM WORLD BANK. PREPARES TO TAKE NEW POST AS AMERICAN 'WAR CZAR'

WOLFOWITZ ORDERS WAR PROTESTERS SHOT. ACCUSED OF TAKING 'CZAR' TITLE TOO SERIOUSLY.

'CZAR IS MORE POWERFUL THAN PRESIDENT' SAYS WOLFOWITZ. THROWS GEORGE BUSH IN JAIL.

2ND REVOLUTION OVERTHROWS 'AMERICAN CZAR'. WOLFOWITZ HEADS FOR EXILE ON GUAM.

Thanks to Ajaz of Blame Islam for the inspiration.

2007/04/25

The Meme That Goes Around, Comes Around...

About 4 weeks ago, Blognonymous was tagged by John Good of Left in Aboite as one of his favorite blogs, an honor that I then bestowed on my own list-o-five. Well that meme has morphed into "Blogs that make you think," and lo Blognonymous has been tagged again, this time by Lisa Renee of Liberal Common Sense.

I'm honored to be on Lisa's list--especially since I have the attention span of...well...a frog and don't tend to think of Blognonymous as a bastion of deep thinking. But let me take this opportunity to point you in the direction of some Real Thinker's Blogs:

Club Lefty - BHFRIK makes mincemeat of all sorts of right-wing nonsense.
Grub Street Journal - Cartledge is as fine a writer as you'll find in the Blogsphere.
Prague Twin - If you're not reading our ex-pat comrade's blog, you should be.
SamGail - Gracie's thoroughness makes the rest of use look like ADD bloggers.

These blogs may not have quite the readership of...say...Crooks & Liars, but they're worth every neuron you devote to them.

HR 964 - The "We Get To..." Spy Act of 2007

So much for Congress looking out for the interests of the people. The woefully misnamed "Spy Act of 2007" is an enormous load to tripe, designed to allow everyone and their brother to track what you do online. Sure explicit acts of hijack or keystroke logging are prohibited, but this bill is packed with exemptions that give corporations almost unfettered access to your machine.

So who gets to monitor what you do:
  • Telecommunications carriers (e.g., AT&T and your ISP)
  • Cable operators (e.g., Comcast)
  • Hardware providers (e.g., Dell)
  • Software providers (e.g., Microsoft)
  • Information service providers (e.g., Google)
  • Interactive computer service providers (e.g., Apple/Sony/Disney/etc...)
And what do they get to do? Well...
...any monitoring of, or interaction with, a subscriber's Internet or other network connection or service, or a protected computer... to the extent that such monitoring or interaction is for network or computer security purposes, diagnostics, technical support, or repair, or for the detection or prevention of fraudulent activities;
In other words, any monitoring they want as long as they can claim that it's for the purpose of "protecting" your computer or detecting fraud, and that would cover even scummy adware providers. Even
Sony's computer compromising rootkit from 2006 would have been perfectly legal under this law. But here's the real kicker: If you don't like it--if you think perhaps that a company has fraudulently installed spyware for the purpose of compromising your computer or data--then... YOU'RE F*CKED! Because this legislation also does away with stricter state laws and removes your right to sue, vesting that right solely with your state's attorney general.

In short, this legislation in no way protects the consumer. It simply gives legal cover to corporations that want unfettered access to your computer for the purpose of determining if you're stealing their stuff.

2007/04/24

Failing at Business, Lesson 4 - Greed, Greed, and More Greed

There are many examples of unbridled corporate greed, but in the case of Ford Motor Company, the stratospheric compensation of their new chief executive, Alan Mulally--when coupled with the fact that Ford continues to hemorrhage money--makes them an example of how not to succeed in business.

Some facts:
  • Mulally, who was hired away from Boeing, was paid $28M for a mere 4 months of work.
  • At an adjusted rate of $84M/year, Mulally has increased his salary by almost an order of magnitude!
  • Taking into account Ford's record $12.7B loss for 2006, Mulally was paid approximately one million dollars for each $150M that Ford lost.
  • Taken another way, Mulally was paid approximately $750/worker that he supposedly manages.
Now you may say, "Well executives have to be incented to take risks." But of course, this entails no risk for Mr. Mulally. If he does nothing for Ford, he'll still make 8X what the previous CEO made in 2005--big risk there! So where is his incentive? Perhaps a better idea would be for Mr. Mulally to have to pay $1M for each $500M that Ford loses in 2007 and to receive $1M for each $100M that Ford makes. We call that 'tying pay to performance', a concept that I'm sure Ford's 'rank-and-file' employees are very familiar with.

I'd also be willing to bet that if half of Mulally's ludicrous compensation were distributed among the employees, it would go a lot further toward bringing Ford out of it's current slump.

