December 2, 2009

Plagiarist, I see.

I know the Internet is the 'brave new frontier.' I know there are those who think 'information should be free.' But things like this still really steam my bacon.

As most of the miniscule number of people who read this blog know, I write for the website '' under a pseudonym, 'The Custodian.' I write a great deal of stuff there (over a million words in the past decade). Today, Googling for statistically improbable phrases to determine if anyone had linked to a work of mine, I found instead that someone who seems to be a student at Daytona State College has stolen the work in its entirety. The story is called 'The New York Magician', and some few parts of it (not all of it, and not all she stole and claimed as her own) are posted on this blog.

She has posted it to (I'm not going to link to it) claiming it as her own work, and has submitted it to NaNoWriMo.

I'm pretty pissed about this, I should say. Time to go learn about DMCA takedown notices.

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September 15, 2009

People who need a fucking sense of proportion

Get real. Ban smoking in outdoor parks in New York City? Oh sure. You've already driven the smokers outdoors from their offices (okay) from restaurants (I guess) and bars (what the living fuck) and now you want to ban them from smoking in parks? Which will open the way for all public spaces in the city, even those maintained by private entities, to mimic the ban?

Fuck. You.

And I'm not even a serious smoker. I smoke cigars or pipes, generally around once every couple of weeks. But I gotta tell you, when I'm smoking that one cigar or pipe, I too want to fucking relax in the outdoors.

Seriously, the people who think this is a good idea need some perspective. Take the following quote, from the New York Times article on the proposed ban:

Adele Jeune, 47, a home health aide from East New York, Brooklyn, does not smoke and had no objection to a ban. “I love clean air,” said Ms. Jeune, who was sitting on a bench in Union Square. “And if I go somewhere like this, I want to smell clean air.”

Let me get this straight. You are sitting in the middle of Union Square in fucking Manhattan (a place with, I might add, current ongoing construction within and around the park) and you're seriously telling me you want to ban smokers because you like smelling 'clean air?'

Jesus H Christopher tapdancing Christ on a popsicle stick, lady, this is New York City. You wouldn't know clean air if it bit you on the ass. Tell you what, if all you people would agree to first go after the fucking incense salescreatures who infest lower Manhattan and love to burn nineteen examples of their wares at a fucking time in some form of suicidal anti-advertising, then you might have some credibility with me.

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August 12, 2009

Shame, degradation, and responsibility

I can't believe this.

Lynndie England is without question a symbol, known internationally, of the worst components of the American character. The absolute best that can be said about her involvement in Iraq is that she was guilty of willful and reckless ignorance - ignorance of ethics, ignorance of the potential damage her actions could do, and ignorance of basic human values.

Worse things that could be said? That she, in writing and promoting this book, is guilty of deliberate profiting on her degradation of others, publicly and indefensibly.

And a Veteran's Association is sponsoring this? At the Library of Congress? For fuck's sake, people, this woman dishonored the uniform you wore or wear. Out of willful ignorance at best, malice aforethought at worst.

So now you're going to help her push her story of victimization.

Get a fucking grip.

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June 9, 2009

Grey Lady Down

The New York Times doesn't come off well in this story from Harper's regarding reporting on the torture controversy.

I'm saddened that I'm not surprised.

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January 27, 2009

November 4, 2008


If you haven't yet, and are a United States citizen, GO VOTE. I don't care who you vote for. Let us all agree on that - no matter who we support, let us agree to encourage everyone to exercise their constitutional right to vote. DO IT.

I planned poorly. I waited until around 9:30 am, figuring to miss the 'pre-work' crowd, only to realize as I reached my polling place that my neighborhood is still heavily populated by retirees. All of whom seemed to have shown up just before me. To make matters worse, each machinewas allocated to a subdistrict, and my subdistrict was my co-op complex (as far as I could tell) - which has an even higher percentage of stay-at-home folks than the neighborhood.

Still, had some good conversations on line. Asked the Democratic Inspector on duty how old the polling machines were, and he said 'well, they were in use when I first voted, and I'm sixty-four, so you figure it out!' I remarked that they were in use for my first election, too, and gave me a comfortable feeling.

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September 29, 2008

The bullshit never stops.

All that, and the bailout includes a "20% surcharge on golden parachutes?" That's all? Yeah, like that's going to restrain moral hazard. Son of a bitch. Useless politicians.

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September 22, 2008

We cannot let these people win.

They have the fucking gall to try to link Obama to the mortgage meltdown when their campaign manager earned $30,000 a month lobbying against tighter regulations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

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July 29, 2008

NYPD Security Theater

Nothing new here, but I ran into it personally. When I arrived at the 14th St. A/C/E/L subway station on the way home from work, I joined a sparse crowd of folks heading down into the station. As I reached the bottom of the stairs and moved towards the turnstiles, however, an NYPD officer approached me and said "Excuse me sir, random bag check." He gestured towards a card table set up with three other officers standing at it (all were in uniform).

I stopped and said "No. I'm going to walk to another station." (Because, you see, I have cleverly been following this whole debacle online).

The officer who stopped me looked at me in puzzlement and said "It's just a random bag search." (Note that 'check' has become 'search.' Oh the lies our subconscious weaves.)

I responded, "I don't like the idea of random bag searches. I'm leaving and going to another entrance." With that, I turned and walked back up the stairs to 14th St.

I then walked uptown two blocks and descended into the uptown end of the same station concourse, past a turnstile area with no bag check, down to the platforms and hence onto an uptown A train.

This is a point that others have made wonderfully well before I, but what precisely was the point of that? If the NYPD is allowing me to decline searches and then simply walk to the next station entrance where I can enter the subway unmolested, then how does this protect anyone against anything? If I had a dangerous device in my man-purse shoulder bag, well, it still got on the train.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that I was selected randomly (I've been past that station when the search table was up dozens of times, and this is the first time I've been fingered) but to what purpose? If they were performing behavioral profiling (good on them if so) then I'm even more confused. Either they should have stopped me from leaving, or (if their profiling is based on my response to the search announcement) there should be provision in the regulation that I can be prevented from leaving and then arrested or otherwise examined against my will.

There might be such a provision, I don't know, but these officers were quite happy to let me toodle off to the next uptown entrance (not even station).

All I can think of is that wonderful series of videos of a law professor and a cop explaining why you should never, ever talk to the police without your lawyer present (they both agree on this, by the way). Why? Because essentially the police have one job - and that's to find suspects, and then produce evidence for the DA to make a case that those suspects are guilty. The system is set up such that once it starts to examine you, any information it collects is usable against you (and they're supposed to warn you of that). But there's no corollary right for you to use any of that information in your defense. In fact, the very fact that it's been collected by the prosecution or their agents means you can't use it in your defense.

Don't believe me? Watch the video.

Anyway, the only thing I can think of that bag search being good for is to get unwary and otherwise complacent citizens to open their bags so that any illicit materials therein can be located and used as evidence. Why would they do this? Well, the bag check is carefully presented as a 'safety measure.' So if you know you're not a terrorist, and the police are 'looking for terrorists,' why wouldn't you open your bag?

Know what you just did? You just waived your Fifth Amendment rights. If there's anything in there incriminating, too bad; you voluntarily showed it to them and gave consent by not walking away. Know what else you just did? You just waived your right to privacy. They're going to paw over the contents of your bag, and whatever we 'agree' on in terms of policies, they're going to read the book titles. They're going to look at your emergency underwear. They're going to wonder about the little things, because they're human. While it might be possible to set up procedures and rules by which such intrusions do not legally incriminate, our human nature means that there's no way to set up procedures such that they do not violate our privacy. And you let them.

Well, now they know what you're reading. They know who you are. If you have any marijuana in your bag, you've just voluntarily shown it to them (by not walking out of the station, remember? You consented to the search). And guess what? If you think they're not going to use that information against you, you're wrong. Probably dead wrong.

In other words, the 'random bag check' has absolutely nothing to do with safety. It's like the state trooper who comes up to your car and asks 'do you know how fast you were going?' Warning: never answer 'yes.' Never give a number. As the cop in the videos notes, the usual response of the driver who knows that they were speeding but isn't a habitual speeder to to try to admit to a 'lesser speed,' still illegal so they don't think you were lying.

Guess what? You just confessed to speeding. End of story. No way out. Doesn't matter if you confessed to 57 in a 55 when you were going 68; you confessed to speeding. They'll happily give you a 57 in a 55 citation if you're willing to give them a confession. Their job is easier.

So yeah. Random bag check. For your safety.

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July 26, 2008

Nothing is sacred anymore.

Fucking heresy. For Griffith's sake.

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March 12, 2008

Welcome again to the nanny state.

Let me get this straight - you're going to suspend and strip of his student government office an honors student in the eighth grade for buying candy? All because some dipshit bureaucrat decided that there should be a 'wellness policy' that forbids candy sales on campuses?

So apparently eighth graders are completely incapable of looking after themselves, and this school district has decided that the complete idiocy of the 'drug war' is not bad enough - now we're going to go straight to harsh punishment for buying candy, which is (last I looked) perfectly legal to buy for anyone who can get their hungry little hands over the counter with the quarters.

What are you teaching these kids? That their governing authorities can at any time reach down into their lives and punish them for completely arbitrary crap which doesn't appear to be actually illegal, and that there's no recourse nor protection for them from these bureaucratic idiots.

Oh, that's good.


Of more concern are the parents who think this kind of school policy is okay for their children. What the hell are you doing to your kids in the name of nanny-state convenience? Grow a goddamn spine. Parenting isn't just punishing when things go badly, or ceding the development of a personal ethos to a state bureaucracy. It's your responsibility to see your kid schooled, yes; it's also your responsibility to monitor that process and intervene when the schooling goes awry.

Unless, of course, you all think that this is a perfectly peachy outcome, in which case I hope somebody helps your children, because you apparently won't or can't.

Useless fuckers.

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March 9, 2008

I Swear To God

if one more white person comes up to me with the light of WALLOWING IN LIBERAL HAPPINESS AND GUILT in their eye and asks me excitedly "Oh, are you going to vote for Obama of course?!?" I swear to fucking God-in-whom-I-don't-believe that I'm going to go out, apply for a gun permit to get a gun I don't want just so I can go find them and shoot them in both fucking kneecaps.

This goes double for relatives and longtime friends, who should FUCKING KNOW BETTER. They lose elbows too.

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March 8, 2008

The money's not trickling down, stupid

The New York Times, in a somewhat mealy-mouthed article on the fun topic 'is this a recession' produces the following:
For a variety of reasons that economists only partly understand — including technological change and global trade — many workers have received only modest raises in recent years, despite healthy economic growth.

Um, did you check corporate earnings and executive pay, maybe?

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February 20, 2008

Chaz Pazienza says 'Fuck This' and means it

Chaz Pazienza is a name I'd honestly never heard until I read this evening of his experiences being fired from CNN for blogging - and not for blogging anything that had to do with his job. Mr. Pazienza, in a column for the Huffington Post which I linked above, muses that the problem with American television journalism was not that it wasn't dealing well, these past six years, with the party in power - but that it has come to fall entirely down on the job due to timidity, concerns over showing bias, and kowtowing to financial relationships.

I link to this article and urge folks who have been either disquieted by the American press, or outright furious (as I have in many cases) to go read his tale.

Oh, and in so doing: Fuck you, CNN. You need us more than we need you - be it as viewers, philosophical supporters, or even (in some of our cases) as writers with no reason to savage you.

Fuck you.

Posted by jbz at 7:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

Don't go to Dubai.

This appears to be a country racing hard to stay ahead of the U.S. in 'pointless, stupid, shithole fascism.'

Don't give them your tourist dollars.

Posted by jbz at 4:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

JPMorganChase can kiss my entire ass.

Opening a new bank account should a) not take 45 minutes of sitting in a branch. Really. It shouldn't. Especially not 45 minutes after the "customer service rep" actually acknowledges my existence. But okay. Things are slow around lunchtime I guess.

I deposit a decent chunk of money, via a check to me, into the account to open it. Several thousand dollars, which I need (fairly urgently) to cover current expenses, but expenses which really would like a local bank account. Again, fine. This is Tuesday.

Saturday I get a snailmail letter explaining that the deposit I've made is 'on hold' - but they will graciously allow me access to $100 of it. The reason? I quote:

the deposited check(s) is/are not consistent with the account's normal deposit activity
Um. So, how, precisely, could any check be consistent with this account's normal deposit activity when this is the OPENING DEPOSIT?

Upon phoning, Chase informs me helpfully that it doesn't matter anyway because any check from a bank outside of New York's tri-state area is automatically hit with a 5 business day hold time.

I'm not saying I really object to the latter. But the first one? Stupid. I mean, if they'd said "All first deposited checks to new accounts are subject to hold for verification..." I'd really be probably okay with it. Except...



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December 28, 2007

Terminally Stupid Administration

UPDATE: Okay, mea culpa. The ban apparently applies only to "lithium metal" batteries, not the Lithium-Ion types used in laptops.

Via Slashdot comes the news that the TSA will be limiting the transportation of lithium batteries (like the ones in cell phones and laptops). It's a bit hard to understand why, unless they're concerned about the recent spate of exploding laptops. The problem is that if that is what they're concerned about (and, yes, incendiary laptops on planes are bad) then it beggars the imagination to understand why they're allowing any battery that's in use in a laptop, and only worrying about spares. All the cases (well, the really publicized ones, at least) of exploding laptops involved batteries in laptops and in use.

Now, it's possible that there has been a surge in detonating solo batteries, but it hasn't really made much news, if so. In any case, now we have to watch screeners scratching their heads and trying to figure out 'equivalent grams of lithium' ratings for various consumer devices while we're waiting in line to board.

So what's the point, then?

Original notice available here.

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November 8, 2007

Ever wonder how you *create* coldly angry revolutionaries?

Like this.

Of course, some of 'em won't be revolutionaries. Some will just be people thinking it's about time to take a brick to law enforcement for spouting useless stupid crap, without any other political agenda.

And thus the Security State propagates itself. When it can't find credible threat, it co-opts dumbshit organizations and people to create the threat for it.

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November 4, 2007

The U.S. Military and I

Inevitably, as I rant my way through my life bitching about things, I'll get on to the subject of the clusterfuck illegality known as the 'Global War on Terror.' Actually, I lie - usually I start there, when ranting. One of the consequences of this if I'm in a public place in this country is that sometimes some junkfucker waster of DNA will overhear me (although in 100% of these cases, said junkfucker was in no way the designated recipient of my conversation) and will proceed to loudly take me to task about my so-called lack of support for the U.S. Military.

This irks me.

I have an enormous amount of respect for the men and women who make up the U.S. Military in general. I have a deal of contempt for certain specific individuals in that organization, and when talking about them, name them. On the whole, though, I believe that the U.S. Military is composed of - well - just people, many of whom are aspiring to a sort of noble behavior by doing something active, in contrast to the many who aren't doing anything.

In fact, on many questions, the U.S. Military tends to be closer to the ideal of America that I want to subscribe to than said trashhumpers who so ardently want to defend them. Case in point: Four active-duty service JAGs, and now four retired colleagues of theirs, have come out in eloquent support of the position that waterboarding is a) torture and b) illegal.

These eight people are and were entrusted by the Military itself to ensure that the behavior of its members conformed to U.S. and International law. If any enforcer in the world can be argued by position to be slack on the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their actions, it might be their own in-house watchdogs. I sure don't see that here. I see those watchdogs offering their interpretation of the tactics ordered and espoused by the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, and their interpretation is that "they suck and are forbidden."

Now we have Mr. Mukasey, who as the nominee for AG is waffling like mad on the subject of these very techniques. The Administration will claim loudly that he must retain flexibility so as to protect our 'brave men and women in uniform' who are doing all they can to protect us.

But the JAGs have just shot a pointed rusty dildo through that theory. They have primary investigative and enforcement authority over the actions of U.S. military personnel, and they have said, with no waffling, that the practice of waterboarding is torture, therefore illegal, and Not To Be Done.

So who is Mukasey's flexibility intended to protect? Well, that's kind of obvious, isn't it? Those involved with the use of this practice who are not under the jurisdiction of the JAGs.

In other words, the civilian administration who instructed them.

Couple that with his refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the goings-on at Justice, and what you have is a shriveled-old-white-man wrapping tightly shrunk around a diamond-clear Get Out Of Jail Free plan by those in the U.S. Executive branch.

Fuck that, people. And if the Democratic Party in Congress (as well as the Republican party, but I've given up hope there) had any sense of being American enough to defend our core values, they'd give the nomination the finger. As John Dean (who has some experience with lying sack of shit presidents) has written:

Before the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee completely cave-in to Bush, at minimum they should demand that Judge Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate if war crimes have been committed. If Mukasey refuses he should be rejected. This, indeed, should be a pre-condition to anyone filling the post of Attorney General under Bush.

If the Democrats in the Senate refuse to demand any such requirement, it will be act that should send chills down the spine of every thinking American.

Note: not the fucktard's word 'right-thinking.' Just plain 'thinking.' Which says something about the fucktards that I agree with.

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November 1, 2007

October 18, 2007

Mukasey previews the Bush Defense

Michael Mukasey, nominated to head the Justice Department in the wake of Alberto Gonzales' long overdue departure, has show what I consider to be troubling equivocation in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to The New York Times, when asked if waterboarding was constitutional, his inital response was to state that he did not know what waterboarding was and therefore could not answer. When Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) offered a description of waterboarding and asked if that was constitutional, Mukasey's only answer was 'if it amounts to torture, it's not constitutional.'

In other words, he intends to strictly apply decisions handed to him in the full letter of the law - but explicitly waved off any responsibility (or ability) to make the decision as to what constituted torture. The problem is that if the Justice Department isn't going to make that decision, then (as we've seen and has been stated) the decision as to what is torture will simply be made by other agencies. If the Justice Department says "Torture is unconstitutional and we won't permit torture" but also says "We won't define what torture is" then all it is is a procedural rubber stamp. The real power to define our nation's behavior as constitutional or not, and hence to shape its actions, has been explicitly passed off to whoever is writing the definition of torture - a purely semantic exercise.

As we've seen, that person will be a Bush Administration functionary, likely writing in secret.

We've just been told by the nominee to head our Justice Department that he will be explicitly offering loopholes and definitional power to those not in the Justice Department - thereby ensuring its complete impotence in the struggle to police our nation and its actions.

Why would we approve this? Why? To all those in the Congress involved in this appointment: you must answer that question before voting. You must answer it to *our* satisfaction.

Posted by jbz at 3:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 22, 2007

More Boston zOMGTERRORWTFBBQ bullshit.

Governor Deval Patrick, your stupid fucking bureaucracy is showing. Fix it now.

Oh, wait, you were a big supporter of this kind of idiocy last time, weren't you?

Jesus, I am so glad I'm moving myself and my income out of the Boston area so I won't have to hang my head and admit I live in the city that gives us policing like this.

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September 2, 2007

Read this, now, if you're a U.S. Citizen.

I'm not going to opine on the veracity of this. The fact that it exists at all is troubling. If it's true, it's more than troubling, it's downright terrifying in demonstrating the loss of contact with reality that this Administration has achieved.

Someone needs to stop these people, if this is what they're trying to do.

If you're an American voter, that person is you. Do it now.

Update: Fascinating. The story seems to have vanished from DailyKos, despite there being a claimed 1395 comments on that Kos URL (which we can't see). It may have just moved somewhere I can't find it. It was someone telling us of a phone call from a friend who is an LSO on a carrier in the Gulf, telling them that we're basically 'going to attack Iran' based on what she saw in terms of aircraft and ship prep and organization activity, as well as some disturbing descriptions about Marines and Navy personnel wondering why the fuck we'd be doing this.

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August 27, 2007

New Haven beats out Boston in the Race to the Pathetically Stupid

Jessica Mayorga, either you're unbelievably stupid or you're too much of a craven dip to get a better job. Seriously. If you think white powder with arrows and patterns on the ground of a parking lot could conceivably involve terrorism - firmly enough to justify throwing the first responders of U.S. cities on high alert and, worse, when the person who placed said powder there comes forward and explains that it's a pathmarking pattern made of flour firmly enought that you defend charging that person with a felony...then you need a reality check.

Especially if you think a New Haven IKEA is a serious terrorist target of mysterious white circles and arrows on the ground. zOMG they're going to confuse your sheep-like populace! That's the SECRET PLAN!

Seriously, lady. Hint. Get out now if this is the kind of 'spokespersoning' you're being made to do. It's not worth it.

Posted by jbz at 6:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

First they came for the smokers...

...and I said a bit, but not much, for I was only a sometime smoker. Then they came for us fatties, not with the old saw about us raising other people's insurance risk but now - gasp - we're actually to blame for other people becoming fat.

I think I need to declare myself a handicapped gay fat smoker. Jew is almost redundant, it seems.

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May 19, 2007

Hotel internet

What is it about hotels and bandwidth? I have had to stay in something like nine different business-class or resort hotels in the past few months. All have boasted 'high speed internet access!' Only one of them has actually had a working network solution in the room when I arrived.

This is not rocket science, people. I'm not complaining about the damn rape-me-for-a-day's charges authorization portals, either. Those are par for the course. I mean I show up, flip open the laptop and (if specified) jack it in to the indicated port with CAT-5 which I've learned to always have with me, or hunt for the specified SSID on 802.11 if not.

Never works.

At the hotel I'm currently at, a golf resort in northern VA near Dulles, there's a wartlike box that comes out the side of the TV cabinet and extends over the edge of the desk. It contains two power outlets and a data jack, and the room cordless phone rests on top. Okay. Plugging into the data jack produced no result. Calling the three different extensions at the hotel that kept referring me to the others produced no result - no link. Finally, in frustration, I opened the TV cabinet and traced cables. Sure enough, there's a standard DSL modem buried underneath the gear, and its output is wired via a built-in CAT-5 to the jack on the wart.

Yank the output and plug my own patch cable directly into the modem? Works.

Oh, until I left the room and came back. Then I didn't have internet service. Couldn't figure out why, I'd authorized the full day charges, until I checked the modem again. It was depowered. This was interesting, since its power adapter was completely hidden behind the TV cabinet, so I couldn't have kicked it or anything. The TV itself was still working.

After ten minutes of bitching, I turned on all the room lights. Yep. They plugged it into a fucking lamp circuit back there.

Other hotels claim wireless, but of course there's only one bar of signal on most of the floor. A couple memorable examples of national chain hotels turned out, on judicious examination of their network when I could get to the wireless net but no further, to have the entire wing of the hotel connected through a single fucking consumer router (a Netgear in one case, and a familiar Linksys in another). In one case, the router was crashed, and the front desk kept adamantly insisting that the network was fine because they could see the SSID. In the second, I managed to reboot the router, which brought service back - for about ten minutes. Then it went away again. Some examination showed that they were routing their damn conference facility through the same device, and it was promptly running out of either DHCP or NAT entries (it would run out of one or the other, depending on what was being run and how many users were online). I got used to logging into it, cycling it, and then nabbing a DHCP entry and opening up three SSH sessions and leaving the machine up so as to ensure there would be resources if I wanted to use them later.

Oh, yeah, in the latter case, they hadn't changed the default manufacturer password. They just were using a different IP range (on the same wireless net!) for 'management.'


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May 13, 2007

This makes me so glad I left.

I'm not a developer. I don't code. It could be argued, convincingly, that I in fact contributed nothing at all to the Ximian production of Linux software during my years working there (although I will state firmly and for the record that I'm not in sales, thanks).

I greeted the news of the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement with trepidation and annoyance. I refrained from blogging about it, because I didn't have enough information about either the agreement itself or the issues being bandied about and didn't consider my opinion should be put forth under a Novell/Ximian username.

I don't work there anymore.

I don't, and didn't, know specifically the business pressures under which Novell and its executives were operating when they negotiated that agreement. I do, however, consider the agreement itself to be a gross betrayal of statements made to the Linux community and those working within it by Novell spokespersons at prior times. The agreement legitimates (in my wholly uninformed opinion) Microsoft's position of Linux and F/OSS patent infringement on its software. Perhaps not in a legally liable manner - that, I'm sure, will be argued vociferously by many people in the years to come - but certainly in a cravenly wink-aside manner. Novell took a payoff, and sold out everyone else in The Prisoner's Dilemma in order to try to achieve some stock bumps for a new management team which had (at the time) ridden to power on promises to achieve some upwards mobility in the stock price.

They haven't really succeeded. Guess what's coming next? Layoffs, probably. I don't know, myself, not working there the past few months. But that's the typical pattern. Hovsepian had some great quote about the 'two levers' that one can use to achieve profitability when he took over. I think one involved raising profits, and the other cutting costs, and then he mumbled on about careful juggling of those two levers and then platitudes about perhaps finding a 'third lever.'

Well, that 'third lever' was revealed to be massive payouts from Microsoft for selling everybody else out. The 'second lever' - layoffs - is traditional. The 'first lever' is a joke, because the BIG SECRET is that it's not at all under his control. It waggles around at the behest of the market, and the market has been telling his company for years that its software sucks.

Why am I suddenly so bitter? Because, as many of us predicted quite accurately at the time - some loudly and publicly, some amongst ourselves into our beers, Novell defecting at the Prisoner's Dilemma has consequences for everyone else. Nasty ones. The pact they were so proud of has, in fact, turned out to be the wedge that seems to have given Ballmer, Smith and their legion of non-productive monopolists the self-confidence to ramp down the DEFCON level on their self-centered game of IP armageddon.

I don't agree with (or even like) many, many people on both sides of this so-called war. I hate extremists of all sorts, to the point of being one myself on the subject. I find extreme polarization to be dangerous, limiting, and frankly, fucking tedious. Most of the 'big names' involved in this little spat seem to fall squarely in that realm. Those that don't, some of whom are some of the smartest people I have read or listened to, are doomed to try to save what they can from the debacle when the buttons are pushed and the lawyers start billing in earnest.

All because of some true scumbags. Not because they're greedy; that's their job. No; because they're so convinced they and their methodology are right, and that the side effects are somebody else's problem, that they're willing to ride the situation down into flames and blame it on the other guys and claim they were just 'doing their jobs for their stockholders' while furtively cashing in options before it gets truly fucked.

Disclaimer: I own some Novell options. Not because I want to, but because Novell, before I planned to leave, suspended all conversion of its options and hasn't unblocked trading yet.

Posted by jbz at 9:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 1, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

Loyalty Day? We're in the middle of a storm of revelations about how dangerous loyalty can be, especially when it's shown, utilized, or co-opted by this President's administration. Loyalty is one of those words that sounds wonderfully unifying until you start asking hard questions - and Mr. President, I'm sorry, but this nation is more about asking hard questions than demonstrating the sort of 'loyalty' that you seem to hold dear. Incompetent and/or corrupt appointees remain in their posts, their very presence damaging the principles this nation's founding claimed to espouse, due to a triumph of 'loyalty' over 'sense.'

There's this place called the 'reality-based community.' You might try visiting.

Posted by jbz at 3:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2007

Talk to me, Mr. Bush, about threats to Democracy.

Talk real fast and hard. Better yet, talk to the Special Counsel. Or to Congress. If you actually believe any of the platitudes you spout about our way of life and our country, start talking. Honestly and quickly.

Posted by jbz at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

Is it any surprise...

...that it's lawyers for Bush volunteers that would resort to the argument that the president can exclude people if he disagrees with them from taxpayer-funded events?

Didn't think so.

The phrase "first up against the fucking wall when the revolution comes" is gaining piquancy at remarkable speed.

Posted by jbz at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Minority Rights and the GOP

If anyone ever starts mumbling about 'voter fraud' in your presence, make them go read this. If they start spluttering defensive talking points, start hunting for a large bat.

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March 23, 2007

I really just don't know what to say.

Pat Tillman's death was tragic. It was also a story of chaos and error and perhaps, we may find out, darker overtones; but it is a story that is repeated over and over again when we send soldiers into combat. Creating the conditions in which the likelihood of events like this becomes almost a statistical certainty is part and parcel of what makes war. Managing that chaos and uncertainty, that confusion and danger which can make things like this happen better than your opponent is one (some would say the only) way to prevail in war. Turning loose the conditions themselves, though, is what war is.

The message that I take away from the recent investigation into the circumstances of his death, however, is a somewhat grimly mixed one. On the one hand, a soldier's death is investigated with an eye towards preventing other such incidents and discovering if error or malfeasance was present; I approve wholeheartedly. But the headlines telling us that multiple officers, including general officers will be held accountable for a tactical encounter in the field makes me wonder - where are the general officers and policy makers who directly soiled my country's military and my country's honor at Abu Ghraib? Where are their indictments?

I guess the message is clear. If a football player dies in the darkened field on your watch under suspicious circumstances, the hammer of God will descend. But torture Iraqis by direction under klieg lights all you want.

Posted by jbz at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

The Business Model is Litigation.

Viacom makes it quite clear that its business model no longer (if it ever did) includes selling its product to consumers who want to buy it. Realistically, to get past the 10-minute clip limit, this 'content' is mostly the famous 150,000 music video properties that they sent cease-and-desist letters for after identifying them through a sloppy-ass regexp. The problem I have with this is that the quality of those clips was really for ass, and all those clips did was stoke up my nostalgia to the point where I started actively hunting for ways to purchase the ones I liked on DVD. Note that these were videos I hadn't thought about in fifteen years or more.

Of course, my hunt was doomed to failure. There wasn't any way to buy the content in nearly all cases.

Viacom has the opportunity to extract money from me, money neither it nor anyone else would have gotten had those videos not been posted, by simply figuring out how to put a 'BUY IT FROM US NOW' link on the video pages on YouTube. But rather than do that, they've apparently decided it's easier to sue YouTube for a billion dollars or so - apparently while also negotiating to put their content on some other service. That other service, though, is one I've never fucking heard of and still can't remember the name of. Nor have any of the other fifteen friends I was excitedly reminiscing about those videos with over IM.

Which means, of course, that either they're going to have to spend an awful lot of advertising money to make us aware of that new service, or simply accept that the fifteen of us (moderately affluent, impulse-spending, digital-happy types) are just going to regretfully decide not to buy any music video content over the web.


Posted by jbz at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 4, 2007

Fairly imbalanced

Murdoch admits the fix was in. Where are the rest of the media? Cowering in fear of being called 'the liberal MSM' for covering this?

hat tip Agonist

Posted by jbz at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 1, 2007

Boston vs. the Mooninites, Round 3

Wait, wait, wait. I had thought it could not get any worse. That Boston could not look any stupider.

I was wrong.

So apparently there were simulated pipe bombs (as in, actual hoaxes - things designed to look like bombs) found that day. This might, in fact, go a long way towards explaining why law enforcement officials were on such edge during the actual event with the Mooninites.

Except for one important thing. The article, you'll note, indicates that the police have identified a man they believe planted the phony bombs. He, however, has not been charged.

I really, really, REALLY hope that's because they're just making sure they have an airtight case against the guy where, unlike the two gents who were HIRED TO PLACE LIGHT-BRITES, there was no CONTRACTUAL or, say, WEB PHOTOGRAPHIC evidence (or even - gasp - a confession!) that he'd placed the devices. Because if they end up charging those two, and not this guy that actually placed a hoax explosive, man, whatever faith I had in Boston governance goes right down the toilet.

By the way, if you're not planning on charging that guy yet, nice leaking, guys!

Posted by jbz at 6:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

These guys are my new heroes too.

...and "THAT IS NOT A HAIR QUESTION!" is going to be my stock answer for the next few weeks.

Thanks to Luis for pointing that link out to me.

Thank you metafilter and t3h intarwub

Posted by jbz at 6:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

Hey, Dick Cheney and Glenn Reynolds!

Theodore Roosevelt's calling you 'unpatriotic, servile and morally treasonable to the American public':

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149
May 7, 1918

...and that was during a real war, fuckers.

Posted by jbz at 6:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2007

There is this thing called the Constitution. Some people should read it.

Holy shit. I mean, seriously. Okay, let's look at this. Either the Attorney General doesn't understand the questioning of the Senate Judiciary Committe and the Constitution of the United States of America, or (and the prior was the generous interpretation) he explicitly believes what he just said in that video. Namely, he (and, presumably, those who appointed him and support him) believe that the Constitution of the United States, despite explicitly stating that the right to habeas corpus cannot be suspended except in specific instances, does not grant that right in all other cases.

That's so, so, SO not good. We need to remove this man now.

Posted by jbz at 3:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2006

Every once in a while I feel optimistic

...and then I am forcibly brought back to earth. Read the comments on this story (after reading the story itself) and see how you feel.

I just don't even know what to say to people like this. Apparently they would rather bash a reporter, however insensitive, than accept the fact that our allies in the 'war on terror' (as well as our own government) are diverging farther and farther from what Americans who actually read history should consider safe and reassuring behavior.

The black helicopters exist. They've got neocon wingnuts flying the fucking things.

Posted by jbz at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2006

Good Holy Zarquon, it never stops

Doesn't anybody take physics or chemistry anymore? I'm not sure what kills me, the snide knowing/not-knowing tone of the article, or some of the comments.

Posted by jbz at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Sometimes the Good Guys Win One

...and when they do, sometimes it's heartening to be reminded how many of them there are.

Posted by jbz at 2:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2006

Contrary to what the 'Law and Order' addicts think...

...police systems work because those they are policing consent to be governed. Incidents like this make the populace less, not more, content with police governance; as a result, the effectiveness of police goes down, not up. This is how police forces lose their ability to police through direction rather than force, and this is how law and order give way to repression and violence.

Because if, for example, I was there, the only thing keeping me from beating one of those cops' fucking head in would be the threat of immediate force. It sure wouldn't be respect for the fucking law.

Is that what those cops want to face every time they look at one of the civilians they're supposed to 'serve and protect'?

Here's a hint. If someone asks you for your name and badge number, and the thought makes you angry/ashamed/frightened - maybe you shouldn't be doing what you're doing. If it just makes you resentful, that's one thing - but if you find yourself threatening them with force for doing so, you've crossed the line into not just part of the problem, but the fucking source.

Posted by jbz at 1:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 10, 2006

He *is* a five-year-old.

Let me get this straight. The military is driven after six years to offer feedback to its lawful civilian superior that his subordinate is, in the military's expert opinion, doing a suboptimal job, and that civilian's response is to 'dig in' at this 'revolt against civilian control of the military'?

In my experience, this is the reaction of a five year old who has been told he can't have ice cream for dinner. But in this case, the damage done is incalculable, and is done directly to that same tradition of civilian control. Civilian control of the military works not only because a piece of paper says it will be true; it works because the members of the military establishment trust the civilian leadership (or at least the system) to helm the ship. Tantrums like this don't help.

Posted by jbz at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 9, 2006

Barefaced drivel.

From "The Democrats will surrender to terrorists and raise your taxes" to "The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences, and my administration will do its part."

Sure it will, Shrub. Sure it will. But only at the point of a legislative gun, apparently. And a promise extracted under duress...well.

Update: How, precisely, will his administration 'do its part'? Well, let's see...apparently by pushing to have Bolton confirmed before the Democrats take over and by pressing to have NSA surveillance officially approved. Because it's not like even some Republicans were against those. Remember, until January, we're in Bush Fantasyland.

Posted by jbz at 2:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 7, 2006

All I Have To Say About Election Night this: especially if the Democrats win control of either or both houses, those of us who have bitched/preached/called for change, accountability, and protection of civil liberties will not see a lessening of our responsibility to hold Congress' feet to the fire. On the contrary, we will have an even greater responsibility to keep a weather eye on the actions of our representatives, and to be as strident or more so when they stray; for our dedication should be to the Republic, not the Party, and we will no longer have the excuse of being marginalized.

Posted by jbz at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2006

This useless bastard hates me. I'm so glad.

They say you can judge someone by the character of their enemies.

I'm doing just fine.

Posted by jbz at 9:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2006

Oh, *now* they start to get it...

Remember "if you're innocent you have nothing to fear?" Yeah. Right. Slowly, slowly, they're learning.

Who the hell raids a kiddie porn downloader in flak jackets with guns out? Law and Order jacked-up psychos, that's who. I mean, honestly, if you really want evidence for that kind of thing (i.e., on a computer) the last thing you want to do is get everyone all hotted up into siege mentality. Nope, you want to get into the house nice and quiet; get them to the door all unsuspecting, so they don't have time to erase things. Idiots.

Update: Ha, so it turns out this was supposed to be a publicity run, and Shaq was there. At least this gives the poor folks who got rousted some more (and more national exposure) publicity for their plight.

Posted by jbz at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

Olbermann in high form, again

Watch it, now, please.

Posted by jbz at 2:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Copyfighters vs. Narcissistic Hangers-on

The reactions to the recent news that Visa has cut off the Russian MP3 site serve only to further deepen my ambivalence towards the entire debate over copyright and the uses of DRM technology. I have had a checkered history with the entire issue, having parked my ass on both sides of the debate over copyright due to my involvement with Eyes on the Prize.

Here's my problem. I have this large parge of me which remains convinced that a huge part of the 'outrage over DRM and copyright' is nothing more than laziness over personal inconvenience, and crap like the reactions to the news do nothing but reinforce it. Let me explain.

I myself agree, and feel strongly, that the copyright system in the U.S.A. (I can't speak for the rest of the world) is broken and in need of overhauling. I also think that the legislative process has suffered excessive capture at the hands of the 'middleman' organizations such as the MPAA and RIAA - entities which do not themselves create, nor in fact ably serve to defend the rights of those who do. However, I also think that there is a line to be drawn between actions which show defiance of those entities and rules spawned to benefit them and actions which simply show the elevation of personal convenience over other considerations.

Take Everything I have seen indicates that while yes, they were selling un-DRM-ed MP3 music (which is a Good Thing in terms of how the information is presented), there was adequate evidence that they were not, in fact, compensating the owners of the copyrights to that music as the law required. Ah, many people have said, but whose law? Well, see, I would argue, that's not entirely relevant. The point is this - they weren't really compensating anybody - either the artists directly, or the organizations who were the designated rightsholders.

What they were (or rather, are) doing, is collecting money in return for the transmission of music over the internet.

In other words, they are taking your money and giving you a copy of music which they themselves did not create, and which (it seems quite, quite likely) they 'produced' by simply ripping it off a bought CD.

In other words, they are accepting money for someone else's work.

That's fairly disgusting, to me. I don't see how this makes them any different from the organizations that everyone in the 'copyfighter' movement claims to hate so much, like the MPAA and RIAA - except that the latter seem to have had the foresight to at least get their thievery written into the legal system.

Now, I may be very wrong about this. There may be artists out there who have received monies from If that's the case, if AllOfMP3's crime is, in fact, that they are bypassing the RIAA and paying the artists directly, well, then huzzah on them and I eat crow. But if they are, in fact, simply hiding behind the 'wrong legal system' argument to collect monies and not really pay out to anyone, then I fail to see why anyone who considers themselves a champion of the freedom of information and the freedom of artists should ever, ever defend them - they're not only thieves and users, but even more blatant about it than the RIAA are.

However, everywhere I look, I see people who describe themselves as 'concerned about the DRM issue' explaining how they like because the site 'doesn't use DRM' and 'doesn't cripple music.'

Okay. But do they steal it?

And don't give me that crap about 'you can't steal music, it wants to be free.' If the artist who made the music in the first place has said publicly that their music should be freely available to all, then yes, you're quite right. But if the artist hasn't said that, then you have no right to make that choice for them. Pretending you do is nothing more than rationalization of theft.

Posted by jbz at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Of course they're not 'neutral.'

Want to get even more angry? Read this. And remember, 'neutral' these days, when it comes to covering the actions of those in government, is code-word for 'enabling' - and given what the bastards are up to, that's not 'neutral' at all.

Posted by jbz at 8:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2006

Battlefield 2142? Fuck you, EA, not this boy.

You know, I was really looking forward to Battlefield 2142. Despite the horrific patch issues, crappy QA and testing, horrendous customer service philosophy and other minor problems that the Battlefield series has been famous for - and that I am more than experienced with, having now paid cash money for Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2 - I WANTED LASER GUNS DAMN IT.

But, I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. Nope. I'm not even gonna pirate it. No way.

Because of this.

Fuck you, EA.

Posted by jbz at 6:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2006

And the Beat Goes On.

Oh yeah, I feel protected. We moved ATF into Justice why, again?

Oh right. Republican administration, War on Terror, 'Homeland Security.'

Posted by jbz at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2006

Patrick Buchanan, Misdirection and Outright Bullshit.

So Mr. Buchanan has produced the latest limp-dick attempt to vilify the Democrats for the Foley situation. In an opinion piece posted on the website of the Miami Herald, he spends the column admitting that there are all manner of problems of credibility with the GOP's statements and actions. But - but! - he tells us, the Democrats are really hypocrites, because they after all lowered the age of consent in D.C. to 16! So even if Foley had sex with these pages, it would be perfectly legal due to Democratic actions! Also (Buchanan continues) the media outed the gay GOP staffers, and suddenly they were fired! He concludes:
But to have the party of gay rights, many of whose leaders have marched in gay-pride parades alongside the pedophiles of NAMBLA, acting ''shocked, shocked'' at GOP torpor in ousting its gay member is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.

Welcome to 'the big lie.' Or better, 'the big WHOA!' as in "well, yes, but - WHOA! Look over there!" Let's take this paragraph one step at a time and see how many bits of bullshit labeling and misdirection we can find, shall we?

  • " The party of gay rights." Hm. Well, while some Democrats may stand for gay rights, many don't, and it's certainly not a central theme of the party. Of course, if you're trying to remind homophobes why not voting GOP means voting for gays, then of course it is.
  • "many of whose leaders have marched in gay-pride parades alongside the pedophiles of NAMBLA..." Ahhh, we love this one. Names please? Pictures? Were these parades closed access and by invite-only? What were the circumstances? By 'alongside' do you mean 'holding hands' or mean 'in the same parade as' which, in (for example) the New York City Pride parade can take in an incredible amount of real estate and political spectrum? Here's the problem Democrats have: many of them have this notion that unless someone has been caught doing something illegal, you can't deprive them of rights. While it may be one thing to deplore NAMBLA's existence and mission, it's another thing to avoid a Pride event because they show up exercising a constitutional right to assembly.
  • " GOP torpor in ousting its gay member..." BZZZZT. Nope, wrong. Not at GOP torpor in ousting its gay member. That's *your* fantasy, Mr. Buchanan, thank you for projecting. No, at GOP reluctance to act to shield young adults who were sent to Washington in good faith and placed under their protection from the grooming and predation of one of their own. Again, Mr. Buchanan fixates on the same thing that is killing Hastert and company - the status of the GOP involved and not the status of the kids. As he puts it, they're over the legal age of consent (which is the Dem's fault) so who cares?

Fucking disgusting.

Posted by jbz at 5:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schools vs. Airplanes - What is the Disconnect?

Dana Milbank notes that President Bush managed to give an entire press conference about the recent spate of school shootings without using the word 'gun.' This feat of verbal gymnastics was performed, Milbank infers, so as to avoid bringing up the Elephant in the Room of gun control immediately before an election.

Let me take a moment to outline something that troubles me here. If you read the account of the conference, Bush and company seem eager to hear about 'faith-based' solutions to school violence such as 'churches adopting schools' and re-introducing prayer, without once mentioning the actual mechanism of said violence which is the access to schools with guns.

Why, then, are we living in a world where people are being told they can't get on airplanes carrying rocks - since they might be weapons? This when the person carrying said rock was a geologist for Pete's sake. At the same time, our President can have an entire press conference to discuss a series of horrific events involving the deaths of American children in schools, all of which involved access to guns and access to those schools by those with guns, and manage to muse (as Milbank notes) that perhaps schools are becoming 'too locked down' and not mention gun control once?

I get it. You can take away our right to have an MP3 player on an airplane, but God forbid (literally) you take away someone's right to have an assault weapon near a primary school. Oh, never mind, we've done away with the Federal Assault weapons ban, so you haven't!

Sure, this makes sense.

Posted by jbz at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

The Tree of Liberty

The Tree of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson told us, must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

I can't help wondering, though - as we feed it the blood of innocents, what poison fruit will we harvest from it?

I suppose we'll learn, if we're not doing so already - and if we have ears to hear or eyes to see.

End pompous thought for the day that I can't get out of my head.

Posted by jbz at 4:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 29, 2006

The U.S. Military, Entropy, and Thermodynamics

The U.S. Military, Entropy, and Thermodynamics

I often find myself struggling to explain to friends and acquaintances who aren't familiar with the U.S. military or the study thereof what, precisely, I mean when I tell them that the U.S. military is no good at creating order. When I say something like "The U.S. military is not intended for, nor any good at, imposing peace or order," I tend to get a confused and/or disbelieving stare. This is not, I have found, due to any fundamental lack of understanding, just (from my experience) an inability on my part to explain what I'm saying clearly enough. I continually try to learn to express myself with more clarity. This is a tiny step in that process, nothing more.

The U.S. Military is, as an organization, extremely proficient at the projection and channeling of situational entropy. By this I mean that U.S. forces have, through historical pressure and tradition, become very good at disrupting opposing positively-controlled forces, plans and structures. That is, in fact, their raison d'être. For the purposes of this argument, I'll start with World War Two.

They weren't the best at it, there; the Wermacht was. However, the U.S. military did one thing very well, something that even the German General Staff was forced to admit: it learned. It became adept at taking admittedly inferior quality equipment but eventually superior numbers and utilizing them to disrupt German plans. Finally, it learned to grind away at German situational planning and operations until (coupled with the massive drain on Germany made possible by Soviet resistance and incursion) the German machine broke.

The entire prosecution of that war was an attempt to roll back - to break up - an opposing set of positive-control forces and plans, the German invasion of Europe and the Japanese expansion into the Pacific. The U.S. military sought not to impose a situation, but to disrupt another imposed situation.

The Korean war - same situation. The U.S. and U.N. forces were fighting to reverse a positive-controlled invasion of South Korea. Major reversals occured (for reasons political and military) when the U.S. led forces traversed north of the original start line and began to impose their own order over the original situation, triggering Chinese intervention.

Vietnam saw the U.S. forces mostly victorious when fighting to defeat an attempt to topple a sitting government through irregular forces, albeit not without major confusion and collateral damage. The Viet Cong were for the most part defeated before the large-scale intervention of the NVA (this is a gross oversimplification and is not meant to base academic arguments on). Once the south Vietnamese government collapsed, however, the U.S. found itself in a position of attempting to impose structure and order on chaos - trying not to defeat a postive-controlled incursion anymore, but rather to impose a preferred structure on what had devolved into an anarchic or hostile area. At that point, the fight became untenable. Although local operations of the NVA could be defeated and disrupted, there was little point if the ground that was being defended could not be called 'ours' in the first place.

During the first Gulf War, the U.S. and allied forces were seeking to reverse a military occupation of Kuwait - a very limited and defined goal - by disrupting and/or destroying a classically organized positive-control organization. The Iraqi Army, once smashed, retreated from Kuwait and the Kuwaiti regime was restored with little apparent local objection - the U.S. military was not called upon to impose structure once the invaders were ousted.

Hence, I tend to think of the U.S. Military as 'entropy channelers.' These forces are at their best when utilized to create and inject disorder and destruction into an opposition's favored orderly structure, be it a military command structure or a sequence of events or even a government or social order. Telling the U.S. military to smash a particular target is a high-probability-of-success mission.

The problems come when telling the U.S. Military to 'keep order.' That's not what they do. I think (and this is purely a guess) that the confusion may arise from the fact that the military is seen by those not experienced with it as a highly ordered organization, so of course it should be able to produce order. That is incorrect. The military is artificially highly ordered internally for a particular reason, namely, that its job is to operate in environments of extreme disorder that, in fact, it itself tends to be tasked with creating. It maintains these 'pools of order' not by creating order - to stretch a mangled metaphor, that would violate the laws of thermodynamics - but by migrating the disorder to the environment outside the military organization itself - usually to the region immediately in front of its guns. This is why militaries are such difficult neighbors even in peacetime - ask the Okinawans if you don't believe me. Disorder can't be magically destroyed. It can be suppressed for a time, perhaps - but only at the cost of having it manifest elsewhere or at another time, with a 'penalty' increase in intensity or duration.

I think of it like the problem of refrigeration. Refrigerators (or air conditioners, if you prefer) don't make cold. They simply pump heat to another place - and in so doing, they generate more heat. The reason this is okay is that there is usually a place where you don't mind if things heat up - such as outside your window.

In the case of the entropy a military generates, as George Bush is so fond of reminding us, that disorder makes us unsafe no matter where it is.

The 'entropy fallout' a military organization generates from keeping its own house in order is bad enough. That's the sort of thing that I mentioned with the Okinawa reference - increased incident levels near military bases as military personnel simply displace suppressed tendencies to a safer area of expression. Note, please: I'm in no way saying military personnel tend to be more violent or less safe than others. In fact, the reverse may well be true. All I'm saying is that given the rigidity with which behavior is controlled in the military environment, it seems only natural that feelings of anger, frustration, or conversely rough expressions of exuberance would manifest in the nearest environment which did not feature rigid top-down control structures.

Now, tell the military to go somewhere hostile and prevent anything from happening in its bailiwick. Say, the Green Zone in Baghdad. Take a place which is a hotbed of tensions and factional splits, which may not initially have anything to do with the U.S. military, and tell that military to 'keep order.'

The only way the U.S. military can keep order is to suppress incidents. If it's smart, it will try to prevent incidents by suppressing the precursor conditions to incidents. It will try to reduce entropy and ensure as much positive control over the area as possible - or it will be forced into this by attacks on civilians or its own personnel. As soon as this happens, the disorder will simply be displaced to the nearest area where control isn't so tight - and that penalty factor will apply.

At that point, the U.S. Military is no longer doing what it is good at - disrupting and channeling entropy for its own use. It has morphed into its own best target - an organization dedicated to suppressing and managing chaos, to whom the successful disruption of routine and order is a defeat. In other words, to whom its own core competency has been designed to defeat, not support.