2007/04/23

Suicide Bombshell

This afternoon, the Frogette comes to Blognonymous with burning questions:

If a male suicide bomber receives 70 virgins in the afterlife, what does a female suicide bomber receive?

Imagine the Imam who has to explain this:

Imam - "70 virgins, just like everybody else."
Bombshell - "You're not serious?!"
Imam - "Well...uh...how about an eternal supply of chocolate?"
Bombshell - "And..."
Imam - "Uh...a foot massage? From George Clooney?"

Where do the virgins come from?
Were these the girls who couldn't get dates? Nerdy girls who look like Velma from Scooby Doo...only in a burqa?

What happens to the virgins when a suicide bomber's wife shows up?
"He did what?! OK, give me a bomber's belt. I'm going to kick his ass for all eternity!"

Freedom From The Press

Not like Democrats need more reasons to call for our current Attorney General's ouster, but what may turn out to be Gonzales' last gambit on behalf of the administration could be one of the most damaging to the Constitution.

Harper's Magazine has an extensive report on Gonzales' attempt to shut down our press by getting an Americanized version of the British Official Secrets Act enacted here. But...knowing that he'd never get such a law by Congress, the AG has decided to simply have an old law, the 1917 Espionage Act, reinterpreted to criminalize any release of classified information, even by persons having no obligation to protect the government's secrets. From Harper's:
Rather than approach Congress with a proposal to enact the British Official Secrets Act--a proposal which would certainly be defeated even in the prior Republican-led Congress--Gonzales decided to spin it from whole cloth. He would construe the Espionage Act of 1917 to include the essence of the Official Secrets Act, and he would try to get this interpretation ratified in the Bush Administration's “vest pocket” judicial districts—the Eastern District of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit. The key man for this project was to be Paul J. McNulty, the man he soon picked as his deputy.
Since the Bush administration has never had a problem with using classification as a means to hide its dirty laundry--and since the DoJ has already identified a test case, the AIPAC prosecution--we may soon have a ruling that would make press exposure of torture, rendition, and illegal surveillance prosecutable acts of espionage.

Many thanks to The Xsociate for the head's up.

2007/04/22

The Real Reason Limbo Is Finished

2007/04/21

BlognonyBITS - Whither the Tag

I'm starting to experience insomnia.
I don't try to force myself to sleep.
I just get up and dress...in the dark.
And when you can't see your clothes,
Is when little tags are really useful.
Have you noticed how many pieces of
Clothing are now sold without tags?

2007/04/20

Didn't We Learn Anything From Agnew/Nixon?

Dennis Kucinich's heart is definitely in the right place. There is no question that Cheney has got enough 'high crimes and misdemeanors' hanging over him to warrant an impeachment trial. But unless this is merely campaign year attention grabber, Kucinich has got his tactics screwed up. He needs to take a lesson from history--specifically Spiro Agnew's resignation after being indicted for bribery and corruption--and back off until he's willing to bring articles of impeachment against both Bush and Cheney simultaneously.

Sure...it's probably true that the articles will go nowhere. Nancy Pelosi has already taken the possibility of impeaching Bush off the table and may consider this a monumental distraction, but let's consider what might happen if articles were forwarded to the Senate. Taking Spiro Agnew's situation as a guide, Cheney would probably be forced to resign during preparations for a Senate trial. Discovery alone would probably reveal enough to do Cheney in, but...once Cheney is gone, Bush is in the clear once and for all.

Why? Because Kucinich and Democrats will have squandered their one shot at the President. The so-called "crimes" of a Cheney trial are the same, or very closely related, to the "crimes" that would come up in a Bush impeachment trial, but having tried and failed with the Veep, neither Congress nor the American people are going to have the spine to go through it a second time. Moreover, if Cheney goes, then Bush gets to appoint a replacement before being impeached himself! Thus, there is no chance of having Speaker Pelosi assume the presidency. And finally, you have to wonder who Bush might appoint to replace Cheney? Perhaps CIA Director Hayden--a man that is is as close to the 'Head of Secret Police' as we have. Or Secretary of State Rice? In fact, many unattractive alternatives come to mind.

The idea is good. The timing is miserable.

(Thanks to Sumo for the inspiration.)

2007/04/19

Kvatch Kvestions - Who supports the troops?

We won? We lost? Who cares! It's over and it's time to change the tone of the debate.

So I ask you: Who really supports the troops?

The party that sponsors the bill that will bring the troops home?
Or the party that accuses their opponents of 'turning their backs on the troops'?

The Senate leader that understands that the cause is lost?
Or the Senator that wants more troops to die for that lost cause?

The presidential candidate that calls the war a mistake?
Or the President that will keep the troops there indefinitely?