And that's precisely where we seem to have gotten ourselves, despite warnings from military leaders, civilian analysts, and even politicians that we were headed in this direction. Because we have a tradition of civilian control of the military in this country, the military does what it is ordered - even when it is clear to those in charge of that military that they are being told to do something patently self-defeating and destructive by those with no idea what they're doing.

That's one thing that makes our system both glorious and such damn hard work. It's working, but it's working to eat away its structure again - and like after Vietnam, it's going to be left to those of us who knew better all along to grit our teeth and fix it despite the fact that those who broke it in the first place will be sitting there preening and telling us how much worse things would have been without them there to 'save' us.

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"What's wrong with those people...They all look the same to me."

Guess who that quote is from, when, and what it's about? I'll wait.

Okay, if you guessed 'Trent Lott', 'Today', and 'the Iraqi people' then YOU GUESSED RIGHT!

What an excellent recommendation for our nation. Ignorance, bigotry, and stupidity - not just in general, but concerning the war his party started in another country and sent American troops to fight and die in. Oh, but nobody 'in the real world' cares about that, according to him; when asked if the Iraq war was discussed in the Thursday morning meeting between President Bush and the GOP leadership at the Capitol, he said (you can't make this stuff up):

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."
Hat tip CNN for the quotes.

America, you get the government you deserve. Deserve better, please.

If a single minority voter votes for this fucker, ever, I swear you deserve to have him and his bigoted loser cronies shit on your head laughing for all eternity.

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September 27, 2006

Kip Hawley is an Idiot

This incident just makes me determined to up the Google rank of the title of this post. Seriously, I'm considering printing "George Bush is an Idiot" on every single item the TSA might have to look at next time I fly.

One of the worst parts? Even if the TSA itself thinks this is over the top, the fucking idiot of a TSA screener who got upset about it will never be disciplined because that might "send the wrong message" or some similar nullspeak. So the slope gets slippery.

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September 26, 2006

Straws atop the camel

Things like this make me think of the incredible damage the Rumsfeld/Bush/Cheney troika are doing to one of the bulwarks of the United States' security - the absolute trust in the notion of civilian control of the military. While I in no way think General Schoomaker or his colleagues would consider disobeying an order from their command chains, the fact is that as the article indicates the Military has begun to see (or, worse, has long seen) the current civilian administration as a primary cause of many of its troubles - and the situation is getting worse, not better. Although we can expect loud and angry noises from the GOP-controlled Congress, they (and the Vice President) are busy admitting that they don't bother to read reports on the situation.

How does this make us safer?

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September 20, 2006

You just can't make this stuff up.

Via Glenn Greenwald, an excellent post explaining, with cogent example, the complete absence of anything resembling thought or reason in the Right Wing/Christian punditocracy.

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September 12, 2006

Who has left this hole in the ground?

Keith Olbermann lays it down again.

"We have not forgotten 9/11, Mr. President. You have. May this country forgive you."

Watch this now, please.

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August 29, 2006

Dissonance Within a Plea

Mickey Edwards warns Americans and their Congressional representatives that the failure of Congress to hold up its leg of the United States Federal Government as a co-equal branch is dangerous. He tells us that partisanship is a danger. And then he confuses the living hell out of me by disingenuously claiming that the reason Joe Lieberman was tossed from the Democratic ticket was because he was seen as 'not a team player' for 'finding common ground' with Republicans.

No, Mickey.

Joe Lieberman was tossed from the Democratic ticket for consistently tossing out the ideals the Democratic party holds forth as its own, and most notably for finding common ground with the Republican party on precisely those actions which you lambaste earlier in your piece as 'rubberstamping' and 'mumbling' at the disgusting actions of the Bush Administration.

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August 26, 2006

Pluto, Pluto, Pluto, whine whine whine.

Everywhere I turn on my blogroll, I see someone lamenting the recent unpleasantness about Pluto's planetary status or lack thereof. People, get the fuck over it. Pluto hasn't changed size, nor shape, nor position, due to this ruling. It is still right where it is. The fact that it was a 'planet' of our solar system is due to the fact that we, as semisentient apes, saw it and named it thus. That's it.

So if you want, keep right the fuck on calling it a planet. I think I might.

Yes, people will argue and whine about consistency and other bodies and blah and blah. Look, until we actually have a conversation with people from somewhere else (and I don't think the Pioneer plaque counts, but the sentiment of that post rules) then what the hell does it matter? Look, I'm all for precision in science. I'm all for the triumph of science over blind belief. But let's be honest, here - whether Pluto is a 'planet' or a 'subplanetary body' or a 'pluton' (shudder) is completely irrelevant to the workings of life on Earth, how humans interrelate (unless they're having a discussion about grading Solar bodies) or basically anything else 'real world.' Sure, it'll be 'incorrect use' but who really cares? Do we really, honestly think we've found everything of interest that orbits our Sun? Bet you a dollar we haven't. So why start getting paranoically revisionist about our textbooks and solar system diagrams at this point?

Calm down. If you were raised with nine planets in the goddamn Solar system, then don't worry. You woke up the morning of the ruling, and they were all still there.

If Pluto is feeling upset about this, tell it the next round of beers is on me.

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August 24, 2006

The Conflating of Bad Intelligence and Bad Policy

I was struck fairly hard by a passage from a New York Times article I read today. In it, the tension between U.S. policymakers and legislators on the one hand and the intelligence community on the other is presented. The former seem to feel that the latter are being 'too cautious' in their analyses of the threats posed by Iran. Here is one passage:
The consensus of the intelligence agencies is that Iran is still years away from building a nuclear weapon. Such an assessment angers some in Washington, who say that it ignores the prospect that Iran could be aided by current nuclear powers like North Korea. "When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: 'If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow, how close would they be then?" said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

"The intelligence community is dedicated to predicting the least dangerous world possible," he said.

I'm not sure where to start with this one. Let's start at the top. The first sentence points out that the consensus in question involves how far away Iran is from building a nuclear weapon. The pols apparently feel that that question 'ignores' a potential threat axis. Let's think about that for a second.

If you employ analysts, you have a serious responsibility. You need to ask them the question for which you want the answer. Later in the paragraph, we find that in fact the reason that the pols are angry is that a question which the first sentence indicates was not asked is not being answered - namely, not "what is the threat of Iran building a nuclear weapon?" but "what is the threat of Iran assuming it is given a nuclear weapon?" This is a dramatically different question. Arguably, it is in fact a completely different question from 'the threat posed by Iran' because, realistically, it is 'the threat posed by a nuclear weapons transfer between North Korea and Iran.'

That latter is a much, much more involved set of circumstances. For one thing, you have to assume that North Korea has, in fact, a functional nuclear weapon. Then you have to assume that they are willing to export it (which thus builds in the assumptions that, for example, either they have enough of them to export, or they don't want to keep the one/few they have for their own use). Then you have to assume that North Korea would find an advantage in allying itself with another pariah nation in what would be an incredibly negatively-viewed transaction, for which they gain no defensive advantage and all manner of negative consequences. Then you have to assume that this export would, and could, be done without being detected and forestalled by those who wouldn't want it to happen - namely, most everybody else on the planet.

Now, after all that, you can ask: Is a North Korea/Iran functional nuclear weapon handoff, assuming it happens, a threat to the U.S.?

That is a completely different question from 'is Iran and its domestic attempts to secure nuclear weapons and/or nuclear weapon technology a threat to the U.S., and in what timeframe?' So yelling at the intelligence community because they seem to not be addressing the latter when answering the former seems counterproductive, stupid, fearmongering and just plain ridiculous.

Or, of course, an attempt to run up support (or break down resistance) to adventurism in Iran. Heaven forbid.

By the way, given that a NK/Iran nuclear transaction would, really, represent the ultimate failure of administration foreign policy - whose job it is to cope with such threats to the U.S. as multiple foreign nations maneuvering to present coordinated problems for us - do they really want an answer to that question?

Now, if what they're saying is that the NIE in question explicitly doesn't address the possibility of foreign technical assistance with a domestic nuclear program, I'm a bit confused - Iran's nuclear program has already benefited from a deal of foreign assistance. However, if in fact they are concerned about wholesale NK involvement in Iranian nuclear weapons construction, there are still questions they need to address. For example, one of the salient restrictions on Iranian weapon construction may be a simple bottleneck in fissile material enrichment, given the state of Iranian production facilities. If this is not the case, then do Mr. Gingrich and Co. really want to be yelling about precisely what we know about the Iranian enrichment program? I thought their party liked to call for lynching (politically at least) of people who did stuff like that, such as (heavens to Murgatroyd) release 'sensitive information' about spying on our own citizens, much less information about actual intelligence work on opposing countries' nuclear programs. If it is the case, as has been discussed at length in open literature, then the constraint is not really one of expertise (at least, not solely) but one of engineering resources and material - in which case the delay cited would not be affected by NK assistance short of a large materials transfer. In that case, again, they really should look to their own failure to properly specify the question - and, as well, to formulate policy that addressed this much less likely and more complex opposing maneuver on the world stage.

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August 22, 2006

And on that private, non-corporate political note...

As Corrente calls it, The Mother of All Walkbacks.


Posted by jbz at 12:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well, it's plain to see which party my company's execs pander to.

I'm not saying the man is a current candidate. I'm not saying that he did well. However, this kind of gratuitous insult of a presidential candidate by a corporate executive - and not even as a direct comment, but as an icon of ridicule - sort of ignores the possibilities that some of his employees might, in fact, have supported that candidate and that party. Regardless of how well that candidate did, the tactics utilized might have disgusted said employees, whose efforts and support the executive(s) presumably need.

Or, of course, it could actually be a statement about what sort of viewpoints and employees they really want inside their company. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, here.

Plus, does said exec realize he's talking about the senator that represents his corporate headquarters' state?

Addendum: in re: feedback - yes, I realize I do not much more than rant about politics here myself. I'd like to point out that on this blog I do not represent Novell, and no part of it is hosted on their machinery or network. Nor are statements I make here intended to convey Novell policy of any sort. This is a *critical* difference. If the Exec in question had made this statement in a personal venue, more power to him. He, however, made it while being interviewed by the press as 'Novell's CTO' - which is a vastly different thing.

Posted by jbz at 11:11 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

In Touch With Your Greener Self, Bitch

This is one of those small annoyances that after several years has rubbed me the wrong way for long enough to warrant a kvetch. Why the hell do desktop software designers feel the need to provide us with an icon of a 'recycle bin' rather than a trash can? What prompted this sudden switchover? I mean, if there's one place where we shouldn't have to fucking worry about whether or not our paper is going to kill the planet if we throw it away, it's on our virtual fucking desktops. So the one place we can enjoy a bit of freedom from the goddamn nanny impulses of the green/politically correct/ultra-crunchy/hipper-than-thou forces of modern tolerant society, i.e. our own private virtual metaphors, have been invaded. There's even a stupid recycling icon on the can icon just to remind us that we're being good.


IIRC, Windows started this execrable practice with Windows 95 or Windows 98. Now I see it's invaded my company's contribution, with SLED10. In a particularly nauseating shade of green, yet.

What the hell is wrong with a trash can, anyway? Sometimes you throw stuff away, because you want it to go, you know, away. Given that the whole point of a metaphorical iconography is to ensure that your task is carried out with minimal confusion by representing a proces with minimal ambiguity, why would you use a recycle bin? The entire point of a recycle bin is to point out that 'trash isn't always trash.' However, the premise of that statement is explicitly based on a real-world assumption - namely, that you care what you put in the trash is made of. Since a computer document isn't made of anything, WHY THE FUCK DO THIS?

God, this makes me angry.

Which of course means I just need a life.

Posted by jbz at 5:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

So Prepackaged Fake News Wasn't Good Enough

...they've decided to move on to prepackaged fake pundits as well.


Oh, and a big fuck you to Ms. Erbe. Thank you for helping destroy PBS.

Posted by jbz at 3:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stupid Is As Stupid Does.

America, America...sigh.

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August 14, 2006

Things that feed the poison in my soul

Michigan, you're up.

Posted by jbz at 2:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 5, 2006

Cry me a fucking river, Mr. Yoo.

It's quite apparent to me what your vision of power in the Federal Government is, and it does not in any way jibe with mine. As a citizen of the United States who does not have the ear of the President, I should nevertheless think that the Constitution applies to me as much as it does to you. Note that if the Supreme Court thinks that Congress and not the President gets to delimit the Executive Branch's powers in wartime, if your response to this is that 'What the court is doing is attempting to suppress creative thinking,' I should point out that in fact it's a Republican Congress who would be suppressing said creative thinking. If you're so worried that the President's own party-controlled Congress is such a severe check on his actions, then maybe (just maybe) his actions aren't in the best interest of the United States as a polity and nation.

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June 25, 2006

AT&T. I have no sympathy.

Ed Whitacre, chairman of AT&T, flatly refuses to answer a simple question from Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) to the point of sneering at him. What's completely ridiculous about this stance, and what makes it contemptuous in *my* book, is that there's absolutely no need to dissemble on this point. It is surely publicly verifiable that AT&T has cooperated in a law enforcement wiretap of some kind. That, at this point, is all Senator Specter is asking - "Has AT&T given customer information to law enforcement?" There is no specification that it involves this particular instance. Even if, outside the context of this video clip, there is interplay that makes this questionable, I would point to Senator Specter's clear broadening of the question during this video.

He begins by asking if AT&T makes customer data available to third parties, including the federal government and law enforcement. When that question produces evasions, he narrows it down, reducing it from a question about AT&T's current policy and including 'third parties' to a simple historical question - one which must be answered 'yes' if AT&T has ever participated in a legally-sanctioned wiretap.

Since it is inconceivable (to me, admittedly) that AT&T has never participated in such an action - even one which everyone concerned would find completely proper, such as one with an open and registered warrant request - Whitacre's refusal to answer the question in the affirmative is a flat refusal to cooperate with the inquiries of Specter's committee.

Specter gives him that out - he says 'if you've been directed not to speak about this by the Federal Government, just say so.' That in no way commits Whitacre to admitting that information has been turned over. It makes his continued refusal the Federal Government's problem, rather than his - the only reason that he doesn't cooperate is that either he believes he has been instructed not to cooperate by an authority which supersedes Arlen Specter's, and/or he and his company have been threatened with punitive measures if he cooperates.

If the first is true, we have a problem. Senator Specter is asking him, as an empowered member of the U.S. Congress, to answer a direct question related to the oversight of intelligence activity by the U.S. Goverment. If he believes that his noncooperation has been instructed by a superseding authority, that means that both he and said authority believe it has the ability and right to stonewall Congress to the point of not admitting its existence, much less the information it is trying to protect. This is counter to all notions of checks and balances and to the freedom of American citizens; the ability to verify and examine the laws under which we live is a necessary right to the maintenance of any just enforcement of those laws.

If the second is true, then Mr. Whitacre is a pusillanimous bastard who puts his company's relationship with its profits ahead of the integrity of the United States - or thinks that the conflict in #1 above isn't a problem for the United States' system. Or, at best, it means that an unknown arm of the U.S. Government is not only exerting extreme pressure on its citizens and corporate entities, but doing so in a manner which it is reluctant to even admit is occuring - which should automatically bring into question its legality.

So which is it, Mr. Whitacre? If the only reason you were stonewalling is because that was your lawyers' advice, then both you and your lawyers are (as far as I am concerned) much less concerned about the health of the American civic and legal systems than your own corporate profits - and that needs to be rectified. If you honestly believe that this is information that can and should be kept from the U.S. Congress as it attempts to perform its duty of oversight with regards to government activity, then you don't believe in that system anyway and I think you need to be removed from any position of influence in this system.

This is all made especially ironic by the fact that at least one leg of AT&T's 'defense strategy' involving government-mandated wiretapping is that "even if it's deemed illegal, we've done it before."

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June 23, 2006

If you're an AT&T customer, stop being one, now.

Things like this will just keep happening until and unless it is made clear to corporations that it is more expensive to stick it to their customers than to accomodate legally-questionable government orders with fig-leaf ex-post court protection.

You don't use a telecommunications service in order to provide the government with data. You don't even use it to provide the company with data. You use a telecommunications service for your own ends, in return for which you pay money. If AT&T wanted to grant me free service in return for this form of data-retention and sharing, that (in my opinion) would be a different story. If I was receiving a service without paying for it, I could understand if AT&T (especially if they notified me in advance) were going to utilize my calling pattern data for their own profit - and once the precedent of their retaining and selling that data had been set, the government is just another customer.

However, if I am paying AT&T for the privilege of using their network, I expect the details of my use to be between myself and AT&T. I don't suppose I can expect the fact that I am AT&T's customer to remain confidential, but the details of my purchases damn well should be.

Posted by jbz at 3:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 2, 2006

Things we knew

Things we knew at the time are onl y now getting press play - and then not from actual press, but from biased political figures in non-mainstream (albeit large and well-known) press outlets. Why now? Why only when the President's popularity ratings are so low? Is this what it takes to get anyone to speak out? Is it fear, or simple collusion on the part of the owners of the media empires? What is it? What?

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May 25, 2006

How To Make High School Suck Worse Than Ever

React like the idiots in this article. Look, get fucking real. Guns are tools. That's all. They are dangerous, lethal objects that perform a mechanical task. The demonstration that this guy is performing is in fact done every day by people doing a job - forensic ballistic experts, for example, or people designing both weapons and protective armor. They use guns to do this too. They use the same physics he's teaching those kids. The kids are eager to learn the physics because he's showing them that 'things that are scary and cool' are connected to those equations.

Why are guns a problem? Not because someone who knows how to use them shows you what they do in a controlled environment with proper appreciation for it. Guns are a problem when they are treated as a 'magical object' that is 'forbidden' and hence represents 'mystical power' - i.e. when they are something that is never seen, never seen operating, never touched - and then become something that if only the kid can get hold of, they will be magically powerful and can fix all the problems with their life.

Pretending they don't exist, or that they can't be acquired by the kids if they try hard enough, is the way to make them mystic objects of fascination. Making them understandable and dangerous objects, like bandsaws or jackhammers, is the way to make their use something not 'cool' and 'powerful' but stupid and weak.

Plus, maybe your kids will want to go to Physics class. That's rare enough already. If there is an actual law against doing this demonstration in the classroom, then okay, understandable - perhaps he needs to set up a field trip to a range to do it. But if no-one's been hurt, and he's taking appropriate safety precautions, and knows what he's doing - SHUT UP! Jesus, it's no wonder the good teachers quit.

Fucking learn that.

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May 18, 2006

In other news, the Earth goes around the Sun.

If this is actual news to anyone, I have some really excellent physics papers I just wrote they can publish for me. I'm not saying it doesn't need to be said, because it does, and as often as possible; the actual acquisition of names to back up the stories is valuable as hell. The more respectable the voices saying it, the sooner and more likely we can get the problem fixed.

But if there's anyone out there that can honestly tell themselves that they didn't think this was going on, please, if you're in a position of authority over United States policy or please tell me no! civil rights, resign now.

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May 11, 2006

Vote with your wallet

I wonder if I can sign up for Qwest as my carrier...

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May 8, 2006

A Moment of Changing the World for the Better? Screw that.

That's not what George Bush considers to have been the best moment of his presidency to date.

Why is this assclown bothering being in Washington, again?

Oh, right, I forgot, he's not.

Posted by jbz at 1:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 4, 2006

Where the hell is my future?

So. Here we have a list of upcoming MMO games. I have a serious issue with this. WHERE THE HELL IS MY SCI-FI, damn it? Of the umpteen games discussed there, there are maybe three which can be called sci-fi. One is 'post-apocalyptic', which is always code for 'haha you get crappy melee weapons and maybe if you're really lucky you find present-day tech and if you are INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE you find something that might be a computer but there's no electricity so you're screwed.' Bzzzzt. One is a Star Trek MMO, which might be good, so I'll reserve judgement, but it has no announced release date - and given the hole into which the Star Trek franchise has been driven by Berman and Company, I'll believe it when I see it. The last is a Warhammer Online game, which, okay, is science fiction - but is really more of a Total War game dressed up in sci-fi. It's not so much a plot-driven or even exploration-driven game. I suppose there's content there, but really, the game is derived from a miniatures-based tactics tabletop game. Release date, "maybe 2007." Sigh.

Up against this field there are no fewer than around *ten* pirate, barbarian, generic-fantasy-medieval-magic crapola games. What the hell? When did imagination and computers come to mean 'elves and unicorns and magic' to the exclusion of all that's fucking holy to a man raised on blaster pistols and starships?

Speak not to me of EVE Online or Space Cowboy. If you can't get out of your spaceship and walk around and moon somebody, forget it. It's just a big flight sim. Damn it.

I miss Anarchy Online. It was a grand fucking attempt. It just didn't have the tech to produce enough content to fill the space it had, or make the world fungible enough - and it got boring fast. But God, if it could have fulfilled its promise, it would have fucking ruled. And it *did* hold me for around a year, exploring if nothing else - WoW is prettier, but the thrill of managing to get somewhere new in AO is something WoW just doesn't have for me. Making it into a new zone, finding a pointless-and-non-interactive-but-pretty crashed starship way the hell out in the middle of nowhere on Rubi-Ka - that showed me that the game designers thought like me - they wanted a world, not just a vessel for an adventure module. Those crash sites and random encampments were a hopeful investment for the future, as well as easter eggs for those of us who would spend time just flying around the planet in our Yalms, sightseeing.

Damn, I miss it. But not enough to go back and realize that there really wasn't enough interaction to make me stick around. If only AO's content was sitting on top of WoW's platform...oh, man. The weeks I would lose inside.

Update: I'm wrong. Warhammer Online is not Warhammer 40,000 online, which would be sci-fi. Nope. It's a big-tusked-orc-type fantasy war MMO which looks a lot't be...sigh.

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May 3, 2006

I Weep for the Future. And the Present.

Fox, BBC, Al Jazeera most trusted: poll

At least the Beeb is in there. But Fox? OMFGWTF.

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April 30, 2006

March To The Bottom

Yet another regulator under the Bush Administration finds himself in criminal court - and this time, it arises during a civil case over the FDA's delaying of approval for a morning-after contraceptive.

I'm so unsurprised I could cry.

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April 25, 2006

Remember, gulags are for other people.

Then read this. Then decide for yourself.

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April 21, 2006

Spin Spin Sugar

Remember when people were just furious about 'leaks' in general? Ah, those were the good ol' days. Then we find out we have a Leaker-In-Chief, and suddenly...oh dear me, speciation of leaks. To wit, count the number of times the careful placement of the descriptor illegal appears in the following rant from a Michigan Republican from TIME's website, concerning the recent firing of a CIA employee found to have disclosed information about 'extraordinary rendition' flights:
A spokesman for House intelligence committee chairman Peter Hoekstra applauded the break branding the former employee's unauthorized disclosure an illegal leak and calling for its prosecution. Jamal Ware said Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, "applauds the diligent and hard work done by the CIA to identify this person who took it upon themselves to illegally leak our nation's secrets. Chairman Hoekstra is fully supportive of any and all efforts to prosecute this person and anyone else who illegally discloses our national secrets." Ware called the rare identification of a leaker "a solid victory in the effort to halt illegal leaks."
Note: This isn't just a 'leak.' It's an illegal leak. This person must be hunted down. This is different from what the President did, of course. For one thing, it's different because the President said it's different, and what he says, goes; for another, this person leaked information about a practice that is deeply unsettling to the principles on which this nation purports to be founded, whereas the President directed the disclosure of apparently known false information in order to discredit an opposing point of view.


Note: I'm not saying the CIA employee should get a pass. They did, indeed, sign a form saying they wouldn't do this. They did it in full knowledge of the penalties that applied, and those penalties are appropriately levied here. I'm just saying that it's fascinating how quickly certain parties are trying so very hard to distinguish this from a much, much weaker case in which no penalties whatsoever are even being discussed.

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April 20, 2006

The Worst President in History?

Sean Wilentz writes crisply and cuttingly in Rolling Stone. One of my favorite passages, which invokes in me the fury I feel when GOP talking-points-parrots start bleating about the corruption of Clinton Democrats, is the following:
A total of twenty-nine Reagan officials, including White House national security adviser Robert McFarlane and deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, were convicted on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra affair, illegal lobbying and a looting scandal inside the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Three Cabinet officers -- HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce, Attorney General Edwin Meese and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger -- left their posts under clouds of scandal. In contrast, not a single official in the Clinton administration was even indicted over his or her White House duties, despite repeated high-profile investigations and a successful, highly partisan impeachment drive.

The full report, of course, has yet to come on the Bush administration. Because Bush, unlike Reagan or Clinton, enjoys a fiercely partisan and loyal majority in Congress, his administration has been spared scrutiny. Yet that mighty advantage has not prevented the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges stemming from an alleged major security breach in the Valerie Plame matter. (The last White House official of comparable standing to be indicted while still in office was Grant's personal secretary, in 1875.) It has not headed off the unprecedented scandal involving Larry Franklin, a high-ranking Defense Department official, who has pleaded guilty to divulging classified information to a foreign power while working at the Pentagon -- a crime against national security. It has not forestalled the arrest and indictment of Bush's top federal procurement official, David Safavian, and the continuing investigations into Safavian's intrigues with the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently sentenced to nearly six years in prison -- investigations in which some prominent Republicans, including former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed (and current GOP aspirant for lieutenant governor of Georgia) have already been implicated, and could well produce the largest congressional corruption scandal in American history. It has not dispelled the cloud of possible indictment that hangs over others of Bush's closest advisers.