No matter what bill comes out of Congress, Bush will attach a signing statement that says he's not required to implement the timetable. In other words, Bush will mandate that more American soldiers die for a cause that was probably lost on the day he declared victory.

We know which party abandoned the troops, and Democrats need to be accusing the GOP of it in every speech!

Future Headlines - America Files For Bankruptcy

BANKRUPT UNITED STATES SEEKS PROTECTION FROM CREDITORS UNDER CHAPTER 11

FOREIGN CREDITORS ASSERT UNITED STATES INELIGIBLE FOR PROTECTION, CLAIM 'MORAL BANKRUPTCY' DOESN'T COUNT

BUSH ADMINISTRATION FILES REORGANIZATION PLAN WITH SEC - SALE OF ASSETS EXPECTED

ADMINISTRATION SELLS CALIFORNIA AND NEW YORK TO UNNAMED FOREIGN INVESTORS - NEW ENTITY TO BE KNOWN AS 'YORKAFORNIA'

2007/04/18

BlognonyBITS - A Win Win In Iraq

Bu$hCo is once again amping up the noise machine in response to the Democrat's "timetable" for withdrawal from Iraq. In speech after speech Mr. Bush calls attention to the Democrats desire 'to legislate defeat in this vital war'. On the other hand, many bloggers, including Abi of Update America, point out that most of us feel that the war is already lost and that the face off between Congress and the White House over funding and deadlines is just a sideshow. True enough, but perhaps that's not the right way to look at the issue.

I mean...what happens if we get out of Iraq right now? No delays--just pack up and leave. For one thing the Iraqis are pretty quickly going to have to find out how to work with each other (a win) or escalate the already ongoing conflict into a full-scale civil war (a huge lose). The United States is going to save about $125B in immediate funding, money that we could put toward real security initiatives, and probably another $200B in in future war funding. That would go some distance toward slashing Bu$hCo's record-setting deficits, now wouldn't it?

Seems to me like we've got a fair chance of a big win for America if we get out now.

Is it midnight yet? Time to protest the war!

As the federal tax filing deadline passes, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss how to really screw with the federal government. Why? Well one blog that I read questioned if it was even possible these days to mount an effective protest against Bu$hCo. The claim being that civil disobedience no longer has any effect on our current crop of GOP megalomaniacs.

So...on tax day, you might think that I'd advocate refusing to paying one's taxes--perhaps join the war tax resisters movement. But no...the penalty for refusing to pay up has gotten kind of stiff, $5000.00 now, up from just $500.00 a year ago So I'm going to make another suggestion...

If every pissed-off W2 wage earner, on the same day, submits a new W-4 listing 100 allowances, their federal withholding will be effectively reduced to zero for the remainder of the year. Each protester should then invest the money saved. Finally, in January of the next year, protesters should each make one "quarterly" payment that covers their tax burden and use any capital gains to cover any penalties.

Though claiming excessive allowances is not illegal--some taxpayers need to do it to get their withholding set correctly--it's also not exactly legal. Any amount over 9 gets reviewed by the IRS, anyway. But the steep, temporary drop in revenue will throw the feds into a tizzy. Even if all that happens is that the IRS has to review 50,000,000 or so W-4s, it might still be worth it.

2007/04/17

Microsoft in Black

Did you know that Microsoft has their own version of the 'Men in Black'. Apparently these guys are legislation killers, lobbyists dispatched to take care of any laws that aren't in Microsoft's best interest.

Recently they were sent to Florida to deal with Open Document wording being considered for SB 1974, a bill designed to create an agency for recommending and managing enterprise information technology. The bill includes language like this:

(1) By July 1, 2009, the Agency for
Enterprise Information Technology shall develop a plan and a
business case analysis for the creation, exchange, and
maintenance of documents by state agencies in an open format
that is capable of being:
(a) Published without restrictions or royalties;
(b) Fully and independently implemented by multiple
software providers on multiple platforms without any
intellectual property reservations for necessary technology;
and
(c) Controlled by an open industry organization having
a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the
standard.
(2) Each state agency must be able to receive
electronic documents in an open, extensible markup
language-based file format for office applications and may not
change documents to a file format used by only one vendor.


Pretty reasonable, huh? Well not for the Men in Black--familiar in lobbying circles because they actually do all dress in black--who are pressuring Florida legislators to remove the language. And just like the real MiB, Microsoft's are not above using threats to get what they want, intimating that, "...elected representatives who voted against Microsoft's interests might have a little more trouble raising campaign funds than they would if they helped the IT giant achieve its Florida goals."

What would you call that? A "reverse bribe"?

2007/04/16

Politicizing Tragedy?

I have no words to express how bad I feel about the tragic killings at Virginia Tech, but I have to wonder what possessed Deputy White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino when she immediately politicized the tragedy with her comments this morning.