I can't begin to even explain what this does to my blood pressure. This is a blog; it's not a scholarly paper. I have a milk crate here to stand on, from whence to vent spleen. I realize that this makes me not someone worth reading, really, for reasoned argument; not someone worth linking for facts or value-laden posts or propositions. It wars with my desire to actually serve my nation and its polity by being someone who can and does produce analytic information for the betterment of policy and people - both because what I produce here is tainted by my own anger, and because what I produce here most likely taints me, as a person, in the eyes of those who I might one day stand before and ask to trust in my motives.

All I can say is that the anger is not because I'm a Democrat thwarted. It's not because I'm a Liberal smelling blood. In point of fact, the anger is due to one simple piece of my makeup. I'm an American citizen. I am a multiracial, minority in ethnicity and beliefs citizen of the U.S. who believes firmly that the Constitution of the United States of America, and the vast majority of the people who inhabit the United States of America (and, indeed, the world in which it lives) are in the main a good and decent creation. I want things to get better. I want my children, and everyone's children, happy, well-fed, healthy and safe; I want the planet prosperous and peaceful. I want us reaching for the stars as a species.

I'm not naive enough to think this will magically happen.

However, I'm romantic enough that when I see policies and behaviors that, in my opinion, and in my analysis, throw away what small poor resources and chances we do have on this world for that to occur - when I see those chances and those resources thrown in the dirt, or stashed in a miser's pocket, and I see the Nation I do actually love led into a path of twisted behavior worthy more of its historical enemies than of the code it claims to aspire to reach in its own precious documents - then comes the anger. Then comes the fury. Then comes the frustration.

The current administration is a source, day by day, of that frustration. The Congress, in many ways, through active and passive failures, is a source of that frustration, on both sides of the aisle. The system is not; I believe the system itself can, when inhabited and pushed by men and women of vision and character, be a force for good and progress. But those currently in power are not they.

While this may doom whatever chances I have of ever working within that system, for whatever leaders and administrations, so be it. I can only say what I believe, for not doing so is a crime of silence. Not a large one, in my case, to be sure - I don't affect much. I don't influence much. But I would know. Even if I were to be working for the current government (which of course I'm not) I would be able to give it my all, if I would be working to serve the United States of America. Accurate (or at least, dedicated) analysis and monitoring are needed no matter who makes the decisions and what they are; and that's the only kind of thing I could ever see myself doing for the government anyway (at least, that's the only thing I could ever imagine the government wanting out of me other than taxes).

It's hard. I love this place. I know deep in my heart that I'm not a demographically representative American - but my voice should count as much as any other. That's what the system purports to say. However there appears to be a complete lack of accountability in Washington - indeed, the entire concept of failure appears to be gone. 'Failure' is something that occurs, to George Bush, in 'geologic time' - something that will only be an issue when he's dead and the historians can argue about it.

He's wrong. Failure is something that needs to be considered and addressed when it occurs, with an eye towards preventing it from happening again. A presidency is not a single event. It is a myriad of decisions. A president who is unable, during a debate, to come up with a single mistake he's made in his first term, however small - even for a joke! - is one too dangerous to be allowed to make decisions for this country. If there is no concept of failure, there is no concept of anyone (especially him) paying the consequences for a failure. If that's the case, then how can he be trusted to make decisions that affect the entire planet, much less the polity of the United States? A man who brushes off the notion that he might make a mistake as 'irrelevant' is a man unable to even recognize the path leading into error - and this particular man apparently is the one exploring 'all options' for dealing with other nations, including those involving nuclear weapons.

Does this make you feel safe?

Posted by jbz at 11:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

The Silencing of Dissent in the Name of Patriotism

This is really beyond the fucking pale. It is perhaps the most egregious example of mealy-mouthed, condescending, authoritarian arm-twisting I think I've seen yet out of the crew of useless bastards presently attempting to defend the policies and practices of the Adminstration's Iraq policy - and that takes effort.

Let me see if I can get their point straight. What these quisling bastards would have you, as an American, believe, is that the military officers who have faithfully executed their duty by not publicly criticizing the Secretary of Defense while still in the military are in fact skirting treason (aid and comfort to the enemy) by speaking up now. That, in fact, they had every chance in the world to 'make a difference' while they served, and that they likely could not see the 'big picture' while there. And that indeed, by speaking up now, by fomenting what even these commenting sockpuppets are forced to admit is 'reasoned public debate,' they are somehow detracting from our national security.

That's not just self-contradictory, it's damn near close to treason itself.

I offer the following quotes, directly from their editorial.

The retired officers who have criticized Rumsfeld have served their country with distinction. The military -- active duty and retired -- has a wealth of intelligent, articulate and motivated people. Their sense of duty, integrity and patriotism are of the highest order. But each of them speaks from his own copse of trees and may not have a view of the larger forest. In criticizing those with the broader view, they should be mindful of the risks and responsibilities inherent in their acts. The average U.S. citizen has high respect for the U.S. military. That respect is a valuable national security asset. Criticism, when carried too far, risks eroding it.
In other words, apparently, a military that's busy losing a war because of idiotic policy set by its civilian oversight - which is the point of these general officers - and yet keeps its mouth shut is somehow more respectable and honorable than one which takes its orders as is its job but whose members, when they are able to do so by law and tradition, offer their objections based on reason and experience. Oh, yeah, that makes a load of sense.
We do not advocate a silencing of debate on the war in Iraq. But care must be taken by those experienced officers who had their chance to speak up while on active duty. In speaking out now, they may think they are doing a service by adding to the reasoned debate. But the enemy does not understand or appreciate reasoned public debate. It is perceived as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.
We don't want you to shut up. But shut up. Because if you don't shut up, you're helping the enemy, and besides, why didn't you say all this when you were on the job? Answer: they didn't say all this when on the job because they respect civilian control of the military much more than you do, apparently. Furthermore, they understand, as you do not, that the much larger threat to the United States' national security at the moment is the damage the administration's policy is doing to the military and the US's position - not whatever 'The Enemy' whoever he or she may be may draw from a 'reasoned public debate' in our media over our policies, which is what we're supposed to have no matter what the situation. That's why our system is stronger.

My God. If ever a case could be made for treason, this is fucking it. Crush reasoned dissent and examination of mistakes. Refuse to acknowledge the possibility of mistakes. Deny that the process which is not visible to the public is flawed, and attack those who obey every tenet, legal and traditional, while pushing for change.

You fuckers are going to be first up against the fucking wall. I promise you that. It's instructive that Mr. Laird was SecDef during the Vietnam War. Apparently he hasn't learned a damn thing.

Posted by jbz at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

The Rumsfeld Rumblings

One of the more underhanded and weaselly characteristics of the White House's "defense" of Donald Rumsfeld is that it seems to be placing great emphasis on variations of the point illustrated by the following quote:
Retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the retired generals' criticism is "inappropriate, because it's not the military that judges our civilian bosses."
Um, hello? Yes, indeed, Gen. Myers. That's true. This is why these general officers are speaking out only after leaving the military. The military is not judging the civilian leadership. Civilians, with military experience - and most importantly, on the ground experience with the war in question - are judging the civilian leadership. I would argue that this is a magnificent example of the strength of the civilian control of our military, and the solidity of the United States' Constitutional system. Criticisms of civilian decisionmaking that are, in the opinion of those making the criticisms, causing grave damage not only to the military as an organization but to the nation as a whole, are being stifled until the critics are no longer in positions of military authority. This is what is supposed to happen.

For the 'defenders' of Secretary Rumsfeld to somehow attempt to 'spin' this fact into an attack on the credibility or character of the criticisms, or worse yet those making them, is beyond despicable; it itself attacks the very nature of the system which they purport to defend.

Of course, that's par for the course with the current administration.

Posted by jbz at 4:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Cry Of The Thwarted Consumer

Whole Foods (or whatever their Market store calls itself) can just do something anatomically improbable. I show up there seeking solace in food. They have wine. They have cheese. They have chocolate. I seek ice cream. Fine. They do not have any of:
  • Ben & Jerry's Vermonty Python
  • Dove Ultimate Chocolate (or any Dove ice cream at all)
  • or even the ultimate standby, Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip.
I mean, come on. A weak selection of Ben & Jerry's. A miserable selection of Haagen Dazs. Then a bunch of pastel-colored designer organic crap I've never heard of. Yes, I understand that's the point of Whole Foods or whatever - but if you're going to stock Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs, for fuck's sake do it right.

Defeated, I retreat sulkily clutching a pint of The Gobfather, a wedge of Spanish Manchego, a warm baguette, some spicy turkey salami, and a spoon.

Posted by jbz at 6:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 5, 2006

Department of Homeland what, again?

Hm. So our recent DHS spokesperson trolling for 14-year-old girls on the internet isn't, apparently, the first incident. Nope nope nope. Sharp-eyed types looking in the open record have found that he is, in fact, the third in the past several months, including one gent who apparently used to run 'Operation Predator' - a child molestation enforcement op inside DHS, how's that for ironic job placement? Not to mention another agent who got taken down on MSNBC camera swearing to cops "I swear to God, as God as my witness, I'm wearing a St. Michael's medal right now, okay? I was not going to do anything with her." This after showing up at the '13 year old girl's' house because 'she' had assured him her parents were away (yes, it was a sting).

Yep. Wonderful agency you've put together there, Mr. Bush. Just the ticket. I'm sure your fundamentalist tipping vote types are all thrilled about them good, Godly Americans you put in place to watch over us all here in the Homeland.

Posted by jbz at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 3, 2006

And the suck-ups begin puckering.

Not a pretty sight.

Posted by jbz at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

Wrong side of the fence

This (login perhaps required, sorry) is a good opinion piece about how medical care in the U.S. has become business-oriented and commoditized to the point where patients are treated as customers and no longer as patients. The physician writing the piece laments this, and urges patients to treat their doctors as their employees, and to "fire them" until they get the message - until health care improves.

This is a well-meaning position to take. The problem is that it's completely unrealistic for many people. I have to ask if the physician in question understands that. Let me offer a counterexample. I live in Cambridge, MA. I have health insurance, through my employer, and in that am fortunate. I have a primary care physician - however, that physician is mostly retired now, and spends a good portion of the year on the West Coast. I have been trying to find a new primary care physician whom I can relate to - one whom, in this piece's turn of phrase, treats me like a patient.

I have failed miserably.

Not in finding one who will treat me like a patient. In finding one at all.

In Boston, a city which some would argue is at or near the top of the medical profession heap in the United States, I cannot find a GP (General Practitioner) to take me on as a patient. I have spoken with seven over the past five months (or their staffs) on recommendations from my insurance company, my current physician(s), and friends. All have told me the same thing - their practices are full. One was unusually candid - he told me he was ceasing to practice medicine for insured patients, and moving into the realm of 'boutique' medicine - essentially becoming a doctor 'on retainer' for wealthy patients who could and would afford to pay premium prices for personal (i.e. 'patient') care.

We, the patients, are not the 'employer' of the physicians anymore. The HMOs and insurance companies and hospitals, etc. are. We are the customers of those businesses. There is a disconnect between we who receive the services and the doctors who provide it - and like so many businesses where there is a non-present middleman, that middleman is screwing with the provision of that service.

I'm not saying that there isn't an infrastructural cost to providing medical care which doctors alone cannot support. Hospitals cost money. Research costs money. And so on. However, there is a problem - and the advice to 'find another doctor' simply isn't tenable advice in some cases, because there aren't other doctors - at least, other doctors who aren't simply going to look at you and shake their heads and tell the insurance company, or HMO, or their hospital scheduler to simply send in the next patient to fill up those precious scarce minutes.

Posted by jbz at 3:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

Cameras in your homes. Now...

No being drunk in bars. What happened to bartenders cutting people off? I want to know what 'being drunk' is in this context. Did they breathalyze them? Did they arrest people who were drunk 'n happy? What?

Seriously, in a bar?

That's an insult to bartenders. Honestly. Thanks Texas for making sure I can't drive by arresting me while I'm still drinking.

Posted by jbz at 9:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 9, 2006

Your Tax Money for Christian Evangelicals And Fraudsters.

Read this.

Now, please.

Posted by jbz at 2:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 7, 2006

Why The Hell Isn't The Headline "Panel Rejected A Full Investigation Of the Program?"

"Liberal Media" my wide black ass. "GOP Senators Propose NSA Spying Bill" makes it sound like they're actually doing something about it instead of working frantically to sweep the entire fucking thing under the rug. Note that my proposed headline is, in fact, in paragraph four of the article.

Meanwhile, somehow it's now OK to search publisher's homes under warrants which it's illegal to even disclose exist, and to direct publishers and ISPs to hand over records on their clients (that would be reporters, and anyone who hosts websites) while making it a federal crime to even tell said people that the warrant has been served.

Oh, and 'classified information,' the disclosure of which can bring the aforementioned measures down on you, is anything the fucking Vice President decides it is. Without consulting anyone.

I agree, if Bill Clinton had just stamped 'CLASSIFIED' on his cock we'd all have been better off, no?

What the fuck is happening in my country?

Posted by jbz at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 3, 2006

The Last Entry, and an apology to George W. Bush and the DHS

Hey Mr. President-

Aren't you glad I have a careful-as-hell suspicious lawyer for a brother who compulsively fact-checks my ass? I know I am.

If he's correct, then I owe President George W. Bush and the DHS an apology, which is heretofore offered in advance because, after all, it was my assumption which led to my rude behavior. Mr. President, Dept. of Homeland Security, I withdraw my rude remarks and assumptions of infringements on my liberty implied in the prior post. All were based on my own inferences from a single news story which, as my brother has pointed out, does not actually contain any precise references to law which would justify such a reaction from me. I will state that your innocence of any misbehavior (even if only in my opinon) must be assumed until proven with hard evidence and references thereto.

Please accept my apologies for my assumption and the rudeness based on that assumption. It was my error.

Posted by jbz at 4:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

DHS Keeps Proving Why It Was A Bad Idea

As soon as you create something this stupidly broad, overzealous morons will try to abuse it in ways both large and small.

Posted by jbz at 4:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Sky Pilots indeed.

God help you if you're not a Christian and want to join our Air Force. Thank you, President Bush, for pandering.

Posted by jbz at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 9, 2006

For anyone who thinks that the Administration cares about security

Read this. Make your own decision about its veracity; I'm not claiming it's the truth. But if it is (and I certainly haven't seen any heated denials), given that it surely falls in line with known tactics of the esteemed Mr. Rove and company, think about what it says for their priorities - actual versus stated.

They do not care a whit for security, other than that of their own power.

They do not care a whit for honest debate of priorities.

They do not care a whit for the well-being of anyone who is not directly important to their personal power structure.

They are seeking to actively punish those who seek not to harm them directly, but to work possibly towards the greater good of the American polity - even those within their own political party.

This tells me (a biased observer) three things. One: they are not worthy of the power they currently hold, but I already knew that. Two: they are worried about the ongoing surveillance hearings. Worried enough to be doing this form of arm-twisting this openly against their own traditional supporters. Three: those supporters are worried as well.

Those worried supporters may be ready to act as Americans, and not as Republicans. If they do so, we need to give them room to do so. We need to be Americans here, not Democrats and Republicans - because the dangers confronting us are dangers to our rights and existence as Americans.

And Rove? Someone needs to take Rove down.

Posted by jbz at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2006

Not just venal.

Incompetently venal.

One down. Far too many to go.

Posted by jbz at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 6, 2006

I would say it's time for a witch-hunt, but...

...that would be unfair to the witches. Seriously, though...if this is who our government thinks should decide what gets said to the press about science from what should be a premier scientific agency, then I have some questions I need to ask that gentleman. While he's tied to a pole. With kindling.
Posted by jbz at 2:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 2, 2006

Do you trust these fuckers with election reform?

I sure don't.

Posted by jbz at 5:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

Who really matters, according to the GOP

For all their bleating about Democrats causing partisan rifts in the country, it's fairly clear who the GOP operation thinks matters for 'their guy.' Here's a quote from TIME:
Inside the White House, though, aides were smiling again. Low poll numbers aren't worth agonizing over because many party strategists believe Bush has a ceiling of 52%, says Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "It's hard to imagine anyone who didn't vote for his re-election would approve of his job performance."

In other words, the other 48% of you can take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. Your opinions are irrelevant to what the President's party does, and how they do it. America is not for 100% of us, it's for 52% of us - the 52% that (they think) voted for their guy. At least, according to their polling machines.

I'm not saying it's the GOP poller's job to worry about what Democrats think. I'm just saying that for a party which seems to think it's the Dem side of the aisle causing all this partisan ruckus, that's a mighty standoffish attitude.

Posted by jbz at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Who supports the troops?

Their mothers and families and friends do. But someone 'very high up' who has the authority to issue orders to them may not. I don't know if this story is true; I do know that it should be vigorously investigated by the Congress, which has been asked to do so much on the basis of 'supporting and protecting' those same troops. Especially the part about general officers wearing the Pinnacle gear while lower ranks are ordered to abandon that which they purchased with their own funds.

Also, someone with more legal smarts than I should quickly talk to SGLI about the precise nature of the restrictions and conditions on the $400,000 'death benefit' to GIs. That 'could jeopardize' in there looks awful damn fishy and an awful lot like justification for pressure that can't quite be backed up by facts.

Posted by jbz at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2005

New Orleans, Mr. President.

Every day you get up, Mr. President, I want you to look at this. Especially the part about schools. Then I want you to ask yourself what you're going to do that day.

Posted by jbz at 10:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 2, 2005

In a biting bit of irony...

...a spokescreature for Tom Delay rejects assertions that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003, which cemented GOP control of Congress, was driven by partisan goals as 'political babble.'

This is in response to queries about a memo which has recently come to light which shows that the staff lawyers and analysts at the Justice Department who reviewed the proposed redistricting map unanimously rejected it as illegal or harmful to the voting rights of minorities in Texas. Politically appointed officials at the Justice department overruled this report and approved the plan.

What sickens me is how un-shocked I am.

Convict Tom Delay. Impeach Bush and Cheney. Indict Ashcroft.

Posted by jbz at 12:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2005

The weakness of evil men, or the evil of weak men?

John Cole at Balloon Juice addresses the ongoing debate about the use of torture by American forces and agents thusly. While it appears that Mr. Cole and I might not agree on much (I'm not sure, this is on a quick scan) we're shoulder to shoulder on this one. This is one reason I enjoy the net; finding people's opinions to read and mull over - especially people who I don't agree with about everything. It makes our points of agreement much more thought-provoking.

In any case, the argument he is attacking (and which has shown up in the comments to that post) is really just outrageous. I responded to it there, but I felt the need to reiterate my position here.

The 'pro-torture' camp (Cheney on down) appear to be fixated on two primary arguments: the 'ticking time bomb' scenario and the 'limiting options' argument. The first posits that there may come a time when in order to thwart an imminent Bad Event, your only option may be to employ torture to extract information which will allow you to prevent it. The second argument seems to state that by categorically denying yourself the option of torture, you offer your enemies more 'freedom of action' or 'embolden' them because they know they won't be forced to give up information when captured.

These are, IMNSHO, complete and utter bullshit.

The first problem is that they're being argued at entirely the wrong level. These are both arguments related to the efficacy or expediency of torture. That's the problem. Many opponents of torture continue to fight the measure by arguing (with merit) that torture doesn't even work, which is a completely valid approach and offers some traction. But it misses the point. Arguing that allows the pro-torture crew to set the battleground for this fight, and if the battleground is placed in the 'expediency' field, then the battle is already lost.

Whether or not to use torture, as the United States of America, is not an issue of expediency or efficacy. It's a question of principles. Those principles are what make us the United States of America. They are embodied in the Constitution and its Amendments. Which, far from representing expediency, are philosophy embodied - as far from expediency as you can get. That's what makes this country different, and makes it great. It's a place where the purity of an ideal is being applied to a polity - not through the flawed prism of human minds serving as a 'live' conduit, but through a rigorously and transparently recorded and interpreted set of codified philosophy.

If you begin to argue about whether or not torture (which is something that doesn't fit anywhere into that Constitution, thank you very much) should be utilized because it may or may not work, then you've already given up arguing about whether it should be used.

And you've thrown the ideals which that Constitution stands for in the trash bin.

President Bush speaks of 'spreading Democracy' through the Middle East and the world. We can only assume he speaks of spreading Democracy on the American model - a Constitutional democracy, based on principles. If this is the case, then we must not act to throw away those very principles in the name of expediency, not even to spread that democracy or even to topple regimes - but simply as a 'just in case' because we 'might be threatened!' To reserve to ourselves the right to not apply those principles to anyone we choose because they are less than us!

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL. Nowhere does it say 'but some men are created less equal than others.'

If men declare themselves the enemy of the United States and the Constitution, then yes, it is our duty to defeat them. To kill them, if necessary. However, it is also our duty to continue to obey our own laws. As our own president says, "We do not torture." Fine. Then we don't need exemptions from laws against torture. If we have captured an enemy, they themselves cannot actively do us harm. That means we are enjoined from causing them unreasonable suffering. If they have committed crimes which they can be tried for, which carry a capital punishment, then it is our right to submit them to a court of law which has the ability to impose that punishment in open deliberation. But that's it.

Anything else loses us the war, as it loses us what makes us Americans. Don't let the pro-torture camp draw the debate onto the wrong battleground. This isn't about being 'soft on terrorists' or 'un-American' or anything else. They are 'un-American.' This is about the very ideals which make us American.

Posted by jbz at 12:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Wasn't this why the GOP wanted to fight the Cold War?

I blame the Bush Administration and its completely inane reaction to 9/11 for creating the conditions by which this form of hysterical response to normal situations - indeed, to attitudes and positions which are quintessentially American in the 'Founding Fathers' sense.

Impeach Bush and Cheney. Impeach them now.

Posted by jbz at 4:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

Divorced from Reality...

...and the alimony's going to be a stone bitch. Michael Brown, ex-head of FEMA whose emails revealed his annoyance with Hurricane Katrina interrupting his dining out as well as suggestions from his staff that he keep his shirt sleeves rolled up so he 'looked hard working', plans to start a consulting business.

Doing...wait for it...

Disaster planning. I shit you not.

Even he seems to recognize the level to which his useless cronyism-based fuckup has slotted him, with his closing sentences. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me."

Well, they're all related to him by genes or choice. They can't be the brightest lights out there.

I wonder how many of his 'great clients' owe favors to the administration?

Posted by jbz at 3:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Lack of an alternative? Or silence by design?

The Washington Post talks of dark days for the White House, where the Republican Party is becoming increasingly desirous of an exit strategy from Iraq - or at least their association with the White House that spawned the war. One point that comes up is the 'counterpoise' between the administration - and an Democratic Party on the edge of actively opposing it. The Post article seems to conflate 'opposing it' with 'offering an alternative.'

While it may be true that the Democrats are not offering proposals as a bloc, I think it's unlikely that they simply don't have any ideas. After all, when trying legislative ju-jitsu on Rep. Murtha, the GOP themselves came up with a plan - albeit a patently unworkable one. I think that at least some of the Democratic silence in the area of proposed alternatives is quite obviously a bid to deny the GOP and more specifically the White House operatives a concrete target to attack. Swift Boat, anyone? The Democrats are in a strange position - the GOP is imploding visibly over the lack of options for Iraq. The GOP can't propose any without openly breaking with the White House - a show of splintering party discipline that they cannot afford, especially before midterms. However, the Democrats are, for once, better served by simply keeping quiet. With no counterproposal to fasten on, there is no (Democratic) target for the smear machine of Rove and Cheney.

Republicans may try to portray the Democratic silence as a bankruptcy of support for the troops and the mission. I would say instead that the Democratic silence is in fact strong support of both the military and the mission it has been saddled with. One thing that the Administration has made trenchantly clear is that it will not discuss, debate, or even examine its own actions and policies regarding Iraq. In such an environment, even the most wise and effective proposal, should it be put forth by Democrats, will end up as nothing more than a talking-points-target for the White House - denying it any chance of implementation.

By holding fire, however, the Democrats are increasing the chances that the GOP will be forced to 'open the game' and begin discussions about what to do in Iraq - and it will be difficult for the White House to slam down debate if it's started by its own party. While immediately leaving is (in my opinion) not the course to take, the very act of open debate over the future of the U.S.'s presence in Iraq - an open discussion of objectives, methods and goals - will serve our troops far better than the current White House position of 'We stay until we win' - without even preperly defining 'win.'

The question will be whether the GOP can pull itself out of its self-destructive cycle enough to even begin a proper and constructive debate on the issue before it takes enough damage from corruption charges and scandal to prevent it from doing so. Should that happen, the Democrats will be forced to open the debate. If the midterms go strongly Democratic, then they may have the momentum to do so safely, without fearing destructive interference from the White House.