Show some god-damned restraint woman! You could have waited until tomorrow to drag the meaning of the 2nd Amendment into the discussion.

The V-22 "Osprey" - One At Twice The Price

After almost 20 years and a development cost of almost $30 billion dollars, the V-22 Osprey is finally being put into service.

For those of you who don't keep up on military hardware, the V-22 is a "tiltroter" VTOL craft that ascends/descends like a helicopter then rotates its props 90 degrees in flight to fly like an aircraft, an arrangement that many experts have referred to as fundamentally unsound. No matter, after 18 years of delays, funding cuts, program cancellations, funding restorations, groundings, glitches, mechanical failures, design flaws, 5 crashes, and 30 deaths the Marines are sending the unwieldy craft to Iraq.

But regardless of how much action the Osprey sees, it will never justify its staggering cost. Just consider that, at $80 million dollars apiece, each V-22 is four times the cost of the Sikorsky MH-60s Seahawk, an alternative to the Osprey. And sure...the Osprey can do things the Seahawk can't--fly aircraft distances, refuel in flight--but the Seahawk carries the same payload at 1/3 the weight and is armed. The V-22 carries no armaments, so...no combat.

And here's the most sobering statistic. All together the US armed forces only plan to acquire 450 V-22s. So factoring in the program cost you can add another $66 million to the price tag of each unit. That's almost double!

Perhaps the Marines should have named this craft 'The Albatross' rather than 'The Osprey'.

2007/04/15

As The Phrase Turns

This was a week of great quotes in the Blogsphere. Here are some of my favorites:

The Station Agent on Karl Rove's lost emails:
That makes these emails more important that the Dead Sea Scrolls and Gospel According to Judas combined. These emails are right up there with the Holy Grail and the BCS Championship.

Maru of WTF Is It Now!? On Bush's stepping up to defend Paul Wolfowitz:
Bush wades in to save beleaguered Wolfowitz, which is much like when a mentally disabled man at the beach wanders into the ocean to save a clump of seaweed.

TUA of The Future Was Yesterday, with a quote that pretty much distills the fact that being born south of Mason-Dixon line doesn't always make you a southerner:
If you settle in the South and bear children don't think that we'll automatically accept them as Southerners. After all, if the cat had kittens in the oven, we wouldn't call 'em biscuits.

Body Bag

Designed by Alexander McQueen.

Inspired by H. R. Geiger?

Coming soon to a Samsonite
retailer near you.

EEK!

2007/04/14

Failing At Business, Lesson 3 - Prove You Can't Be Trusted

Ironically, though the title of this post is 'Failing at Business', the company I'm going to discuss can't really be considered anything but an unqualified success. This retailer has grown phenomenally in the 20 years since I first encountered them in Minnesota. They've taken over other chains. They've transformed the retail electronics industry, and I guess in the end this says more about what we, the consumers, are willing to put up with...

...because for anyone who's dealt with Best Buy, a company that could easily be given the title of 'America's Sleaziest Retailer', the list of ways in which they try to rip you off is endless. Keep in mind that, long before they got caught with a parallel internal website that they used to dupe customers into paying higher prices than were featured on bestbuy.com, this company had been sued by the attorney's general of Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Here are just some of the more nefarious ways Best Buy tries to separate you from your money:

The Parallel Website - Mentioned this one above - Basically they use it to prove that the great price you saw on bestbuy.com doesn't really exist. Maybe you imagined it?

Everyday Sale Prices - More than just a marketing slogan, Best Buy had a habit of swapping their regular price tags for so-called 'sale tags' that featured...the exact same prices! Reach behind the sale tag and guess what you'd find?

Bait & Switch - Best Buy practices this tactic as an art form. "That model? Don't believe what you read on CNET. It's junk." "That model? It's really popular. We might get some in a month, but we're got this other one that's got the exact same internal components." "Was that model in the advertisement? No, we don't really carry it."

Switch & Bait - Otherwise known as, Who's the expert here? "That model? It's discontinued, but the new one with HDMI, DVI, component video, and multi-byte, NTSC-compliant, filtered decoders is great. It's only a few dollars more, but I want you to get something you're really gonna love."

Interestingly such tactics, in addition to the non-stop scrutiny of law enforcement, don't seem to have much of an effect on Best Buy's corporate image. The retailer was named Forbes' Company of the Year in 2004--no doubt due to the piles of money Best Buy makes, and after all that's really what counts. Right?

2007/04/13

Don Imus, The Peter Jackson of Radio

CBS today announced its decision to cease broadcasting the Imus in the Morning radio program, effective immediately, on a permanent basis.
And with that, CBS drops one of the few bankable radio personalities they have left. But does anyone really believe that Imus was dropped because of his "nappy-haried whores" insult of the Rutgers women's basketball team? I mean...come on! Imus is an subhuman asshole, and he's been an asshole for years. No...