Hopefully, the GOP will open the debate sooner, for the sake of our armed forces and the citizens of Iraq.

Posted by jbz at 1:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Mortgaging the US

This is a 'me too' link, but it bears being pounded into the skulls of anyone who thinks the current Administration is composed of actual Republicans (i.e. people who adhere to the stated values of the Republican party) in the fiscal sense.

According to this press release from Congress, the Bush administration has now borrowed more money from foreign banks and governments than the previous 42 administrations combined.

Still think those tax cuts are a good idea? Still wonder how we're paying for them?

If you have any friends or acquaintances who like regurgitating the GOP talking points about Democrats being 'taxers and spenders' try stapling that one across their foreheads so they can read it in the mirror mornings.

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November 9, 2005

How can anybody give these fuckwits credence?

I used to feel sympathy for Scott McClellan as a man in a bad spot. But to stick around this long, and to keep attempting to defend completely indefensible positions, shows that he's either just given up entirely or never had a moral backbone in the first place.

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'Black' prisons and white lies

So. Divulging the name of a CIA covert operative who was not engaged in any activities counter to the law (much less the values our nation is supposed to hold dear) is 'not a crime.' But heaven forfend someone leak information not directly compromising the safety of American operatives, but rather the existence of an operation that sounds like it directly does run counter to American values.

This would be a grim example of what's wrong with the Republican party today, as far as I'm concerned. The only thing that makes this not true? Well, to us observers, it might be more fun than grim as they compete to toss each other under the bus.

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October 24, 2005

I Weep for the Future

Why? Well, because.

Note carefully: in no way do I mean that it is not anyone's right to believe whatever they wish - that's the purpose of this nation.

However, one prime reason our nation has done well for itself is because of its embrace of technology and science - and the concomitant attitude of 'questioning truths' that goes along with it. Given the current debates over the direction of science education in this country, I fear for the future of the United States as a competitive world economy.

I have no problem with creationist being taught to children. However, it is a particular belief, of a particular religion or set of religions - it is not a methodology. It is a story, a version of the past couched in a belief system. As such, it has no place in the science classroom. If the argument was over whether or not it was to be taught in an elective, under cultural studies, or even history, I would be much more of two minds about it. However, pushing to teach it in science curricula is not a positive attempt to 'defend ones faith' - it is an attempt to suppress the teachings of science because they conflict with your personal interpretation of the world as taught by your faith.

Nope. Bzzzzt. Go home. That's why we came to this country in the first place.

It especially angers me to hear people invoke 'religious oppression' in their arguments. I challenge them to move past their sheltered little worlds in their rich democracy and visit places where people are persecuted for merely possessing the icons of a faith not approved of by the government or even their neighbors. Where mentioning anything about a faith can result in death or isolation. And yet people here have the temerity to claim 'oppression' because they are told that they are not allowed to tell other children, not of their faith, that science is 'not the answer.'


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October 21, 2005

I Swear to God, this isn't me.

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October 20, 2005

Protect or regulate?

Easy. If you're an industry which makes actual weapons, you get protection from lawsuits. If you're an industry which makes entertainment which parents should be responsible for buying for their children, you get regulated.

The former industry's products kill, directly.

The latter? No-one really knows.

Sure. This makes sense.


Posted by jbz at 1:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

Wednesday is Fitzmas.

"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." - George H.W. Bush

TIM RUSSERT: "For the record, the first time you learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove?"

MATT COOPER: "That's correct."
- Meet the Press

"Soon afterward Mr. Libby raised the subject of Mr. Wilson's wife for the first time. I wrote in my notes, inside parentheses, 'Wife works in bureau?' I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I believed this was the first time I had been told that Mr. Wilson's wife might work for the C.I.A."
- Judith Miller

Taken from the comments on DailyKos.

Impeach George Bush. Impeach him now.

As Jon Aravosis pointed out, if a White House official knowingly divulged the name of an OSS operative during World War Two, they would have been in serious danger of being shot. Bush likes to tell us with as much gravitas as he can muster (well short of Colbert) that we are at war. About what? Among other things, terrorism, rogue states, WMDs and the Middle East. What was the intelligence agent who was exposed working on? Yep, WMDs and the Middle East.

But it's okay. The GOP's tame columnists like to talk about how 'it's only DC' and 'this kind of thing happens all the time' and 'it's not really a crime.' Any investigation of this matter is just 'partisan criminalization of politics.' That's one of their favorite phrases.

Wrong and bullshit.

It's the politicization of crime.

Don't let them get away with it.

Frist, DeLay, Abramoff, whoever Fitzgerald is looking into, Safavian, whoever paid for the 'illegal propaganda' at the Education Department - and these are just in the past few months, and the ones that actually made it to the mostly-cowed press. How many more are there? They're running your country. Into the damn ground. Don't let them.

Posted by jbz at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Robert Novak: Bush's political problems are a 'communications failure'

Robert Novak recently attended a traditionally pro-GOP conference, and wrote a column about his experience. In it, he describes a gathering of Republicans "bashing" the President and his administration on a wide range of topics. Uncomfortable with this, he spoke up, to be argued down. He notes that "When [a financier who regularly attends these events] thanked me for my comments and said he shared my sentiments, I asked why he did not express them publicly at a session. He replied that he did not feel able to articulate what he felt. Critics of the president who are vocal and supporters who are reticent comprise a massive communications failure."

Reading the article, however, we find only two examples of where Mr. Novak spoke up. The first comes when he addresses a panel on stem cell research, which he is shocked to find consists

"solely of scientists hostile to the Bush administration's position. In the absence of any disagreement, I took the floor to suggest there are scientists and bioethicists with dissenting views and that it was not productive to demean opposing views as based on "religious dogma." The response was peeved criticism of my intervention and certainly no support."
The second contribution Mr. Novak tells us about is where
as a member of the second panel consisting of journalists, I felt constrained to argue against implications that Hurricane Katrina should cause the president to rediscover race and poverty. My comments again generated more criticism from the audience and obvious exasperation by Charlie Rose.
So. Based on these two contributions, others felt they should thank Mr. Novak for voicing concerns that they felt they could not articulate. Furthermore, Mr. Novak's main concern here is that the disconnect between 'critics who are vocal' within a stronghold of the president's party and 'supporters who are reticent' in the same environs - note that he tells us there were strong no-quote rules in effect, which prevent him from giving us names or quoting anyone other than himself, so the reticence on the part of the supporters can't be for fear of being identified by anyone except their own party comrades. This, in effect, ignores the main issue, as far as I'm concerned, at least.

Mr. Novak, has it ever occurred to you that perhaps, just perhaps, the reason even some of your own are angrily overriding you in a private retreat is because your president and his administration are just wrong?

Just throwing that one out there, sport.

I note that you don't seem to be concerned about the actual state of affairs. You seem to be concerned that the President and the Administration are losing effective control of their message and their ability to mobilize and maintain party unity. That's the first (and only, really) thing you're offering concerns about in this article.

You call yourself a journalist? Go get a job writing for the Republican Party Newsletter if that's what you're going to cover.

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September 9, 2005

From Bad To Worse

The Adminstration and their cronies in Congress gear up to deflect any blame by setting up 'investigations' of their own offices and appointees that they themselves control, using bodies which are to have no oversight or legal power to make changes as well as being controlled by the incumbent party. The first cursory checks of the political hacks whose incompetence has already killed unknown numbers of Americans on the Gulf Coast and cost us an unknown amount of time and resources are showing that - surprise - they not only couldn't do the jobs they were in, but lied about their experience, apparently habitually. When the head of FEMA had only one emergency services-relevant item on his resume - "overseeing the emergency services division" of Edmond, Oklahoma from 1975-1978, it would behoove him to make sure that that was accurate. But no. According to the head of PR for the city of Edmond, he was in fact an 'assistant to the city manager' and that from 1977 to 1980. What did he do? According to the city manager at the time, "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

When asked about this difference, FEMAs office of public affairs insisted that in fact while Mike Brown began as an intern, he became an 'assistant city manager' and (note this carefully) - the staffer in the office insists that "according to Mike Brown, a large portion of the points raised by TIME are very inaccurate."

Ooooh, that's interesting.

In other words, the professional flack whose job is to defend her boss has just said that not only is there some truth to the issues TIME has raised, but she's said something that directly contradicts the words of the city officials who employed Mike Brown at the time. Furthermore, and this is the most interesting to me, the professional PR shield said "according to Mike Brown." She explicitly sourced the rebuttal to the man himself. She didn't place the organization or anyone else's reputation behind it. She placed the weight of the veracity of that rebuttal squarely on the man's shoulders - so if, in fact, he has been stuffing his screamsheet, it's alllll his bad when the chickens come home to roost.

What that is, if you're not a bureaucrat, is a glaring sign that your organization is starting to disassociate itself from its head in the expectation that bad shit is going to happen to said head.

Now the question is to what degree the White House, the dumb-shit actor responsible for placing this idiot there in the first place, is going to spend political capital shoring him up - or whether they're going to simply burn him to save their own guilty-as-sin skins. "Oh, he *lied* to us. We thought he was competent!"

"But you didn't bother checking with his prior employers?"


This will be interesting.

Update: Looks like they're going to burn him. Now we just have to make sure they can't avoid their own culpability.

Posted by jbz at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 7, 2005

Impeach George Bush. Bring down the officials who failed us.

Read this now. As in, right now. It's the story of one of those 'hotel guests' from New Orleans. It is an eyewitness testimony to the fact that the people of New Orleans were able and willing to self-rescue - and the official organs of government stood in their way. The Federal Government didn't respond, leaving the local government (with its myriad and longstanding problems of social justice) to perform as it would - which seems to include lying, cheating, stealing, and firing weapons at Americans trying to leave New Orleans because they were on foot and not 'properly' in cars like good, prosperous folk.

The account tells of the basic decency of Americans, be they from Louisiana or Texas. It tells of essential cooperation once the basic safety of self and dependents was reasonably secure. It speaks of a descent into chaos that was at the very least abetted by the containment policies of local and federal officials - policies which look discriminatory in the best light, and damnably racist under any sort of examination, with a healthy dose of sheer stupidity and panic thrown in.

This is what happens when the idea of 'small government' is appropriated by the practitioners of incompetent government in an attempt to carry out larcenous government.

Posted by jbz at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 3, 2005

Mayor Ray Nagin Calls It

There is a transcript of an interview with Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans, available online. It is heartbreaking. I have not commented on the New Orleans situation here because, frankly, I don't have any expertise or any insight, and other than donating funds I have been trying to just keep myself in check. I understand that given the material on this blog, any attempt I make to comment on the Federal Government's failure to serve and protect the people of New Orleans will come across as just more ranting.

But you should read the transcript. This is a man on the spot, who is calling it.

Posted by jbz at 1:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

Where have all the scientists gone?

They're sick of being ignored in policymaking.

I'm actually of two minds about this. On the one hand, I applaud Dr. Wood for having the courage of her convictions and refusing to participate any further in a process which she feels runs counter to the welfare of women. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder - if those who prefer scientific evidence and methods who have convictions all resign, who will be left minding the store?

Posted by jbz at 7:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Welcome to Bush-sponsored retaliation for doing one's job.

Bunnatine Greenhouse has been fired. The fact that I have to link to a non-US newspaper for this post makes me incredibly ashamed.

This despite recent revelations that at least one KBR employee has admitted to cookin the books in Iraq.

Nice example you're setting there, Mr. Rumsfeld.

Posted by jbz at 4:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Why bother addressing the issues when you can just spinwhore?

Don't get me wrong. This isn't in any way addressed at Mrs. Pruett. But I find it fairly contemptible that the White House's only substantive response to the concerns of Cindy Sheehan - who, whatever else she may be, is a mother who lost her son in Iraq - is to find a mother who has four of her own sons there and trot her out on stage.

While her (and her family's) views on the war are completely legitimate, what bothers me is that instead of addressing Ms. Sheehan's concerns, the White House instead chooses to put on a song and dance to remind us that there are people that hold views opposite hers.

Well, duh. Of course there are. That's the whole point of having a free society, which is what they claim they're protecting. Demonstrating this means absolutely nothing. All it does is to use the bully pulpit of the White House PR machine to provide an opposing image to Sheehan - in other words, do absolutely nothing of substance that even considers her position. Rather, actively expend energy showing the American public cherry-picked supporters of their own position. Oh, wait - that's what they've been doing since day one, right? Heaven forfend they actually deal with the fact that people disagree with them.

Posted by jbz at 2:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

With all due respect to my colleagues who live there...

Fucking Utah.

More information available from the Utah County Sheriffs here. Without even going into the wondrous spelling and grammar of our government officials, I love tidbits like 'Security personnel were arrested for possession of drugs.' Given that the security personnel were required to be there by Utah law, and that one of their tasks would have been the confiscation of any illegal substances they found, it would make sense that they'd have illegal substances in their possession now, wouldn't it? I can't wait to hear the outcome of this one.

"A 17 year old was found overdosed on Ecstasy and was returned to her parents." That's nice. How about the girl we see three armored cops stomping on in the video of the incident? Was she returned to her parents? In what state? Was she the one 'resisting arrest'?

I realize that I don't have 'all the facts' as to what happened. I am a suspicious bastard, and I acknowledge that. I will say that whenever I see law enforcement demanding that a witness 'turn off the camera' whenever force is being used (excessive force, from what I can see, at that) I find it very difficult to take anything that organization says at face value.

And anyway, we alllll know what a threat to life and limb those Ex users are. Regular hoodlums.

Here's a good one: "A safety sweep was conducted after the crowd was ordered to disburse and numerous narcotic items were located scattered on the ground which included: cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol and large amounts of drug paraphernalia." Yep, yep. Because marijuana, mushrooms and alcohol are narcotics, oh, absolutely. BZZZZT. Wrong. Narcotics are a specific schedule of substance, with a specific set of penalties. Lumping those others in there with them is a completely idiotic (and negligent) generalization, serving only to demonstrate the lack of care for actual specific law enforcement that appears to have been going on. Furthermore, finding the stuff 'scattered around the ground' after you 'disburse' (sic) the crowd seems to simply indicate how badly you fucked up. Wouldn't you rather figure out who had the stuff, rather than wade in, beat the crap out of several folks, and give them all a chance to dump the shit in the dirt? What if, in fact, those drugs had been confiscated by event security - those same security you arrested for possession? The message there is that any attempt to actually make dance events safer by enforcing rules of conduct is pointless, because those doing the enforcing are simply the ones who the police can find when they come stomping in anyway.

Just. Fucking. Ridiculous.

If you're so concerned about people taking drugs at raves, send in undercover officers. Observe them doing so, arrest them, and haul their asses out. Station police officers at the security checkpoints - from the sound of it, I'm sure the event organizers wouldn't have objected, if they had gone to the trouble of applying for all the permits and had security working the entry. Work with the community to police it! Gain the trust and assistance of those who run these events, allowing police personnel to work on weeding out the actual problems (drugs, weapons, violence) rather than simply trying to smash flat the entire scene - which will only serve to drive such events further underground and out of official view, where it will be even harder to ensure that those problems are dealt with.

All in all, a pathetic piece of policing. And for whatever's holy, have someone who can write write up your press releases, at least.

Coverage at DailyKos, Utah Indymedia. Video footage of the incident.

I would fully expect the renouncing of modern medicine those involved in this shameful set of events, were I not utterly convinced of their smug hypocrisy. All I can say is that I would imagine they should be glad gun laws (and traditions thereof) in Britain are much more restrictive than, say, in the rural U.S.

Still, a good shotgun and load of rock salt...

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Religious idiots and foreign policy II

Again, words just don't do it.

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August 21, 2005

Intelligent Design and the classroom

My recent screed was pinged by a much more thoughtful post over on Atlas Blogged. Although my rant is not mentioned specifically (which is probably a good thing) the point of that ping and post seem to be that one needs to teach ID in the classroom in order to properly address its failings and to put it in perspective.

My problem with this approach is the precedent. For two different reasons. First, there is the typical argument that if you begin teaching about this set of ideas in a science classroom, you open the door to being forced to add additional subject matter based on the preferences of strong believers, as opposed to the inclusion based on tested evidence. While I enjoy variety quite a bit, eventually your discussion of the core science will be overwhelmed by time spent addressing the options.

The second problem I have with it is that if one assumes that, having gotten discussion on ID allowed in the science curriculum, its proponents will stand for allowing it to be taught as a negative example, I believe one is being naive. I'm not saying ID shouldn't be addressed at all in science classes; far from it. What I am saying is that allowing mob preference to dictate policy on what is taught in science classes is the 'tipping point' to allowing approval and disapproval of ideas being dictated by non-scientist, non-educators. The anti-rationalist movement is not small, nor will it 'settle.'

That's the real danger.

In the post, the author (Wulf?) states:

We must explain what other beliefs exist to explain an observation, and why one is better than another, or why certain beliefs should not be considered scientific by the students. If you dont tell them what Intelligent Design means, they wont ever know why they should not believe it. I have found that to actually give more credibility to a belief - if you simply say "that's beyond the scope of this course", you do not challenge the weaknesses of the belief, and you do not show the student why the belief is not scientifically valid.

I have no problem with this at all. What I do have a problem with is assuming that when the true proponents say 'ID should be taught in schools' that they will accept 'taught' to include 'compared with evolution and other beliefs even if found wanting.' Read the BoingBoing post again, especially the attitude of the letter writer towards evolution. Then tell me with equanimity that allowing that person to have input (any input) into the public school science curriculum is a good idea. They're not taking your approach towards alternative ideas. While the approach itself certainly should be part of the lesson plan, assuming that 'include in the discussion' will end with 'we include it as a discussion of the alternatives' is to ignore the nature of this attack on the method itself - not evolution as a subject area.

Posted by jbz at 1:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

And another thing...

Where the fuck do Christian religious types get off claiming 'persecution' in this country? I mean, seriously? If anyone tries to make that claim to me, in my presence, they're gonna see persecution.

You can't be President of this nation without subscribing publicly to some form of Christianity.

That, alone, is enough to make me highly desirous of slapping the living fuck out of the next well-heeled Conservative mouthpiece who blurts this line of crap.

As a secular Jew atheist (parse that, bitches) I have no patience for any of you claiming this terrible assault on your rights. Claim its existence to me at your fucking peril.

Posted by jbz at 4:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Intelligent Design and other Fuckwittery

See, things like this really, really piss me off.

Not the post's main subject, which I find fairly hilarious and a worthy use of $1mil.

No, the letter from the Boing Boing reader. I have no problem with her personal beliefs; they are her own. But it's representative of the entire ID farce. Specifically, I have a problem with the semantic usurping of an equal (if not superior) spot in 'science'.

What is not being said nearly often enough, and needs to be said much more clearly and frequently, is that the current spat over 'evolution' vs. 'intelligent design' is not, at its core, a conflict between two competing views of the origins of human life. It's something much more basic and frightening which needs to be emphasized.

It is in fact the ages-old conflict between reason and the power of personal belief.

That's it.

ID is a cleverly executed attempt to clothe Creationism in the guise of a 'scientific' idea. The sudden use of words like 'evidence' and 'theory' and 'hypothesis' by its proponents, well-schooled by strategists whether they like it or not, is indicative. What is telling, however, is how far up the actual underpinnings stick out.

In the letter shown, the writer rants on with the following:

Certainally not evolution considering there is not one single fact that proves it. No missing links, not even common sense. Lies are still being printed that were proven wrong in the late 1800's but they're still taught as fact.

'Not even common sense.'

See, there's a problem. The problem is that if common sense was an adequate guide to how the world really worked, we wouldn't have technology. We'd never have bothered sailing off into the unknown to determine if the world wasn't flat. On a much less anecdotal plane, we wouldn't have several esoteric and completely non-common-sense branches of science, which nevertheless work and provide us with the standard of living and frontier of technology we have today.

Let's take quantum physics. I defy anyone to label the axioms of quantum physics 'common sense' - especially at the time they were being proposed. Things that are in more than one place at once? Come on, be serious! Yet quantum physics is not a lie. It's not a myth. It's an experimentally verifiable set of propositions which allow us to enjoy such phenomena as the transistor and all of electronics.

But let's be clear: 'experimentally verifiable' does not mean 'common sense.' It doesn't even mean 'understood.' Why do electrons sometimes jump across empty space? Why or how do entangled photons flip states when separated by kilometers, triggered only by observation? We don't know. But we can rely on the phenomenon.

One common objection to this line of thought is that 'the entire point is that evolution is not experimentally verifiable.' While I'm not going to claim expertise enough to tell you that it is (simulation and stochastic experimentation notwithstanding!) that's not the point. The point is that ID is an attempt not to elevate a body of knowledge based on its verifiability or utility to the human race. Rather, it is strictly an attempt to discredit a particular body of knowledge and thought. Not because that knowledge and thought actively harms anyone - quite the contrary.

Simply because that body of knowledge and thought is dangerous to a set of beliefs held by those attacking it.

In other words, comfort in one's beliefs is more important that the investigation of reality.

That is the true conflict here, and the true danger. Defenders of evolution do not always (and in my opinion should not) attempt to fight the ID attack on the basis of actual experimental evidence; that is, in fact, playing the game the ID movement wants. To do so is to elevate ID to the status of an actual competing scientific paradigm. Once you've done that, you've lost - because the entire point of this fairly sleazy attempt to attack the science curricula in this country is to simply provide those who can't handle their beliefs being questioned a support structure based on stolen logic.

At stake here is not evolution, but the scientific method. The method which has given humanity's science and technology the structure on which to move forward and discover - the method which has given thinkers the ability to throw out ideas that haven't met standards. Publicity stunt calls to 'prove evolution' for a prize are something much more pernicious - they are an attempt to destroy the entire notion of operating on a hypothesis while searching for the means to make it a theory. "You can't prove it, therefore it isn't true."

One handicap the scientific community appears to have been operating under (from personal experience alone) is that the sheer illogic of the ID attack has prevented those within it from taking it seriously enough to combat. But that is a mistake. The key is not to take the content of the ID platform seriously - but to take the motives and methods seriously.

Those are what will, if left unchecked, turn the United States from a rational and science based power (and make no mistake, rationality and science are what made the US a superpower) into a weak and rigid shaow of its former self, with an entire generation denied the chance to learn the proper scientific method.

Why are the ID proponents so afraid? Why are they so virulently against evolution? It's not because the actual origins of humanity is a question that has current importance from a reality basis. It's because the acceptance of evolution is implicitly the acceptance of the notion that reason and method determine how the world works - and that reason sometimes tells you that 'common sense' is wrong, as is what you were taught by your elders or predecessors. Flat Earth was once a 'common sense' and 'theory.' Purely Newtonian physics was once a scientific and experimentally verifiable picture of 'all of reality.' However, the ability (and desire) to explain some holes therein, or just simply the desire to test these ideas against observed reality, led humanity to discoveries that moved it farther onward and upward.

But according to Intelligent Design, if you can't prove it, it's a 'lie.' If you can't justify it according to 'common sense,' it's a threat. To what? To a particular set of beliefs and way of life.

Well, my personal response is this: I don't believe the universe was created by an intelligent/sapient entity. I don't believe humanity was either. I believe, based on what evidence I have been shown and based on things I can touch, that the existence of myself and my surroundings are the result of path-dependent stochastic chance.

If you tell me that I'm wrong and that in fact the universe was created by an intelligent entity, then you are trampling my beliefs.

This brings me to my final point. Please note that nowhere in the mainstream has anyone stated that ID or creationism should not be taught. Quite the contrary. If a church, or private organization, wishes to instruct people in the tenets and ideas of the ID movement, that's fine. What is at stake is the curriculum in the publicly funded, government based education system. This system has a responsibility to teach the scientific method in order to further the continuance of science and technology in and by those it teaches. ID is a set of ideas and beliefs. If churches, clubs, or what-have-you want to apply those methods to Creationism on their own time, that's fine. Send your child to church school. Send your child to an after-school group. But don't deny my child the right to learn about science without bending the entire structure of the methodology in order to include a minority, constructivist belief system. Do that on your own time.

If you force me to remove my child from public science classes because what is being taught no longer permits skepticism of 'common sense,' then you have used a religious belief to deny that child the benefits of secular taxation and schooling.

And then I'm going to have to come for you. I supported taking down the Taliban for the same reasons. Not because of their beliefs - but because of their willingness to squash dissenting worldviews.

I'm not saying you can't believe in Intelligent Design all you want. What I'm saying is that any attempt to change my child's science education in a a secular school based on it, because you don't like the possibility that common sense is wrong, or random chance can produce Shakespeare, will make you my opponent. You have chosen to elevate a belief set over a methodology, and to (explictly) set 'intelligence' and its 'own beliefs and ideas' over rational examination and observation of reality - and you're damn well not going to do the same to me.

Be warned.

Posted by jbz at 4:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

How many things can we find wrong?

I was pointed to this story by a friend, who reminded me that I in fact had met the toddler shown there when she was an infant. The story points out several things that just make me crazy. Here's what and why.