When Peter Jackson took home the Oscar for LOTR The Return of the King, we all knew it was for a body of work. Because, let's face it, LOTR The Two Towers was a better movie, more deserving of a Best Picture Oscar. The same is true of Dom Imus. He's finally been recognized for a body of work that stretches back decades.

Congratulations Don!

You Just Filed Your Taxes Online...

What are you gonna do now? Well if you used Turbo Tax's online tax preparation service, we here at Blognonymous would like to suggest:
  • Calling your bank and having fraud alerts placed on your accounts
  • Getting in touch with the three major credit reporting agencies and checking for unusual activity
  • Maybe get fraud alerts for your credit cards as well--you know...if you used one to pay your tax bill
"Why all the panic," you ask? Because Intuit left open a security hole you could drive a truck through. Their web-based tax preparation service apparently isn't too careful about validating user names against particular returns, allowing you to pull up tax information that isn't yours. OW! Big problem!

Though Intuit claims the particular method has been blocked, keep in mind that this is web-based software. It would be a simple matter for a crawler to exercise every link, every path through the Turbo Tax system, in a matter of hours. So if another hole exists, it's sure to be discovered.

Happy Friday the 13th! Enjoy the last weekend before the filing deadline.

2007/04/12

"So it goes" - Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 1922 - 2007

It's been a sad year as two of my favorite writers, Stanislaw Lem and now Kurt Vonnegut Jr., have passed away.

My introduction to Vonnegut started with Slaughterhouse-Five at a very early age, and like many novels I read as a teen, I think that I understood something about it then that I can't quite grasp now. No matter. My consumption of Vonnegut didn't end until his own fiction-writing did, with Timequakes, a bitter-sweet end to a monumental career.

As a frequent visitor to NYC, I had always hoped to catch glimpse of Vonnegut--perhaps to encounter him at a coffee shop and be able to tell him how much I enjoyed his writing. I'm sad that now it will never happen.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. died yesterday of injuries that he received in a fall. He was 84. So it goes.

2007/04/11

Failing At Business, Lesson 2 - Ignore Potential Customers

An absurdly personal story that starts with a confession: I love shoes!

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I bet you're saying to yourself, "What are you Kvatch? Some kind of metro-sexual frog?" Well perhaps, but I just can't help it. Too many years of being exposed to fine leather, I suppose, and here in Babylon by the Bay we have many excellent men's shoe stores.

So last Sunday, I set aside an afternoon to find that perfect pair of black shoes (replacements for a pair that recently wore out). At the first store I tried, I found an awesome pair of clumpy black boots, but when I asked the clerk if they had size 8, her response was: "Uh...like, we really don't have anything for you."

A little taken aback, I replied, "You mean you don't have this pair in size 8?"

"No. We don't stock anything in sizes that small. Our lines are for taller men."

Now...first off, at 5' 9" I'm not exactly short--as if that had anything to do with shoe size. Second, what she was really saying was that the younger, stylish customer that they want to attract has...I suppose...larger feet, and herein is the problem. I've reached an age where if I want to spend way too much money in order to look like an aging hipster, I don't have to agonize over it. I'm not going to try on a bunch of shoes and then wonder if my paycheck will hit my account before the VISA bill is due, I'll just freakin' buy the things, and that's just what I did..at the store across the street.

Lesson 2: Don't piss off the people with the money.

Breaking and Entering In The Service of National Security

New Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell has only been on the job 3 months, but he's already making up for his short tenure with a new bill that would extend the surveillance powers of Bu$hCo into the realm of minor felonies. Yes indeed, the DNI went to his intelligence agencies and posed the question: What ties your hands when investigating national security issues? They told him, and ...VOILA! A new FISA-busting bill that will turn your hair white, making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

Some of it's more interesting provisions include:
  • The power to avoid FISA warrants altogether when the target is a foreign national, even if the surveillance methods include tapping domestic sources such as email or phone calls
  • Immunity from civil liability for telcos that cooperate with the government in terrorist investigations
  • Expand the amount of time the feds can investigate you without a warrant from 72 hours to one week in emergencies--you know in case they don't find anything in the first illegal search
There's even speculation that the bill would liberalize the so-called "sneak and peek" warrants that allow the feds to break into your premises to plant listening devices, cameras, or to steal and copy the contents of your computer storage.

At a time when we should be curtailing these sorts of activities, McConnell is looking to expand the executive's power. Amazing.

2007/04/10

And The Award Goes To...

It's unprecedented. I usually reserve the coveted, I Made Kvatch Snort His Martini Through His Nose award for deserving members of the left-wing Blogsphere. But today, for the first time, I will be giving the award to a member of the administration.

And the award goes to... Dana Perino, Deputy White House Press Secretary, who said in today's press briefing of the administration's "surge" strategy:
The American people have wanted change in Iraq, and they got it... The president announced a new policy on January 10th that was quite different and divergent from where we were before.
Bwahahahahahaha. OW! Mother puss-bucket... vodka through the sinuses really hurts!

Failing at Business, Lesson 1: Piss Off Existing Customers

Feeling a little put upon by businesses who've forgotten what customer service means? Me too, and nowhere is this more evident than with the airlines. We're all familiar with the trials and tribulations of handling our bags. You've got one of two choices: Don't check your bag; get hassled by TSA; and wrestle for overhead storage space. Or be courteous and check that bag; add anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to your trip waiting for it to come back; and risk losing it altogether.

Well the airlines not only do not feel your pain, at least one, Spirit Airlines, is going to make things worse for everybody. They've decided to attack their lost baggage problem by adding a surcharge ($5 to $10) for every checked bag--force you bag checking slackers into a manly struggle for overhead bin space.

Way to go Spirit! Piss off the leisure travellers as well as the business travellers. Smart thinking.

2007/04/09

Go East Young Man!

February's National Geographic had a fascinating chart showing where single men and women are concentrated in the United States. And--surprise, surprise--single men dominate in the West and single women in the East.

Now why would that be? Well I have a theory. The median center of US population (as of 2000) is skewed toward the East and slightly to the North. So all things being equal, if single women were less mobile once they reached adulthood than their male counterparts, then their concentration would also skew East and North. Thus, to me is seems fairly obvious: Women tend to remain near their support networks, family, friends, employers, educational institutions. Men move for opportunity...West and South, explaining their presence on the West Coast and in southern technology centers.

Is it a sexist observation? Maybe, but I don't know how else to explain the graph.

Politicization of Watch Lists No Longer Academic

Ever since it became clear that the feds where using "watch lists" to screen travelers--sometimes to prevent people from travelling at all--speculation about how they could be abused by politicians has been rampant. In fact, I have been relentlessly critical of such systems, but until today this has been just an academic exercise. No longer. We now know that at least TSA's "No-fly" list is being abused to harass citizens who are publicly critical of the administration.

Not only was Walter F. Murphy, a top constitutional scholar from Princeton University, added to a TSA terrorist watch list, airline employees admitted that his status was the direct result of constitutionally protected behavior. Professor Murphy gave a televised speech in 2006 that criticized the administration for its many constitutional abuses. But not stopping there, the airline employee asked Professor Murphy if he'd participated in any "peace marches"--he had not--and then remarked, "We ban a lot of people from flying because of that."

Ironically, Professor Murphy is not a die-hard, left wing critic of Bu$hCo. He holds many opinions that are in line with administration thinking, but apparently that isn't enough to keep you off of the "enemies list".

2007/04/07

BlognonyBITS - Keeping The Story Straight

Bush admonishes the congressional Democrats,
Accusing them of second-guessing our military commanders.
Arrogantly proclaims that the military doesn't answer to Congress.

Cheney insists that Saddam supported al Qaeda pre-invasion,
Ignoring a Pentagon report that demonstrates otherwise.
But somehow...isn't second guessing the military.

Frog Against Theocracy

You know... I was all ready to write some conciliatory, "Why can't we all just tolerate each other," post for the Blog Against Theocracy swarm, but frankly I'm in a grumpy mood and am just not feeling very tolerant.

So here's the deal: The reason we have an establishment clause in the first place is because the early Christian founders were just as afraid, just a suspicious, of each other as modern evangelicals are of Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and well...everybody that's not them. The founders didn't want to see any of their religions pushed to the margins by the establishment of a national faith.

So those of you who argue that, as a Christian nation, we should ignore the 1st Amendment to put religion (aka Christian religion) back in our schools, our public places, and our government--to the detriment of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and grumpy frogs--better get-the-f*ck over yourselves. You want things your own way? Then amend the Constitution and freakin' leave me in peace until you've managed it!

2007/04/06

Cyberdyne Systems, Vice President Model 101

As the 'Draft Cheney' campaign swings into high gear, concerns about the Vice President's health are being raised. Pundits wonder if the Veep will be able to endure an arduous campaign...

Cheney Terminator

...but today those concerns were put to rest when the Vice President announced that he would move his brain to a Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 hyper-alloy combat chassis.

Speculation is already brewing about a trip to Iraq to deal with the insurgents once and for all.

2007/04/05

One Drop-dead Cool Idea

So let me start this post by stating that if you're not a science fiction fan, you may want to go and read RawStory or something.

A recent poll by SFX magazine named Joss Whedon's Serenity the Best Sci-Fi movie of all time. Really? Serenity? I mean...it was good. In fact, when you consider that he was constrained to dealing with many loose ends from his unloved series Firefly, it was better than good but not the best ever.