First of all, while the story points out (correctly) the stupidity of having a 1 year old's name trigger the no-fly list, it doesn't mention what I consider to be the real stupidity exposed. Namely, that the system is so proceduralized (or fraught with penalties for stupid infractions) that people who are otherwise likely competent aren't simply allowing the toddlers in question to go through when the name triggers a warning. If, say, you're an airport security official (or ticket agent) and you are faced with a couple or single parent whose name is not on a no-fly list, but have an infant or toddler whose name (which they have given you voluntarily) is on a no-fly list, do you really think this child is a security risk because of their name?

If you answered yes, then please don't join the service industry, or God forbid, take any job where my future safety might depend on your decisionmaking.

Second: when contacted for comment, the TSA informed CNN that in fact these stoppages were incorrect. Although that might be cause for relief, let's look at why: according to CNN it's because " the Transportation Security Administration, which administers the lists, instructs airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12 -- or select them for extra security checks -- even if their names match those on a list."

In other words, there is a rules-based hole in the security system. Bad enough that they're trying to fix an incredibly stupid failure with a blanket policy - however, they've gone a step farther and 'fail-open'-ed the process with that policy. I'm not saying that a 1-yr-old is going to be a security risk. However, if someone is willing to bomb an aircraft with children on it, what are the odds that they would stop at using a willing (or unknowing) child to help them get a device onto the plane?

I have no way of actually rating the likelihood of that threat, but the point is: in order to fix a false positive (which occurred for stupid reasons, namely that for some reason there is not enough individual judgement allowed for a 1 year old to pass through security because simply of a no-fly list entry) the TSA has resorted to blanket policies which in fact weaken the (already laughable) system.

And this agency is part of the department that thinks it shouldn't have to put up with Congressional oversight over its attempts to control the rights of Americans to travel or to acquire their personal information for unspecified ends.

More here is broken than a security system. Much, much more.

Posted by jbz at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

Cindy Sheehan doesn't get to 'go on with her life,' Mr. President. That's the whole point.

So our Commander-in-Chief apparently thinks that Cindy Sheehan having something to say to her President is 'part of the job.' "But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

Cindy Sheehan, and most importantly Casey Sheehan, won't ever be able to 'go on with their lives,' Mr. President. Whether you can 'go on with yours' frankly isn't the fucking point. This isn't about you. I know it's hard to cope with.

Posted by jbz at 4:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DHS doesn't like oversight, seeks patsy.

Bruce Schneier comments on a story in Wired documenting the latest attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to avoid not only complying with any reasonable attempt at protecting your identity and associated data, but in fact to escape any Congressional oversight over their actions.

Read this. Let your representative know that the Domestic Surveillance arm of the United States Government is seeking to evade his or her oversight.

Didn't we once castigate the USSR for organizational behavior like this? Where are the 'Real Republicans' now?

Posted by jbz at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2005

TIME Viewed Askance

TIME magazine is running a story in which it purports to have evidence, gained as part of an investigative report, documenting widespread Iranian interference in Iraq both prior to and since the U.S.-led invasion. The report, breathless in terms of what's going on and extremely light on specific evidence (many "classified documents state that..." and "military intelligence sources say...") leads up to some troubling questions, and not just those offered by TIME.

First of all, why this coverage now? Is it because the evidence was not available earlier? If so, where is this evidence - or, if I can't see it, who can in order to verify it?

Second, what comments has TIME sought from U.S. policymakers, if any? The report does not mention any official requests for comment, or any attributed sources of information or responses.

Third, if Iran is acting in the manner described, is it a monolithic policy? Or is it the actions of multiple interest groups/actors inside Iran's government and military?

With respect to TIME (well, some) and more to other journalists who present this, I am forcibly reminded of the media blitz involving other 'intelligence sources' and non-attributed folk, who assured us that Iraq contained WMDs and 9/11 links. While this story serves to point out an area of trouble, it comes across (to me) as dangerously vague - it is too vague (or light on evidence) to support serious prodding of the policy establishment. At the same time, it is a serious enough description of a problem that it could certainly be used to galvanize support for punitive action versus Iran, even without further verification.

That's where we got into all this trouble last time.

Given Iran's current nuclear games with the IAEA and the world community in general, along with other disturbing hints of the U.S. Executive's preference to extend punitive measures to Iran, this story really raises more suspicion in me of domestic agendas than of Iran. If the world's only superpower had just taken down my next door neighbor, you can damn well bet I'd have as many assets as possible inside it.

I should state, in expectation of the wingnuts, that I don't in any way support Iranian assistance to the Iraqi insurgency - although I can certainly understand it. Oh, and if any of them have trouble figuring out how someone can 'understand' something without 'supporting' it, they can fuck off right now as too half-wit to begin arguing with (yes, this has come up via email).

TIME needs to produce this evidence, not a broad-brush set of assertions. I want to see this evidence, or (minimally) I want as many people as possiblenot employed by the Bush Administration to view it and declare it genuine.

Posted by jbz at 9:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Don't shop at Wal-Mart.

If they ask you why, give them this.

Posted by jbz at 1:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2005


Yep, this is helping. I want to see those emails, surely, but now I'm very very interested in what those two gentlemen had to say, as well as public record of where they are now, what they did, and when.

Innocent until proven guilty.

To those organizing these charades, if this is true: look in the mirror. Call yourselves citizens of the United States of America. If you have to look away, or if you mumble, there may be hope for you.Pick up a phone and call a journalist with principles, and talk to them now.

Posted by jbz at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

A slightly less ranty answer to why I have a problem with NYC subway searches

(posted to The Agonist thread on the NYC Subway Searches)

The primary thing that has disturbed me has been the zeal with which certain people who advocate them seem to be approaching their use to find things other than bombs. To quote from Mr. Browne, the NYPD spokesman in the NYT:

"Obviously we're going to use common sense for someone that appears to be an imminent threat." For example, he said, if a passenger with a large package had both fists clenched, police officers would be justified in searching him. Anyone found to be holding illegal drugs or weapons is subject to arrest, he said.
(source here).

Others have addressed the issue of 'common sense' and profiling. This doesn't sound at all like the rigid 20% random. But for the moment, I'm much more concerned with the 'anyone holding illegal drugs or weapons is subject to arrest.' I'm not concerned that their holding such items makes them subject to arrest, but I'm sure concerned with how those items were discovered. A security measure, of (at the very least) debatable constitutionality, put in place for what some see as PR reasons, has been (before it is even in place) 'extended' to another purpose - and has become a checkpoint for searching subway users for evidence of other misbehavior. Illegal drugs on their person have nothing to do (in the immediate sense) with the security threat posed by mass destruction weapons.

That's the problem I have. Once checkpoints like these are in place, and become accepted parts of society, then they can quickly and easily be stretched and perverted into instruments of control in other ways. Before anyone fires this at me, yes, I understand that denying the government the use of this tactic may mean giving up some level of safety assurance. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. How long before I am required to present a national I.D. card to use the subway in my home town? This is not the political and social structure I want - and while random bag searches do not, in themselves, bring in into being, they are a significant step in the creation of an infrastructure (like Secure Flight) that provides the ability to impose controls on my actions and behavior that I strongly believe current interpretations of the Constitution deem illegal. It means that rather than relying on the difficulty of creating those infrastructures to protect us from abuse, we must drop back to relying on the integrity of every person and organization controlling those infrastructures - and no matter what party or person is controlling them, statistics and history says they will be abused at some point.

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July 28, 2005

Where's the family values now?

Like father...well, no, not like father.

Posted by jbz at 3:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Sometimes people ask me what's wrong with this country.

I like to show them things like this. I don't, for once, care what else might be true about anyone involved. All I need to know is that from what I can tell in the story, a photo service employee looked at a picture of a father kissing his naked newborn baby on the belly and decided to show this picture to the police. Furthermore, the police apparently somehow decided that this was sexual assault. Oh, and the mother was arrested for taking 'sexually explicit pictures.' Both were arrested. The father did six months in jail. There had better have been some pretty severe additional circumstances that we're not being told about.

What fucking planet are these people from? I don't even know where to start.

UPDATE: HA! Okay. So there were, in fact, pretty severe addition circumstances: this story has much more detail. I am wrong and again, went off half-cocked with not enough info. The fact that a similar case was ruled to be a cultural difference and the defendant was judged innocent is quite interesting. I make no judgement on this man's innocence or guilt; I offer this link to point out simply that there was another source for the story which offered additional information, demonstrating that I was reacting to severely restricted info. Whoops. Get the facts, J.B.

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July 25, 2005

The 12-hour gap

Mr. Gonzales, Watergate is calling.

This is one we will be hearing about, and should have been hearing a lot more about during Mr. Gonzales' confirmation hearing, were certain people doing their jobs. It appears that back in 2003, when the CIA first referred the matter of Valerie Plame to the DOJ for criminal investigation, the prosecutor's office called the White House Counsel to inform him that in fact there would be a criminal investigation regarding the source of the leak. That counsel, at the time, was our now-Attorney General Gonzales.

Gonzales tells us that he instructed his staff to ask the DOJ if the notification to the rest of the White House of the investigation could wait until the following morning, as it was around 8pm at the time of the call and most of the staff had left. The DOJ is said to have replied that that would be fine. Gonzales duly informed the President and others of the investigation first thing in the morning the next day - as part of that notification, all were legally informed that they must preserve any relevant records so as to ensure evidence was protected from destruction.

However, Gonzales has just testified that at 8pm, just after receiving the notification, he called the White House chief of staff (Andy Card?) and told him of the investigation.

What we don't know is who Andy Card informed, and when. We don't know if Gonzales included the 'preserve evidence' admonishment in that warning, as it was an 'informal chat.' We do know that all members of the White House staff carry Blackberry pagers or other means of off-hour communications.


If Nixon's 18.5 minute gap in a tape was relevant as hell to Watergate, what, precisely, does this 12-hour gap in notification mean?

Note carefully: We do not yet know if anyone other than Andy Card was told. We don't know that anything was done to destroy evidence. However, we do know that the one purpose of the notification of investigation is to legally require those notified to preserve evidence. It seems odd that Ashcroft's DOJ waited until 8pm to call the White House, and then agreed with Gonzales that it was okay to wait until the next morning to notify everyone else in the White House, trusting that the staff they had already informed would not leak the information to any of the other staff in the White House - defeating the purpose of the warning.

None of this came up at Gonzales' confirmation.

We need to make sure it comes up now.

Posted by jbz at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More grist from the 'trustworthy government' mill

Schneier on Security gives us a brief rundown on the disaster that is the TSA and Secure Flight. If you intend to fly commercial air transport in the United States in future, and think that Orwell may have had any sort of point, read this now.

When government surveillance programs not only begin collecting data on citizens, but do so in direct contravention of the law - not only standing laws, but their own charters specifically designed to prevent such activitiy - and their only response when caught out is to 'revise their privacy notice' then it's time to shut them down.


It sort of boggles my mind that people are worried about scanners that might be able to see through their clothes, and yet stuff like this seems to not ring bells. I'm not saying that there isn't a risk of abuse of the former. I'm just saying that if my own choice is between the risk of some security screener giggling mentally at an X-Ray-Spex pic of me on a TV screen as I walk through, one of thousands, or the risk of an unaddressable government organization accruing my travel and personal data to put in a 'scoring' system which I cannot find out any information about, nor correct mistakes if they occur, well, duh. If you said 'oh, the risk of someone seeing me naked' is the real threat, I offer for your consideration the splendid job of protecting your interests being done by the credit bureaus (/snark), and their activities are relatively open. Once your data is in TSA, as Mr. Schneier says, all it takes is that one law - or worse, one bad employee - to make it available for all kinds of other reasons to stop you from traveling, or 'keep tabs on' where you go.

All without any form of accountability. If this agency is willing to publicly and casually ignore Congress, why should it feel any responsibility to you?

Posted by jbz at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

Bloomberg takes a turn down Surveillance Street, and the NYT uses up an entire week's worth of 'he said' in one shot.

This is partially in response to a recent question about how, precisely, I feel that my life is affected by 'control' since 9/11. This is not meant to answer the question in specific, but more in terms of 'tone.' Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD/MTA have provided the perfect example: New York City Police and Transit Authority have begun random searches of bags in the NYC subway system.

This is not simply a matter of 'checking for terrorists.' On display here is the fundamental problem with the motives and methods behind this sort of measure, as explained by the police department spokesperson in this quote:

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said, "Obviously we're going to use common sense for someone that appears to be an imminent threat." For example, he said, if a passenger with a large package had both fists clenched, police officers would be justified in searching him. Anyone found to be holding illegal drugs or weapons is subject to arrest, he said.
I'm not even sure where to start with that.

'Both fists clenched?' In other words, relatively common body language is now considered justifiable cause for stopping and searching me? Not only that, but if you're stopping and searching me because you think I might be an immediate threat to other passengers on the subway system - well, guess what. If you happen to find illegal drugs, gee, might as well arrest me for those, too. Never mind that the original intent of these searches had nothing to do with illegal drugs. But while we have you there, and since we're going to be in your stuff anyway, well, why not?

Because that's the entire problem.

It gets worse.

William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. "If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive," he said. Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public's confidence. "The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," he said. "So this has a benefit of perception."
In other words, there is little to no chance of these searches actually catching someone with something nasty in their hands. However, there is a chance it might deter someone. Um, sure. In the same way 24/7 security video coverage, with a much greater chance of a live operator, deterred the London bombers? So what are we left with? We're left with the fact that it might make people feel safer. And that, guess what, they can use these stops to go hunting in your belongings for other infractions that have little or nothing to do with the safety of other passengers on the subway.

And why do they think this is a wonderful idea that people will support?

Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that passengers might be inconvenienced. "It's a complex world where, sadly, there are a lot of bad people," he said. "We know that our freedoms are threatening to certain individuals, and there's no reason for us to let our guard down."
Yes. Apparently, our freedoms are threatening to the fucking Transit police and the NYPD, as well as to the Department of Homeland Security, the Bush Administration, and every fucking I'd-rather-whimper-and-trust-the-nice-Government-man-than-think LOSER who stood for a sound bite or turned a voting switch because they wanted things back the way they were and didn't care what they had to give up to get it. Or, worse yet, couldn't be fucking bothered to think about what they were giving up by doing so.

Posted by jbz at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

Senator Santorum, Your Beard is Calling.

Apparently, the Senator's Director of Communications may have confirmed in a recorded phone call that he is, in fact, an out gay man. When asked why he backs the notoriously homophobic Senator Santorum, he hung up. Now, BlogACTIVE and PageOneQ are definitely not unbiased, so we'll see if this is verified by any other sources (i.e. other sources verifying they've heard the claimed tape) or if this is a hoax.

But it really makes me wonder. What kind of beaten craving for acceptance would it take to compartmentalize myself to that degree?

Posted by jbz at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

"Oops" doesn't cut it.

While this may come across as harsh, I really don't plan to cut Douglas Feith much slack for just now admitting the *possibility* of error in planning for the Iraq War. Given that he resigned his post in January, the extremely watered-down 'clarifications' he makes in this story don't even warrant raised eyebrows.

Furthermore, I have to admit to a bit of annoyance and the fervant hope that this man does not ever hold a position involving forming policy for our nation's military again - not without an open and thorough inquiry into the planning process of this war, and if it went wrong. Given the tendency of people who are deeply connected to massive fuckups in American policymaking to somehow mumble mea culpas and then end up consulting for a few years before popping up again in another government post, I think I will be keeping a bitter eye peeled for Mr. Feith.

You fucked up, Feith. You and your team fucked up, and people died, and are dying. Our people. Their people. Mumbling about 'I am not asserting to you that I know that the answer is, we did it right.' doesn't impress me. Saying "We fucked up," clearly and with force, might actually do so.

Of course, then you'd have Karl Rove and his character assassins on your ass, wouldn't you?

Really, this seems like more of a 'wishful thinking' on the WaPo's part than anything like real admission of potential error. However, I didn't see the interview.

Posted by jbz at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

Eliot Cohen's Rethink

Eliot Cohen's 'rethink' of the Iraq war seems a tad disingenuous to me. I have no doubt that the man has conviction, and has thought deeply about the issue; that much is clear. However, what actually frightens me about that two page question and answer is this: he spends the second page talking about how the Iraq war compares favorably, in terms of American policy adaptation (quicker, for the same lessons learned) - to Vietnam.

Um, Mr. Cohen, if you recall, the endgame in Vietnam was not really one which we favored. It certainly was not one which I feel comfortable saying that we should have gone to war to get, even over Saddam Hussein. Do I approve of Saddam Hussein? Hell, no. Quite the contrary, I agree with you wholeheartedly that he and his were bad, bad people - and that a war to remove him and his ilk from power in the Iraqi state was something that I (as a self-described Liberal American) could (and did) advocate. However, both now and at the time, there was a critical difference - I and many others like me wanted an endgame. The endgame that you admit, now, you are upset that the current civilian prosecutors of the conflict can't seem to find with both hands, a map, all of GPS and four LORAN systems. They overrode not only academic wisdom, which is certainly no sign of negligence necessarily, but their own military professionals - the same cadre your son is joining. The same group of Americans who are spending their blood on those same sands.

You say history cannot provide lessons, only perspective and context. I don't buy that. There were no shortage of people clamoring stridently, armed with lessons from history (not just context), for a clear and specified endgame. Colleagues of mine on the planning group inside the U.S. Army, for example. Overridden by civilians who agreed that no, there were no lessons to be drawn - because 'the new technology' and 'the new way of war' made any such lessons obsolete.

How many times have we had to learn the lesson that they are now refusing to learn - and that your son and his colleagues are being forced to study for them, although they well know the text?

Read our books again, sir.

If a 'flicker of rage' is all you can muster for the current disconnect between the civilian leadership of the Pentagon and even the the operational realities that are filtering through the news channels ("Last throes" != 33 dead from suicide bombs in one day, with numbers rising weekly; increasing sophistication of IED tech; engagements pulling in Syrian forces) then I would submit there are still lessons there that they can teach you - and that they are stronger than mere 'context' and 'perspective.'

Posted by jbz at 2:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The paranoid in me

...keeps watching the 'Peak oil' report snippets come in, and wonders if the Bush/Saud crew weren't looking at a report which knew all of this in 2000-2002, and decided better to have American troops already sitting on Iraqi oilfields. If that was the case, then the whole 'it's in the last throes' idiocy can be explained as wishful stalling tactics - not stalling until the insurgency is defeated or goes away, but stalling until the oil crunch gets bad enough that the constituency doesn't care. I keep hearing this line of Cliff Robertson's from the end of Three Days of the Condor:
Higgins: Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and
they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger
start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us
to get it for 'em! 

...and hence are self-important, messianic delusional 'saviors' born.

Like I said, having a paranoid moment.

Posted by jbz at 1:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

How to become ill in one easy step.


I had this link thrown at me in an insulting message a few days ago, in response to a post I made on the internet. I have no problem with that. I made the post, and invited the comment. I hadn't read the diatribe before, however, and was somewhat fascinated to finally do so.

I can't figure out what's worse, however,, of course I can. It's the response postings.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of government, most especially the one I deal with daily because it holds sway over the land I live in. I have no special qualifications to sound off about this. I am no sage. You shouldn't listen to me. I'm just posting this because sometimes it helps me to write this stuff down.

This thought train was nudged by the recent bombing attacks in London. The (unfortunately) standard aftermath of argument between the Security-versus-Liberty simplified talking points flared up again immediately, particularly in the specific issue of national identity cards in the United Kingdom. I won't go into the actual arguments of whether the things work or not, leaving that to those more qualified than I. However, it brought up one of my more well-worn thought tracks - that of the increasing amount of power available to the individual actor in modern society.

This is something that my compatriots and I have been discussing for quite some time - and yes, folks, since long before 9/11. Airliners were specifically used as examples (and of course not just by us - examples abound now of those warning of that danger). In essence, the amount of energy that an individual actor can seize and wield has risen geometrically since the advent of gunpowder arms. Even discounting high energy WMDs (although of course that may be premature), the amount of energy available to the average non-criminal in Western society is immense compared to, say, the serf of the 1600s.

And, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

The problem, of course, is that people are opting out of responsibility as fast as they possibly can. Personal responsibility is a thing of the past. Not my fault is an even bigger and more popular mantra than visualize world peace. This isn't an attempt to blame lawyers, before anyone accuses me of that; I'm not actually sure where the cycle starts. But it's fairly clear. It's not my fault, and even more pernicious, it's not my problem - these are the watchwords of the day.

As Fuckwit Boortz says, "Individual achievement." Make your own pile, and don't let the feds take it from you! Damn those poorly-choosing junkies and poor people, and damn Hillary for trying to spend your hard-scrabbled cash on their medical care. Not my problem. On the other side of the coin? "Not their fault." Kids shoot up schools because nobody noticed they were stockpiling firearms in their rooms? Oh, it's not their *parents'* fault, it must be those evil video game companies. Spill coffee? Burn yourself? Not *your* fault. (I'm gonna get shit for that reference). A burglar breaks into your house and drowns in your pool? It's not their fault - it's yours for having an unsafe pool.

Yes, those are two sides of an argument. Yes, there's a nebulous center.

It's called judgement.

It used to be, as far as I can tell, available to all. What the fuck happened? Apparently now, it needs to be defined in thick contract law and insurance waivers the size of telephone books - because no-one is capable of exercising it anymore. Or perhaps it's too profitable not to.

Back to the thread.

Here's the problem. The 'conservatives' (I have to use quotes, because I'm talking about the ones who support the Bush administration's ballooning of the Federal government's policing, spy, and fiscal powers into something the 'liberal' administrations haven't even come close to in fifty years) would have us believe that liberals are woolly, groupthink, wishy-washy pack thinkers who value equality over liberty and would (as Rove said) would offer 'therapy' to our enemies.

On the other hand, their solution to the ever-increasing amount of individual power is to try to police it. To stomp down on the individual and the individual's freedom. To deal with the increasing energy available to the individual in the form of larger SUVs and private aircraft and, yes, industrial processes which can produce explosives, and public transport systems which deal in the production and control of large amounts of kinetic energy, by trying harder and harder to put the genie back into the bottle. By trying to pursue the fantasy of absolute control over the actions of people. Whereas at the same time, the base (the proper philosophical base) of their own party is founded entirely on the notion that it is impossible to stamp out the freedom that an individual wields if he or she wants it badly enough - that the one thing a government cannot do (in the ability and the moral sense) is to try to exert positive control over a single actor at all times. That what a government can (and should) do is to aggregate the power of those single actors, so that they can stand up to aggregated external threats greater than any they might face alone.

I'm sorry, this is getting muddled. They always get muddled coming out of my brain onto the screen.

Essentially, though, I think that's it:

Industry, science and technology means the energy available to people is increasing.

The American Revolution and resultant government is based (at least in part) on the assumption and plan that you cannot positively control the actions of individuals at all times - and that because of this, you must rely on the actions of those individuals to maintain aggregate (not perfect) order in the society.

The mechanisms the Bush administration and the Neocon movement and the paranoid component of the American public are fearfully pursuing are designed and intended to pursue positive control (or, at the very least, absolute negative control, which is terrifyingly close) of the actions of all persons within the continental U.S. and no few people without.

The 'liberals' - and, thank whatever we all hold Important, some few Republicans, finally - who deign to question the wisdom of these measures, are being denounced as 'traitors' and 'treasonous' - which, for those who have problems with that description, is what 'giving comfort to the enemy' is officially called. Look up Rove's comment again.

Therefore, I have to ask -

Where the fuck are the so-called Conservatives?

And what the fuck have they done with my Constitution?

Because I want it back.

Posted by jbz at 8:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 5, 2005

Senator Santorum Apparently Couldn't Get Laid Here.

So. Recent unpleasantness in the Catholic Church being a bit of a touchy issue with many inhabitants of our fair town, you might expect a U.S. Senator to be at least a bit circumspect about discussing it. At the very least, you might expect them to, say, refrain from loudly telling the Church that our town's corrupting influence really makes this less their fault.


It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

I have this feeling the good Senator couldn't get laid here. Or that, worse yet, some of the folks he seems so terribly frightened of might have once been interested in the poor boy. Maybe even in this here town.

Of course, from his ranting, you can be relieved and assured that if said prurient interest occurred in a church, the good Senator surely understands that the corrupting nature of all those damn liberals are really what caused his poor innocent country body and soul to suffer.

Not the priests carrying out the abuse. Oh dear me no.

Unless, of course, he really enjoyed it, which is the reason it's not a problem for him. In which case, I envy him and think he should bravely tell the world of his newfound respect for NAMBLA and their ilk.

But no, the Senator writes to remind us of our expected stance towards the Catholic Church:

As a Catholic U.S. Senator, I am proud to see the Church, often alone, take one courageous stand after another on the great moral issues of the day: abortion, cloning, third world debt relief, AIDS and the breakdown of the family to name a few. The Catholic Church remains true to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the dictates of the natural law. Through 2000 years, the Church, built upon rock, has survived every arrow sinful man has shot at her from within and without. Another arrow has been loosed from within, piercing the Body of Christ. The time is now for the laity to come to her aid. We must heed the call of Christ through his Vicar on earth: Climb into Peter's boat and go into the deep!