So what really makes for good sci-fi, and how do we rank movies if we had a metric to use? Well, as a frog whose written a bit of sci-fi in his time, I contend that great science fiction is based on the notion of the 'one drop-dead cool idea,' DDCI, if you will. It's the hook that nobody has thought of--the secret sauce. You follow it faithfully to it's logical conclusion, and you don't get distracted by less cool ideas and meaningless subplots. And with that in mind, I'm willing to identify the greatest science fiction movie of all time: The Matrix.

"Why?" you ask. Because the simple notion of humans as batteries was f*cking drop-dead-cool! And every element of the movie was placed in the service of exploring that one theme. The sequels? Garbage! Messy, multi-plot fiascoes with no good ideas, but now that we have our metric, how do other popular sci-fi films stack up...

2001, A Space Odyssey - Revolutionary special effects, but no DDCI. So in the end not as good as everyone gives it credit for.

2010 - The Year We Make Contact - In contrast, this film had a great DDCI, the monoliths as "sun-igniters," life-givers, harbingers of evolution. 2010 deserves better than it got from critics.

Alien - Runner-up to The Matrix for 'Greatest Sci-Fi Film of All Time' prize.

Bladerunner - Another excellent film with a great DDCI, but the credit really goes to Phillip K. Dick.

The Terminator - Great DDCI film. To bad it was done on such a low budget. Though that is part of it's charm.

The Star Trek Films - Mostly drek with the exception of one, Star Trek - First Contact--the film that used the only DDCI the whole series ever came up with, the Borg.

The Star Wars Films - Again mostly drek, but the original should get a buy, because the idea of making space opera on a grand scale is almost a DDCI by itself.

Men in Black - Great DDCI, funny film, great characters, no distractions, exactly what makes for good sci-fi.

HT to Kathy over at If I Ran The Zoo whose post got me thinking along these lines.

Recess Appointments - Tool of the Imperial Executive

No president in modern history has eschewed the recess appointment as a method of filling key executive positions, but when it comes to nominating divisive ideologues, The Decider has a lock. Not one day after our highest court slapped Bu$hCo down in Massachusetts v. EPA, Bush appoints 3 industry anti-environmentalists to key regulatory positions--almost as if to say, "Screw the Supreme Court. Here's how it's going to be tree-huggers!"

It goes without saying that there is almost no chance these three--William Wehrum, a chemical industry lawyer appointed to head the EPA's air quality division; Alex Beehler, a former Pentagon official and oil company executive who will head the EPA inspector general's office, and Susan Dudley, who will head the OMB's government rules review division--could get confirmed on their own. They have deep ties to the chemical and oil industries, and their opposition to environmental regulation is well documented, but that's OK for an administration that may take the title of 'King of Recess Appointments," away from Ronald Reagan (243).

The recess appointment was originally intended to deal with the fact that Congress had short sessions and long recesses. It was a method of keeping the executive functioning while the legislative was out making a living, but in modern times it's become just another way for presidents to do an end run around Congress. And for Bush, on track to make yet again 50% more recess appointments than his predecessor, it advances a hard-right agenda that Bush lacks the talent to support in the open.

Updated 2007/04/05, 12:26p -

BHFRK @ Club Lefty makes two additional excellent points about Bush's recess appointments. First he notes that Bush is the first president to make an appointment during a recess of less than 10 days, an unprecedented move. Second, Bush's usurpation of congressional authority is all the worse because Bush appoints people who have been rejected by the Senate. In other words, Bush simply ignores the will of Congress and the intent of the Constitution to get his way.

2007/04/04

The Global War On Error

Ft. Irwin, California (f-A-ke. P.) -

President Bush travelled to Ft. Irwin, California today to discuss how he intends to, "...make Congress his bitch," on the issue of emergency funding for the Iraq War.

Speaking in front of adoring troops--recently told if that they'd stop being whiny pussies and just play ball for the afternoon, they might avoid redeployment--Mr. Bush corrected a number of factual errors regarding his administration's current struggle with Congress over funding. First, the president stressed that, "...Congress must not tell the generals how to do their job," and added that the perception that the military is subordinate to civilian authorities is not in fact the case. He also pointed out that although the Constitution states that only Congress has the power to declare war, they ceded that power to him when they passed the 2002 joint resolution. "After all," remarked the President, "I'm the decider, and the Constitution is just a damn piece of paper!"

The President then informed the troops of other initiatives that he expects Congress to fund, starting with the 'Global War on Error'. "We can't have scientists and secular humanists telling us what's happening to our planet. If eggheads are allowed to dictate policy, then our economy is doomed," Mr. Bush said. 'The Global War on Leaks," is another funding priority. "I expect to put on soldier with a loaded pistol behind every single government employee. That'll take care of all those leaks."