I'm sure that the victims of abuse by priests sheltered and protected by father Church, as well as their families and friends, will be relieved to know that you clearly consider betrayal by not only the priests but their superiors not one of the great moral issues of the day for that institution. Furthermore, it's such a comfort to know that we can all make things better by 'Climbing into Peter's boat' and 'go[ing] into the deep!'

Man. At least the article is called 'Fishers of Men' rather than 'Fishers of Boys.' But you know, it sure didn't feel that way.

I have great sympathy for those Catholics whose faith is challenged by the behavior of those few who have betrayed the trust put in them, from the priests involved to those who covered up their acts. It's not my church. I tend to view the entire sequence of events as a series of pedophile crimes, and treat them as such. But for politicians who either a) are insensitive enough to gloss over the suffering of people of their own faith with divisive sniping over how it's the fault of 'their liberal city' or b) calculating enough to write this sort of an article in an attempt to secure votes from an ideologue Catholic base outside of Massachusetts - well, I'm not sure which is worse, but both fill me with nothing but contempt.

Senator Santorum, you're fucking scum. And from here in Boston, I'd like to see you give that little speech somewhere in South Boston on a street corner, and we'll see how well it does you. I don't claim to be of like mind with the Catholic population of Boston on much, nor to be speaking for anyone but myself - but if I was at that streetcorner, even as a more recent Bostonian, you'd not feel welcome.

The good Senator seems to want your feedback (or maybe just your dollars, if the credit card ads on the page are any indication, I don't know) since he includes his contact information:

Contact:  Senate Republican Conference  DC, US
Senator Rick Santorum - Senator, 202-224-9068
Send him your thoughts today!

Posted by jbz at 9:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

You're not their supporters. They're your elected representatives.

Don't let them treat you like this no matter what you believe, no matter who you support, no matter what you're wearing or why you're there. So long as you have behaved in a civil manner, they are your elected leaders and they are responsible to you - not the other way around.

I understand that the Secret Service is torn - they absolutely should be reticent about divulging any information about security arrangements at events like this. Who is and isn't an agent, who has what duty - this is all information that I can see as being tightly held, and properly so.

But in this case, I am heartened to hear that they have opened a criminal investigation. They have apparently remembered something that the White House would do well to remember - the Secret Service doesn't work for the Executive Branch.

They work for the Treasury. At least, before this entity called the Department of Homeland Security, that is.

And there was a reason for that.

They're not anyone's private errand boys and girls. They're not anyone's political operatives. They're not there to help keep dissenters out.

They're there to protect the life and wellbeing of their principal. That's all. That's what my taax money pays them to do, and I don't want them thinking about anything else. I don't want them subject to any other duties, orders, or potentially conflicting tasks. Protect the men and women we've elected or appointed. That's it.

And if someone else has been impersonating them? That person is jeopardizing the security of the President of the United States, not to mention abusing the powers granted the Secret Service to perform that task for the reprehensible purpose of quelling dissenting views.

Find them and prosecute them. If the Secret Service knows who that person is, then they need to refer that name to a federal prosecutor right now.

Posted by jbz at 2:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

It just gets worse.

Gee, we didn't even wait for the chair to get cool, did we?

How fucking brazen can you get.

"Mission accomplished, old boy. C'mon home."

Posted by jbz at 2:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 13, 2005


Sigh. Mr. Cunningham, I'm impressed by your attempt to soothe your hyperconservative base, but frankly, I don't give a rat's ass if you've ever 'smoked a marijuana cigarette.' I do, however, care a great deal if you accepted a $700,000 gift from a military contractor while sitting on the defense appropriations subcommittee - and that contractor's business then suddenly began to garner contracts in Iraq worth tens of millions of dollars, to the point where their web site boasts about their revenue growth starting around the same date as the 'gift' transaction.

Welcome to big business in government, America.

Does the term conflict of interest mean anything to the willful fuckwits currently running this house of fools? Whether or not contracts were awarded as a result of this transaction is an entirely separate point - this transaction should have been disallowed strictly based on the current positions held by the transactors. I mean, seriously.

Posted by jbz at 1:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 12, 2005

Here we go.

It's really a pity that it takes other countries' leaked memos to get our own media to report things that were clear as crystal to analysts (no, not me) here at home during the events in question.

Could the so-called 'liberal media' start asking the tough questions, finally? Please? Pretty please? It's not like we haven't waited for too many years and too many lives.

Posted by jbz at 11:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2005

I'm terribly sorry you don't like hearing it.

Some of us didn't want the fucking thing in the first place. We know it's difficult to comprehend that we might be upset with the uses to which it's already been put. But (and I do apologize for trotting out a pithy quote, but the gentleman in question is eminently quotable): "The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home."

Yeah, he was one of those dangerous liberals.

Oh, and pardon the snark, but I had thought the GOP was busy trying to explain to everyone that it was Democrats who were in the habit of 'unconstitutionally' shutting off discussion in the Congress when they didn't like someone's opinions?

Posted by jbz at 3:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 9, 2005

Getting warm in here? Nah. Imaginary.

Again, for anyone who feels the Administration has either their citizen's interests or the truth in mind: read then return and defend, please.

Want more specifics? Oh, okay.

Of course, we can't get the 'editor' in question's take on the whole thing. Why? Because according to the NY Times: A White House spokeswoman, Michele St. Martin, said yesterday that Mr. Cooney would not be available to comment. "We don't put Phil Cooney on the record," Ms. St. Martin said. "He's not a cleared spokesman."

Well, no, not anymore. Not now that the fact that he spent his career as a lobbyist for the oil industry and has no scientific training is part of the story and is public knowledge, nope. Can't do that. Of course, when the words he was producing and modifying were for speaking or presentation by our government, and to be released under the names of scientists who actually were trained, but disagreed with him - well, that's fine. As long as nobody knew that he was back there with his magic marker.

The sheer brazenness of the dishonesty is what staggers me. They couldn't just find any flack to edit the preferred point of view onto the scientific report, no no. They had to have the actual oil industry lobbyist do it. Un-be-fucking-lievable.

Posted by jbz at 6:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tarring and Feathering

I love how it's not just disagreeing with the administration that makes me a traitor. Now its the very notion of wanting more information about something the administration hasn't even disputed the authenticity of that makes me a "lefty" "kook" who is "out to trash the country."

Sometimes I wish I was gay and Muslim. Then I could really round out the American bigotry hatred target package right there...lessee: liberal, northeastern, academic, black, Jewish descent, rationalist, gay, Muslim...all right! I could be these good ol' folks convenient target wet dream!

In other news, some GOP types apparently are having closet problems with their identity. Described as a 'White, Christian party' by Howard Dean, Ken Mehlman (RNC Chair) retorted: "We gotta get ourselves beyond this point where when we disagree about politics, we call the other guy names." Uh. Call them names? Unless you yourself think 'white, Christian' is an insult, Ken ol' boy, that sounds a lot more like an observation. Of course, y'all is 'white, Christian' yourself, right?

Unless you're just saying you didn't like his tone. In which case, you could have just said that.

But that sounds like whining, doesn't it?

Posted by jbz at 3:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 7, 2005

Anyone who still thinks the current administration has their best interests in mind as a private citizen, raise their hand.

Then go read this. Then come back and tell me that with a straight face. Really. I'd like to hear the rationale.

Posted by jbz at 2:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 2, 2005

I can't even come up with a snarky title for this.

...but I'll try to when I comment on it later. Stories in reverse chronological order, read from the bottom. Pay particular attention to the interview with Gov. Taft early on in the unfolding chaos and fuckery as he vigorously defends Mr. Noe, and angrily attacks the investigating newspaper for attacking this good man. Then keep reading.

The letters written by outraged Republicans defending their party members/belittling the newspaper are fun, too, if you enjoy schadenfreude as much as I - of course, the chances that reality could leak past the fingers these people have screwed tightly into their ears is fairly slim.

These are the people who we've voted into running this country. This is the way they do the business of governance. Compare Clinton's blowjob and the 'missing files of the travel office' to this whole affair, with Jeff Gannon stacked on top, coupled with WMD intelligence failure and the resulting war in Iraq with no fucking plan for stabilization or endgame coupled with ludicrous assumptions about warfighting made by a bunch of chickenhawk deskjockeys who overrode professional military officers resulting in the current instability...and then tell me who's a danger to American security and prosperity.

For a quick summary, the New York Times weighs in here.

Posted by jbz at 1:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

The Absolute Disposal of Truth and Disclosure

See here, for this. Scott McClellan attempts to evade a request to clarify a previous statement that the United States is in Afghanistan and Iraq 'by invitation' by saying he meant 'the invitation of the current governments' - conveniently forgetting how those governments came to be. When asked bluntly for a simple fact of history, to wit: "Did we invade Iraq?" McClellan refuses to answer and goes on to another questioner.

I'm not going to claim that this question was posed in a friendly manner (was it Helen Thomas? The transcript isn't entirely clear). However, that's not the point. McClellan is the spokesperson for the White House. His job is to answer questions, hostile and otherwise. Further down the transcript, he's asked about the recent FOIA FBI memo which shows that in fact there was a detainee at Guantanamo who claimd that U.S. guards treated him badly and flushed the Koran down a toilet in his sight. McClellan, after first checking that "This is a detainee, right?" comes back with (I shit you not) "There have been allegations made by detainees. We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind, as well."

In other words, he's answering the question by claiming that:

  • The detainee in question (who he couldn't recall was even a detainee) is, in fact, a member of al-Qaeda
  • That in fact there was no such action, or that at the very least this complaint from this detainee should be laid down to Al-Qaeda trained 'misinformation.'
Think about that.

He doesn't even know who this person is at the start of the question. However, he's quite comfortable telling us that the reason this detainee complained of bad treatment (it should be noted that this detainee is also reported to have said, according to the questioner, that he 'had nothing against the United States') is because the complaint is an Al-Qaeda 'misinformation' tactic.

This on the strength of the fact that he 'knows the Department of Defense has said publicly that they have found nothing to substantiate any allegations.' But it's not over. Immediately following that, he reverses course and claims that in fact this is an entirely different matter:

Q: Are you saying that there is no substantiation of any Koran desecration at all at Bagram or Guantanamo Bay?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you look back, I think the Department of Defense briefed last week, and they talked about the specific allegation that you're bringing up, and they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation. In terms of the handling of the Koran, that's a different matter, and they have talked about that, so you might want to look back at what they've said.

Huh? First he was telling us that this story was because of Al-Qaeda's liking for misinformation tactics, and that it was likely so because the DoD 'hasn't been able to substantiate' any such claim (note carefully that this would require them to actually try to find evidence either way - whether that's in their best interests is left as an exercise for the reader). Now, all of a sudden, the Koran is a 'different matter' and everything he doubletalked earlier no longer applies to that answer. In other words, he just told us that despite his misdirective flailing, he didn't answer the question at all.

Next line?

[Mr. MCCLELLAN]: Go ahead, Goyal.

Q I have two questions, one on the goodwill visit of the First Lady. It looked like from the visit that she's representing well the United States and the President. She's very charming and friendly and outgoing. My question is here that there's an old saying there's always a great woman behind a successful man. How the President take this?

And they're off to the races talking about Mrs. Bush and how charming and friendly she is.

I'm going to go puke now.

Posted by jbz at 2:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

Faits accomplis ou coup de main?

I live at the end of a street. To be more precise, I live on the last block of a many-blocks-long street. My house is the only residence on this last block. Across the street from us is rational drug design company. That same company purchased the complex that blocks the end of the street, then, in the parking lot that used to curve around behind our building, they built a corporate headquarters. All this is well and good, assuming I don't care to ask what's in my air and water (kidding. This land used to be a shipyard, they're probably cleaning it up) but for one small niggling thing. There's a small street that used to pass through along the back side of that second building, in a 'T' intersection where my street ends. One leg of the T is still there; you can make a right turn at the end of my street and come out a driveway-looking exit onto the next street over. Taking a left, however, now drops you into the parking lot and loading dock of the headquarters building.

I notice that there is a publicly-accessible walkway between the headquarters building and the blocking building, though - along where that street used to run. I asked an acquaintance about that, since she's been around town for years and years and served on city council. "Oh," she said, "that's because legally that's still a street. They can't block public access to it."

Excuse me?

Yep. Apparently it's still a street.

Well, not really - now it's a narrow pathway between their emergency generators and the loading dock door, which opens up into the pavilion between their two building entrances (no vehicles). But according to maps, it's a street.

In a related note, parking on my street is 'unregulated' because commuters from that company park there during the day, meaning no parking permit is required. This is a good deal for us, since we can park there during the evening when they've gone home without a problem. However it means that my friend, who is somewhat infirm, had trouble getting a spot in front of our house, because with her parking permit, she wasn't guaranteed one - and if she left her car there overnight, legally, she was liable for a storage infraction.

We also noticed that our street didn't really get cleaned very frequently. The street cleaning crew would come down the street and turn short of our block. When we inquired, they told us it was because our block was a 'private way.' No, we told them, it's not. Oh, they said, disinterested.

I should note, in the interest of fairness, that *** corp is, in fact, an excellent neighbor. I have no complaints at all about them from the POV of living next door. Quite the contrary; I commend them highly, speaking only as a property owner who has coexisted with them side by side. They've never done wrong by me, and their facilities crew are top-notch to deal with in the infrequent event of problems or during the inevitable issues that crop up ("Oh, the fence is going bad. Hm, shall we split the cost? Sounds good to me...") with real estate.

Recently, our town began to do a multi-year upgrade of its sewage and storm drain systems. Our street (along with every other street in the area) has been ripped up at least four times in the past couple of years. Finally, a week or so ago, it was paved nicely for 'the final time.'

I came home today and noticed a sign posted at the entrance to our block, in official town Construction Orange, on a signpost embedded in the new tarmac.


Fucking excuse me?

Don't think so. I pay taxes for that street. I live on that street. I have had to endure it being paved four times, had to endure that process breaking my condo's water lines, had to deal with it not being cleaned, had to petition to have town parking signs put up on it just so the cleaning crews and garbage pickup crew wouldn't bypass it.

Nice try.

Couldn't get the signpost out of the tarmac all the way (it's at a 45-degree angle) but a crescent wrench got the sign right off there. I left it leaning against the building. Wouldn't want to be accused of stealing.

Posted by jbz at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 3, 2005

Red vs. Blue

No, unfortunately not the much more fun machinime of the same name. This time, it's John Tierney of the New York Times weighing in to condescendingly explain to coastal pundits why they're so very wrong about voters in the heartland and in the "Republican exurbs":
The favorite Democratic explanation is that the red staters are hicks who have been blinded by righteousness, as Thomas Frank argues in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" He laments that middle-class Kansans are so bamboozled by moral issues like abortion and school prayer that they vote for Republicans even though the Republican tax-cutting policies are against their self-interest.

But middle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.

They're not moving for the churches, and they don't vote for Mr. Bush simply because he reads the Bible every day. One of the main reasons they like him is that he gets bashed so often. When Jon Stewart sneers at him, they empathize because they're used to being sneered at themselves.

I see, Mr. Tierney. While we're talking about those 'economic reasons' let's have a look at this, shall we? Much discussed during and after the previous election, this report is nonetheless still illuminating - displaying the ratio of federal monies spent to federal taxes collected on a per-state basis. Those 'economic reasons' you cite that are provided by Republican politicians - jobs, lower taxes, etc. - are not free.

Let's leave the substantive claims entirely aside, however. Mr. Tierney appears (to me, I acknowledge) to be taking coasties to task for bashing Republicans - causing them to move to 'Red' states and vote for Mr. Bush, who they can 'empathize' with when he is sneered at by quintessential coastal liberals like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.

A quick aside - I remain astounded at the amount of influence attributed to Mr. Stewart and the Daily show by commentators who declaim loudly that those worthies are in fact non-mainstream and not much more than liberal mouthpieces, especially while describing the erosion of the left's influence.

In any case, Mr. Tierney, the point is not so much that some of us are shocked that middle America votes for Mr. Bush. We are in fact shocked that middle-class Americans are voting for Mr. Bush and, if they are chasing those carrots you list, that they are chasing such poisoned and illusory benefits. The GOP policy record has been a disaster for middle-class America. If your point is that middle-class Americans don't care about that, that they are 'voting with their feet' and with their ballots for Mr. Bush because they feel 'kicked around' by liberals who sneer at his malapropisms, it seems (to me, again) that you have an incredibly piss-poor opinion of the intelligence and analytical tendencies of those very voters.

But wait, that's what you're accusing me of, isn't it?

Posted by jbz at 2:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pat Robertson, Overreach, and Sheer Blithering Idiocy

According to the NY Daily News, Pat Robertson, host of the inexplicably popular '700 Club,' told interviewer George Stephanopoulos on ABC that he considered United States Federal Judges a greater danger to the United States and its citizens than Al-Qaeda. Now, while I don't hold the Daily News up as a shining example of journalism much of the time, I'll take their word on this one; it's a pretty easily verifiable bit of reporting:
"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy." Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down. "Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."

Is this really the kind of image of the world that a large number of American citizens hold? Honestly? I know that I come across as a ranting liberal bastard. I understand that. However, one thing I would like to be clear about is the following: I consider the safety of the United States - both the physical and the moral safety of the United States - of paramount importance. I know that some GOP strategists would have everyone believe that as a Democrat and liberal, I'd prefer to have the U.S. buried beneath threats foreign and domestic, but if I ever meet said strategists face to face, we'll see what they have to say about that. If we do meet, good luck to them getting out of it with 'heh, it's just a political strategy, don't take it personally' (yes, at least one Republican activist has told me that).

However, this is beyond the fucking pale. One of the prime reasons I hold the United States and its system up as examples I will defend is our judiciary. Far from 'eroding the consensus' the judiciary is in fact the embodiment of the consensus. The willingness of the citizenry to submit to the law as written, and as presided over by the judiciary, is (to me) the representation of the United States as a living, working thing - more than an idea, a functioning and vital organization that holds back Hobbes' 'State of Nature' day by day.

On the contrary, the 'erosion of the consensus' is, in fact, being carried out by those like Mr. Robertson, who seem to feel that the judiciary not slavishly interpreting the law as the current declared (note I do not say actual) majority demands. It wouldn't matter if it was the actual majority, either; that's not how the system works. The judiciary was explicitly set up as it was to prevent the mob from ruling. If Mr. Robertson doesn't understand that, he needs to return to fourth grade Civics, there to stay until he deigns to learn something.

If he won't do that, then, well, he's free to repeat his ridiculous assertions that American judges are worse for the Republic than the Nazis next time he's in my presence. As an American Jew, and a loudmouthed one to boot, I can assure him it will not be as...civil as Mr. Stephanopoulos' may have been on public television.

If you watch the 700 Club (and I can't imagine why you would, but that's my own problem) then please consider calling in and explaining to this maniac why he's wrong. Better yet, call any advertiser than buys time on this idiot's show (if there are any) and explain to them in detail why their advertising dollars are going to make it very difficult for you to purchase their products. Call television stations that run it and explain that you find it offensive (if you do) that this form of assault on our country's system is being promulgated on their airwaves.

Just don't let this loose cannon fuckwit just slide.

Posted by jbz at 3:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 1, 2005

If one more freeper wingnut tries to lecture me about judges

...I'm going to print out twenty-five copies of this and make sure every single one of his or her bodily orifices is plugged with them.

Of course, those judges were bad because Clinton nominated them. Blocking good, strict-interpretation conservative judges like the President has nominated is anti-American.

I swear to you, this has been presented to me, face to face, as justification. I did not resort to violence. But it took effort.

Posted by jbz at 3:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

Michael McGinnis was not, it turns out, trying to start something about GOD.

In response to my earlier defensive post, Mr. McGinnis wrote me a quite understanding and more-patient-than-he-could-have-been-expected-to-be email. As a result, I am pleased to say, we now seem to have come to a better understanding of what each other's position is; and as is only right, I wanted to announce this here so that none of the four point two people who read this screed left feeling that he had sniped, or sniped and then left...not at all the case.

Thanks, Mr. McG, for reading, and keeping me honest. I know it's a trying job.

Posted by jbz at 8:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

One thing that makes me proud to be a Vermonter

...(even if I only am in a very limited way) is Bernie Sanders.

Posted by jbz at 4:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hate them because their software sucks, or...

Pick another reason.

Posted by jbz at 2:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

So they start Young, apparently.

The lying doesn't come in at a later time. The Chairman of the Colorado Young Republicans, when confronted by two Democrats who were ejected from a speech given by President Bush by a man posing as a Secret Service agent as to who the man was and what he was doing at the event, replied that he wouldn't talk to them without his attorney being present - but declined to provide his attorney's name. The Secret Service, for their part, states that they do in fact know who the individual was, and that they are investigating that person for impersonating a Secret Service agent, but won't release their identity - but did say that the person admitted that they targeted the Democrats because of their bumper sticker identifying them as Democrats.

So: Someone was at the event, and was standing with the Chairman of the YR, pretending to be a Secret Service agent. He was conferring with said chairman. Said chairman won't discuss the matter without an attorney. The upshot of the incident was the barring of two American citizens from attending a speech by their president based purely on their avowed political leanings, by someone pretending to be a law enforcement officer - which is a crime.

None of these people are guilty until and unless a court determines them so. The chairman's response is his legal right - and also means that he, too, understands and recognizes that he is up to his neck in a criminal-case level barrel of badness.

And these are the people our president feels most comfortable having shield him from the American public.

Posted by jbz at 4:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

E*Trade and more reflexive information stupidity

So here I am, eager E*Trade customer. I have some funds (for once) in an account, and I'd like to do the sensible thing and open an IRA account of a type I do not presently own. E*Trade's website tells me happily that this process can be completed online "in minutes!" ...especially if the funds are available in an E*Trade account, which they are. Excellent. Start the process. I have no more than a reflexive twinge giving them my SSN, because a) they already have it for my brokerage account (handed to them by my employer, but that's another whole story) and b) because I'm asking them to initiate transactions with the government in my name. So, OK, that's sort of what this number is for.

All is well, and I'm five or six screenfuls of information in, when I get a screen which tells me "You may designate beneficiaries to receive your assets in the event of your death." Okay, that makes sense to me. This is about planning for the future, after all; I can have several beneficiaries, primary and contingent, yada, yada. Hm. Well, how about my young nephews - they're just the type to blow whatever meager amounts of lucre I might leave behind in a suitably irresponsible manner (hopefully on good Scotch and perhaps members of the fairer sex, or the same sex if they end up preferring that).

So I enter in my older nephew's info. He's around 3. After his name and address, it wants...his Social Security number. Hm. Well, he doesn't have one yet, I don't think; or at least, if he does, I don't have it.

But there's no way to tell it that. So I enter zeros.

Nope. BZZZT. Big fat error messages involving invalid SSNs.

Fine then; I'll take out the SSN entirely.


Now I'm a tad peeved, but that's still OK - I'll just open the account now and add them later, since I don't plan on kicking off this mortal coil in the next couple of days.

Nope. Despite telling me I may add beneficiaries here, apparently I must add them, or it won't let me open the fucking account.

So not only do I have to provide a beneficiary (which I'm a little annoyed about) but I have to provide someone else's Social Security Number in order to open my own fucking IRA.

What the fuck is up with that?

They confirm to me on the phone that no, there is no legal requirement for this information, and that I could fill out a paper application in which I did not offer a SSN for my beneficiary. I fail to see why I should be expected to have that information, given that it's information I'm not supposed to divulge to anyone else. Apparently, then, this is purely because the web application can't be bothered to handle the case where I might not want to disclose this information-I'm-not-really-supposed-to-have-about-other-people. What if I wanted to leave my assets to someone who wasn't my spouse or family member? Given that I don't have an immediate family of my own, this is not that unusual...and in my nephew's case, he may not even have one of the damn things yet.

E*Trade just lost some business.

Posted by jbz at 4:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Things that would get you or me fired...

...seem to have no effect on our President. Notably, having confirmed male prostitutes signing and out of their place of work using fake names at times which don't match their stated purpose of business.

If there's anyone to pity in this situation, it's the Secret Service, actually. These folks have to protect the principal, no matter what manner of heinously stupid crap said principal is up to; furthermore, they have to remain scrupulously neutral and avoid being a source of any information to anybody. This particular case the information is only available because it's a sign-in book that everyone has to hit, knows is there, and the people you're signing in are no stranger to FOIA requests.

Posted by jbz at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bolton: He Said, They Said

From Newsweek/MSNBC:

But the London story is further evidence that Bolton and the White House have their work cut out for them. On several occasions, America's closest ally in the war on terror, Britain, was irked by what U.S. and British sources say were efforts by Bolton to undermine promising diplomatic openings. Perhaps the most dramatic instance took place early in the U.S.-British talks in 2003 to force Libya to surrender its nuclear program, NEWSWEEK has learned. The Libya deal succeeded only after British officials "at the highest level" persuaded the White House to keep Bolton off the negotiating team. A crucial issue, according to sources involved in the affair, was Muammar Kaddafi's demand that if Libya abandoned its WMD program, the U.S. in turn would drop its goal of regime change. But Bolton was unwilling to support this compromise. The White House agreed to keep Bolton "out of the loop," as one source puts it. A deal was struck only after Kaddafi was reassured that Bush would settle for "policy change"surrendering his WMD. One Bush official called the accounts of both incidents "flatly untrue."