Mr. Bush concluded his remarks by mentioning the 'Global War on Freaks'. "We need to stop coddling freaks in this country," the President said. "And I think that we should start with Lieberman and Schwarzenegger. Those two are just plain weird!"

2007/04/03

EPA Told To Do Its Job

One half of the most pernicious circular argument in recent memory fell apart yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the agency has both the authority and the mandate to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This is great news for California. Between the auto industry and the feds, our state has been stymied in its efforts to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants. On the one hand, the auto industry has argued in its own suit against California that only the federal government has the authority to regulate anything that might affect fuel economy. And then, on the other hand, the EPA has argued that it lacks that same authority because greenhouse gases are not covered by the Clean Air Act--Catch-22.

Well, the Supreme Court put a 5 to 4 stake through the second half of those arguments, not only instructing EPA to exercise the oversight required by the Clean Air Act, but lending support to California's adoption of it's own stricter standards. Now we should finally see some movement on the issue of getting Big Auto's fuel economy case tossed out of the court system. That case is currently on hold in the Federal Circuit pending the outcome of Massachusetts v. EPA.

2007/04/02

Presidential Competency Test

Glenn Greenwald's Sunday column at Salon, brought up an interesting deficiency in at least two of the GOP presidential hopefuls. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rudolf Giuliani would unequivocally state that they would refrain from arresting and detaining American citizens without review. In other words, these men consider a tyrannical (and unconstitutional) power as something worth considering. Mr. Greenwald goes on to speculate that, based on their voting records, the most prominent Democratic candidates wouldn't consider such a power.

But I think that in modern America, where we've already experienced a President who considers himself free of constitutional limitations--that the executive is a superior branch of government allowing him to effectively "rule-by-decree"--we shouldn't assume anything about what candidates Democrat or Republican will do once they're in office. In fact, I think that a common understanding of the Constitution that should be imposed as a litmus test on our candidates. And any candidate that is unwilling to promise to govern under constitutional restraints should be treated as a political pariah undeserving of anyone's attention, money, or vote.

And just what would such a litmus test include? I don't know, but I'd be willing to contribute the following ideas:

Due Process - The 5th Amendment and the Section 1 of the 14th Amendment are explicit in extending due process of law to all "persons" within the jurisdiction of the United States or the separate states--citizens, resident aliens, visitors...even illegal aliens. Any candidate that proposes to ignore due process (aka Giuliani) should be treated as a potential tyrant.

Separation of Powers - The executive branch has no authority to ignore the laws Congress passes, and so the notion of the 'statement at signing' has to go. There are perfectly reasonable remedies for when Congress' understanding and the President's understanding of legislation differ. The president can veto a bill. Congress can use the courts when the executive's enforcement of law does not meet with Congress' intent. The signing statement is a unconstitutional circumvention of the separation of powers, and any candidate who does not promise to eschew their use should told to find another career.

I'm sure there are literally dozens of other examples, but I'll stop here and wait for your ideas.

2007/04/01

What could you do without?

Vacation almost over...back in Sodom by the Sea tonight, but in the meantime:

The Atlantic Monthly has an interesting article in their March edition comparing people's attitudes 1996 and 2006 about what are 'necessary' items. I find this intriguing, as I already lack 3 items on this list due to my living circumstances, and could easily live without 4 others.

Here's the list. What do you think?

Home Air-conditioning -
For me, this is a no brainer. It's frankly unnecessary here. But that said, I think that most of us could do with a lot less air-conditioning. My parents keep their West Texas home at a frigid 68 degrees, and I've found that I can remain comfortable at a temperature at least 10 degrees higher. In 100+ degree heat, that's a lot of energy.

Microwave -
Easily. In fact, though I have one, I use it maybe twice a week.

Car Air-conditioning
Again a no brainer as I don't own a car. But I do wonder... Is it even possible to buy a car these days without air-conditioning?

Home Computer -
Absolutely not! This is a essential tool of both my work life and my private life.

Cell Phone -
You know this one is interesting. Compared to land lines, cell phones are a bad deal for most of us, and I don't do the kind of work that requires that I be reachable at all hours. Do you?

Dishwasher -
Could I live without this? Definitely! Would I want to? No! The plain fact is that a full dishwasher is more energy efficient and uses less water than washing dishes by hand.

Cable or Satellite-TV -
Easy...I gave up cable a year ago and don't miss it.

Hi-speed Internet -
Not on your life. As with my computer, it is now the indispensable tool.

Flat-screen TV -
To the extent that you need TV, you should immediately go out and replace your plasma or CRT with an LCD. The energy savings is tremendous.

iPod -
Love it, but I could live without it.