As Laura Rozen notes, Libya was supposed to be one of Bolton's successes. The Bush crew really doesn't seem to do all that thorough a job vetting people, does it? Or perhaps they just think it doesn't matter? In any case, while I find the additional time for investigation of Bolton encouraging, I find it disappointing that very few folks (and none in the Committee, it seems) want to touch the underlying issue. That issue, to me, is that despite continuing revelations about the man's past and behavior, and examples of his somewhat liberal attitude towards disclosure which he has apparently shown in the Committee room, the White House nominated him to represent this country and seems to want to stand firmly behind him.

Posted by jbz at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005


I love getting email directives about how I'm supposed to accept the incoming flood of action requests, pointless training time, wasted effort, disruption of routine and the like that Sarbanes-Oxley brings. I especially love it when they tell me that my role (and my best means of Helping The Company) is "not to question the measures or challenge their validity." It's a capper when said emails are finished off with platitudes about some people in higher authority (not necessarily those who wrote the email) know that I will do my best!

Allow me to offer one small piece of unlooked-for and highly-discouraged feedback: Never, ever tell an obstreperous Opgeek that his role is not to challenge or question something. Ever. Period. This is the surest way in all creation to spark the maximum prepared resistance to anything, be it the most benign and benevolent of measures; I know of Ops who will cheerfully start laying in siege plans to protest the addition of better snacks to their vending machines and the lowering of prices on said goodies if they are told not to challenge or question.

I mean, come on. It's our job to challenge and question. If we didn't do that, all you people Yertle-ing up at the higher end of the food chain wouldn't have services. You wouldn't have your useless fucking Siebel applications. You wouldn't have your immensely resource-intensive communications applications which need incessant care and feeding. Because, bluntly, if we followed the directives that flow from upstream about how to do the technical side of our jobs without questioning and challenging, you might as well give control of the datacenters to the sales organization - and we'll see how long we all last.

Note: I'm not talking about a particular company or organization here. I'm talking in general. This is one of those situations that comes up time and time again - someone at a higher level is involved in a piece of policy whose ramifications come down to the operations level inside the data center, and signs off on it. They do so either knowingly, in ignorance of the situation, or (frequently, to be fair) under duress. Then, these wonderful little missives get sent out. Never mind that the last fifty-seven pieces of useless corporate rah-rah speak from the Publicity Machine were all about how our New Corporate Culture is All About Pushing The Envelope and how we Question Everything In Order To Get Ahead or how we Challenge Boundaries Everyday. Nope, now, this time, don't question or challenge, just shut up and soldier.

Again, this is a generalization.

However, it's one I keep seeing. It's a behavior pattern that kills performance inside bottom-level teams where work gets done, and nothing ever changes. Let me give you one concrete example from the current bit of fuckery: Sarbanes-Oxley. This is shorthand for a whole series of controls and behavioral regulations on corporate organizations, only the smallest part of which (incidentally) deals with internal IT controls and systems, and then only indirectly. However, it is like a magic touchstone which gets pulled out whenever Security Policy du Jour is being floated, AFAICT. Hey! Let's make every user change their password on a strict, short rotating schedule, and require strong password characteristics! This is the kind of thing that sounds great on paper. And it's required for access controls to financial data by the Sarbanes-Oxley types!

What apparently didn't get through to the proposers of said measure (although in that case, I happen to know the group in question DID question and challenge) is that there are people who don't access financial data, and who only use the systems protected by those passwords (corporate LAN, which includes VPN access and other Ways In To Things) intermittently at best because their job doesn't require it. This means that they don't use that password regularly. Now, their sudden fast password churn on that particular access control, coupled with requirements for 'strong passwords' (heh) means that they are guaranteed to never be able to remember it when they do need it. So what do they do?

The obvious thing. They write it down on a sticky note and put it on their workstation. They don't think much about it because they only use that password to get to the corporate phone directory, which can't be that secret, right? They don't even think about what else it could be used to access - and, truthfully, that's not their job. It's the job of the people who implemented the policy - and the job of the people who proposed it.

There's the kicker. Usually, it's not so much the internal types who do this. It's some expensive 'Sarbanes-Oxley Auditor' (an outside firm) who 'recommends' the changes. Everyone nods. Then no-one questions. Or challenges.

I'm not claiming I know more about access control policy, or internal security policy, or in fact anything regarding the substantive issues, than those higher up the chain than me or their auditors. However, I am claiming expertise when it comes to the typical response pattern of those who work in my position. Regardless of how 'correct' the action items on S-O compliance are, couching them inside 'DO NOT CHALLENGE OR QUESTION' emails (before, in fact, a single email had been dispatched doing that, I should add) is somewhat akin to walking up to a group of bored lions while wearing a suit constructed entirely of top sirloin and shouting at them (in Lionspeak) "Do not in any way get any ideas about the steak sauce I am carrying in my briefcase."

Posted by jbz at 2:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

Provo, Novell, the decline of Western Civilization

So I was visiting the mothership out in Provo. Various people asked me, on my return, how I survived, how Provo was, all that sort of thing. I'd been careful to avoid going out there, managing to survive around eighteen months of corporate acquisition without doing so. I have to say, I spent all of my time in the corporate office with my team (IS&T DataCenters, woo) and I had a great time. No propaganda (if you read this blog, you'll know that's not what it's here for, heh). It was good to meet everyone I hadn't yet, face to face. It was good to explain to everyone out there what Peter Pouliot and I do out in the Monkeyhouse back East, and why we do it. I tried (and hopefully succeeded) in getting across the fact that for all our ranting, we're not 'Enterprise-class' Ops - we're small-business Ops. That's what Ximian was. That's what Peter and I have done in our experience, and that's what we're still doing, sort of, working in a satellite developer office and working in an 'experimental' datacenter facility. When we start ranting about Linux and practices and why/how to do things, we're evangelizing The Small Business Op Way - seat of the pants with no backup, just MAKE IT WORK. We are also evangelizing the Linux Way - even in Enterprise Solutions, you can Make It Work without blindly spending money and trusting a vendor who has a good story. You can make it work with free (as in beer and as in speech) tools, with your own brain, and with systems you build yourself and you can watch run.

What we do not know is how Novell as a Big Company(tm) runs its Enterprise Data Centers so as to remain compliant with the many regs and requirements that such an operation finds itself saddled with - requirements that may be reasonable and necessary (redundancy, safety, disaster recovery, security) or maybe overlegislated crap (coughSarbanes-Oxleycough) but are requirements nonetheless. Furthermore, we have never had access to the resources that Novell Data Centers have to solve problems - real storage systems, actual hot backup servers, actual spares chains and service contracts with reasonable response times, the luxury of reviewed solution proposals, other people who monitor systems, etc. etc.

So my point is that my visit out there was incredibly valuable to me (and to those who have to listen to my rants) because it gave me a chance to see what sort of tools I might actually have access to, and what sort of expertise my colleagues out there have that I might be able to go tap. Rather than airily saying on a diagram 'insert Real Storage System here' I can (and should) pick up a phone/IM/email and find someone who does that for a living and say "hey, what would I put here?" and put that there.

Now, Provo.

Provo was beautiful, in that 'Ooh! Look! Mountains!' sort of way. I'm from Manhattan, so anything over, say, thirty feet high is a novelty. It's handy to always know that East is that way. I even find the grid street system nostalgically handy (Manhattanite, again). Provo itself, however, sort of reminded me of nothing so much as the worst bits of Route 1 New Jersey, cloned by a demonic SimCity player and laid out in grid form. Miles of tiny stripmalls and little Sixties-era storefronts, with crappy BYU student housing interspersed with gas stations and cluttered signage. And no trees. Anywhere.

I'm fairly sure that all the nice places to live are somewhere else, like, say, up in those mountains that are visible from anywhere. I didn't go there, of course, because I was driving a Ford POS which didn't evince confidence on a flat road, much less up where there was still snow. From what people were telling me, the real estate pricing was such that even folks on, say, my salary might be able to procure fairly nice living conditions Up In Them Thar Hills, so I'm sure most folks have in fact done so. The signs in Provo proper saying "1 BR Rent $99" make that seem quite likely.

People? The people in Provo I interacted with were all very nice. Nice in a very non-L.A. manner. Nice in a manner that made me incredibly comfortable to be there. Nice in a 'gee, these are just polite considerate folks.' At the restaurant I stopped at, I was reading a book (I was alone) - and the servers made sure that they weren't interrupting me too frequently, asking me if they should approach to check if I wanted anything. They asked once. When I indicated that they should, they continued to do so, but very unobtrusively, not chattering, just wandering by, raising an eyebrow. When I wasn't reading, they'd come by and ask. Folks in the bookstore, when I asked about a title, made light conversation about my choice, with knowledge about the subject - not too much, not fluffy. People I passed, if I made eye contact, would genially nod, say 'Good afternoon.' Nothing overdone, and nothing space-invading like SoCal.

Exceptions - well, yeh. The Marriott Conference Center staff barely escaped a beatdown, but I'm willing to put that down to some corporate training bullshit. A previous post details one problem, but they may have been from out of town.

Still, there was one thing that bothered the heck out of me about the region. I mean, a lot. It's hard to explain without telling a story, which will make this already rambling post EVEN LONGER. Sorry.

Driving down from Salt Lake City International Airport to Provo is a jaunt of around 48 miles on I-15. There are many billboards. This makes sense; the region relies on tourism and (if you believe the Governor of Utah, who spoke at Novell Brainshare) on high-tech business. So far, so good.

The problem is that on no less than three of those massive billboards, there were egregious spelling errors. My favorite was for 'THE SMOKE SHOP', which purports to sell, I shit you not, 'CIGARS, CIGARETTES, and TOBBACO.'


Now, let me be quite clear. I have no issue with the fact that someone made a spelling error. I make them myself frequently. To err is human. This is why we invented the spellchecker, after all. But in this case, this bothers me quite a bit - not because of the spelling error, but because of the fact that the error made it that far, remains, and what those things tell us about the climate. How many people had to see that error before it got painted in seven-foot-tall letters across a billboard overlooking an interstate highway? The client who wrote the ad copy. The agency that took it? The contractor who painted it? The painter themselves? At a minimum, three or four people? Did none of them notice it? Did no-one run out to look at this ad and say 'gee, we paid money for this, and whoops, there's a spelling error here?' Did anyone notice the error in the process and either say 'not my problem' or say 'ha-ha I'm not telling them'? What?

If the client made the spelling error, how? They, apparently, sell tobacco for a living. They must see the word on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Yet, there it is.

Driving down the highway, I'm assaulted with the error, which has made it through numerous potentional layers of correction and checking. What does this tell me about the environment in which this billboard sits? It tells me, the cynical intellectual from out of town, that the environment in which this billboard sits, doesn't give a shit about basic spelling - about the basic written language - at least, insofar as it comes down to selling things to me. Now, given that this billboard is sitting on a highway not very many miles from the airport astride the route to one of the most heavily touristed areas of Utah (skiing, Sundance, Snow Park, etc. etc.) along with the High Tech Area the Governor was going on about) I have to assume that I am at least part of the intended audience.

But again, the basics of communication - accurate use of language - are not so important here. I will mention that this is one of three of such errors I saw on billboards on this single pass, at night, in high-speed heavy traffic, between SLC and Provo. I won't go into the spelling of various would-be-ethnic food on the menus at the Provo Marriott, because of the plethora of potential vectors of idiocy there.

I will note that although myself and various co-workers have trouble spelling, there are times that we know we have to get it right. Configuring servers. Writing emails to fairly high-up authorities. Do we always? No, we don't. Do we try? Yes, we do. More to the point: do we seek second opinions? Yes, we do, in those cases. Do we misspell Linux, when talking to a customer? We damn well try not to, and we damn well ask each other to check our statements for that. If our message is going down on hard copy, we treble and quadruple-check - and we still don't catch all our errors. But as soon as they are pointed out to us, we do everything in our power to make them right. How long has that billboard been there? I don't know, but it didn't look new.

But, as I've been told, there are more important things to worry about - like whether or not people are teaching that hideous evolution claptrap in schools. Whether the people teaching in those schools might be gay. Whether the people in those schools might be gasp DEMOCRATS WHO WANTED TO KILL TERRY SCHIAVO. That's the message I'm bombarded with by the Party in Power and its' minions, these days - that I'm the enemy, and that my concerns are those of a Godless, heathen, Northeast Liberal = Evil Incarnate Communist (insert smug smirk here) Liberal Bastard who can't be trusted to Defend This Country from the Horrible Threats Facing It.

After all, when the gays and the A-rabs and the commies are out after you, who gives a shit if little Tommy can spell? And really, who gives a shit if a billboard is spelled properly?

I begin to see what Karl Rove and other various Republican White House aides mean when they deride the 'Reality Based Community,' telling its representatives (in the form of New York Times reporters) that 'Every time you people chuckle over GW's malapropisms or misspellings, you do our work for us, because regular people love him because he's just like them.' Apparently so. The fucking President can't fucking spell, form a fucking sentence, or have a fucking thought himself.

Probably smokes Tobbaco, too.

Posted by jbz at 3:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 7, 2005

Elevator Action

So I get back to the hotel last night from work. I finally discover why I was placed in a room in the South Tower of the Marriott Conference Center in Provo, UT: they're short on space. There is some form of Future Leaders conference, or other youth-based boondoggle, which is occupying a great deal of the hotel. No problem. Kids everywhere, which is fine - honestly, I'd rather have an honest game of touch football going on in the hallway than cranky business people (like me, I'm saddened to realize).

I get on the elevator in the lobby, carrying my laptop. Frankly, I'm beat, looking forward to nothing more than a good solid snooze, perhaps prefaced with an hour or two of WoW. Punch 4, yawn, lean against wall while the Slowest Elevator In The World grinds shut, rattles upwards.

Stops on Two.

Instantly fills up with a noisy, wet (wet?) crowd, pressing me back into a corner. Open eyes, investigate. I have been sardined by approximately nine or ten girls in bathing suits, age maybe fourteen or fifteen, just out of the pool. Talking a mile a minute, mostly about the fact that they didn't bring towels and really really want to get to their rooms. A few apologetic smiles, which I return as I hold my Powerbook over my head to avoid either soaking it or poking anyone uncomfortably with the overfull laptop bag.

We reach four. I wait while the thundering herd dashes from the elevator and vanishes down the hall in a parade of, well, there's no better word, squeals. I have time to wonder where, in fact, any of them might have been hiding a keycard, grin at the thought, hope someone's there to let them in, and get off the elevator.

There are two couples waiting for the car, in their sixties, I'd guess. All four of them give me extremely dirty looks. One of the women actually sniffs at me. I stopped, dead, because I was so tired it took me maybe five seconds of thought to figure out what their fucking problem was. It was so in contrast to the everpresent nice of Provo-ness that I damn well wasn't going to leave without returning fire, and I wasn't going to return fire blind, so I just stood there, blocking the elevator door, looking at them. This, in turn, caused them to stop and give me even more dirty looks. After a few seconds, though, light dawned. Parents - probably grandparents - seeing a middle-aged guy get off an elevator after being sandwiched behind a whole bunch of wet teenage girls, grinning. Then they make an assumption.

At that point, I made an assumption. I'll just note that I was the only non-white person I'd seen all day, and it was starting to grate on me; but I really just let myself assume it wouldn't have been an issue if I'd not been, well, me. I was wearing a collared shirt, non-blue jeans, and carrying a computer bag - and I'd had a haircut recently, with grey visible. I looked much less like a reprobate than usual. The only thing odd looking about me, for that hotel? Yep, you guessed it.

I gave them a large grin, extended my arm, and flipped the bird at each of them in turn. For a good two seconds each. About one foot from each of their faces. Then I left.

Posted by jbz at 6:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 5, 2005

Another Winner From Texas.

Tom DeLay wasn't enough, apparently. Nope, now we have Senator Cornyn (R-TX) taking a turn at the mike. Today's topic: 'Activist judges.' This is in the wake of DeLay's attack on the judiciary re: the Schiavo case; Sen. Cornyn has apparently given voice to the following. I will note up front: my source for this so far is three blogs, including that of Representative Conyers (D-MI).

Here are some gems from Cornyn:

it causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. And no one, including those judges, including the judges on the United States Supreme Court, should be surprised if one of us stands up and objects.

And, Mr. President, I'm going to make clear that I object to some of the decision-making process that is occurring at the United States Supreme Court today and now. I believe that insofar as the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policy-maker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people, it has led to the increasing divisiveness and bitterness of our confirmation fights. That is a very current problem that this body faces today. It has generated a lack of respect for judges generally. I mean, why should people respect a judge for making a policy decision borne out of an ideological conviction any more than they would respect or deny themselves the opportunity to disagree if that decision were made by an elected representative?

Of course the difference is that they can throw the rascal -- the rascal out -- and we are sometimes perceived as the rascal -- if they don't like the decisions that we make. But they can't vote against a judge because judges aren't elected. They serve for a lifetime on the federal bench. And, indeed, I believe this increasing politicalization of the judicial decision-making process at the highest levels of our judiciary have bred a lack of respect for some of the people that wear the robe. And that is a national tragedy.

And finally, I I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share.

You know, it's ironic, if you look back, as we all have, being students of history in this body, all of us have been elected to other -- to other bodies and other offices and we're all familiar with the founding documents, the declaration of independence, the constitution itself, we're familiar with the federalist papers that were written in an effort to get the constitution ratified in New York state. Well, Alexander Hamilton, apropos of what I want to talk about here, authored a series of essays in the Federalist Papers that opined that the judicial branch would be what he called the -- quote -- "least dangerous branch of government." The "least dangerous branch." He pointed out that the judiciary lacked the power of the executive branch, the white house, for example, and the federal government and the political passions of the legislature. In other words, the congress. Its sole purpose -- that is, the federal judiciary's sole purpose was to objectively interpret and apply the laws of the land...

Hm. So apparently, with the sole exception of the phrase Certainly without justification which is buried in the rest of the speech, Senator Cornyn would like us all to cogitate on the proposition that 'activist judges' in a 'politicalized judiciary' are somehow inciting rage from the poor citizenry through their ideological tramplings over the rule of law and the actions of the stalwart and responsible-to-the-citizenry-Congress. Furthermore, it's tragic what these judges are doing, and it's an understandable progression to violence on the part of these citizens...if, of course, 'without justification.'

As another commentator points out, it would be difficult to image Senator Cornyn being so quick to voice concern if in fact those being attacked in their governmental workplaces were, in fact, Senators.

The depth of irresponsibility that this reaches simply staggers me. I haven't yet seen an allusion made to 'ridding us of these troublesome priests' so I'll make a tortured one there, because that's what this speech brings instantly to my mind. Of course, I'm part of the 'reality-based community' so my associations, fortunately, have little to do with the experiences of anyone currently in power in our government.

As Rep. Conyers notes, that same 'activist judiciary' gave the Republican party Bush v. Gore in the matter of the 2000 election. No Democrat lawmakers spoke on the floor of Congress about the judiciary sowing the seeds of their own violent ends then. Of the contested judicial nominations put forth by President Bush, whose opposition seems to have sparked the assault on the filibuster (a long-cherished check in the Congress, used by both parties), it should be pointed out that while perhaps a ten or so judges have been vetoed-by-filibuster, many, many more (over two hundred?) have been confirmed by the Democrats in Congress - a fairly remarkable success rate. If these current mutterings about 'judicial activism' and subsequent incredibly irresponsible hatemongering from the Republican Congressional camp stem from dissatisfaction with the veto of those last few, I have to ask - how much more petty and have-your-cake can you get, boys? What do these ten have that the other two-hundred-plus don't? If it's a lean to the right, doesn't threatening to overturn Congressional process to slam through the fringe five percent of your nominee list look a wee bit zealous?

Give it the fuck up. The emperor's not only got no clothes, he's got one finger up his nose and the other clutched around his somewhat limp dick and is muttering to himself.

Posted by jbz at 4:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 31, 2005

Thank you, Judge Stanley Birch.

Judge Birch, of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,wrote the following in a concurrence to the recent finding by his court that it could not hear Terry Schiavo's parents' last appeal:

The separation of powers implicit in our constitutional design was created "to assure, as nearly as possible, that each brance of government would confine itself to its assigned responsibility." INS, 462 U.S. at 951, 103 S. Ct. at 2784. But when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative brances to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow. See New York, 505 U.S. at 187, 112 S. Ct. at 2434. Accordingly, we must conscientiously guard the independence of our judiciary and safeguard the Constitution, even in the face of the unfathomable human tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo and her family and the rececnt events related to her plight which have troubled the consciences of many. Realizing this duty, I conclude that Pub. L. 109-3 (Terri's Law -jb) is an unstitutional infringement on core tenets underlying our constitutional system.

This, mind you, is a conservative judge. Emphasis in original.

Where have all the real Republicans gone? Will they please stand up? I'd like them back. They, in contrast to the current crop of ethically-challenged religious fundamentalist-pandering lockstep lackeys, made me proud to be American. I'm not going to lie to you and say I liked Ronald Reagan, ever; but I will say that opposing Reagan and his policies still felt like an intramural game. The current struggle feels like War of the Worlds. I have no idea where people like Rove and Feith and Delay and Frist come from, and I'm really not sure I want to.

I love my country very much. I will do whatever I can do defend and nurture it. I will fight for the rights of those I disagree with to say what they wish. I will fight as best I can, in what manner I am able, to make these United States a place in which I am proud to live and represent to the world. I'm not entirely sure why I love my country, as I have little experience with the rest of the world; it's not a necessarily logical thing, and I recognize the weakness of my experiences here. I will say this - as a mixed-race Jew, I am strongly committed to a vision of America that I have been given by my parents and my teachers growing up. I have looked for that United States of America throughout my life, and I haven't found it; it's an ideal, not a place. However, I have come across flashes of it throughout the world, and I have seen it described in the Constitution - imperfectly, but there. I've found it in New York. I've run across it in California. I've found it in the middle of the country. I've found it in Texas. I've been surprised by it in North Carolina, had it run up ove rmy own northeastern teenage prejudices with the power of a freight train. I've had it shown to me by immigrants and refugees, by people who've suffered things I can't imagine as they came looking for it - and when they found the imperfect disheveled version that makes me angry on a daily basis, they still wept for joy. People who came here and found a twisted lie and sneered at me to point out flaws I hadn't even imagined before they left in disgust showed me places it needs to do better; people suffering daily show me places it doesn't even try. People on television trying to tell me how to live (or die) because Their God Tells Me So remind me what our forefathers were trying to escape and why I can't give up trying to make the Constitution live and breathe.

I know I'm not right, or wrong, and that the United States is just another form of ideology - another in a long line of ideologies that have killed and divided man. But I also know that more so than any other idea or faith or ideology I've run across, the United States of America is an idea that anyone can pick up and claim; one that anyone can make themselves a part of simply by saying "Yes. That's how it can be, in this one place." No, nothing magical happens because of that. It doesn't make them right. But it does mean that if that person finds me, we have a common ground - not because of how we were born, or who our parents were, but a shared vision of how Things Can Be. Not how they should be, necessarily; but how they can be - how they can work, how we can live, and argue, and exist, and survive, together. Because of something we learned, and considered, and thought about - and, ultimately, decided for ourselves was a good choice.

It's rose-colored. But it's what keeps me going.

Posted by jbz at 11:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

One day, the wheel will turn. One day.


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March 19, 2005

Caught in my own assumptions!

Translation: BUSTED. See the previous entry. Then see the first comment posted on the previous entry.

Yvette: My thanks for keeping me honest. I appreciate it. I will refine my acid response, then, to to 'condensing' done by the three media reports of said research - all of which managed to present an air of complete surprise and/or 'wholesome shock and concern' - which is what really triggered my response. I did not see the actual results of the research. I did not spend more than five minutes trying, either, in all honesty - I was too torqued off by the tone of the reportage, but that's no excuse.

This is why comment sections on blogs are critical, even though they take maintenance hours - and this is why I'm so glad people actually read them. Because I *know* I say stupid things. When people call me on them, that's when I learn.

Again, Yvette, thank you. My apologies to your friend as well. I will resume my hunt for the actual research. I still (in absence of the data) am a tad underwhelmed by the conclusions - I want very much to know what the target of this research is. Is it policy-based? Are they attempting to produce ammunition for arguing with regulators, or the manufacturers? Are they trying to show distributors of the stuff what's going on? ...but I will say this: my reaction is my fault, because I don't have the data.

See? One can learn on a Saturday.

Posted by jbz at 2:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

And the award for offensively clueless suburbanites of the decade goes to...

These geniuses. I'm so glad they did the heavy lifting and rigorous study required to reach these difficult conclusions.

Honorable mention for fucking Reuters and MSNBC for deciding this was worth propagating. If this was an attempt at sarcasm on their part, I have news for them: their general lack of clue is waaaaay too high for me to buy something that subtle - read: without overt signs of intelligence or humor - from them.

Just in case they yank the story, here's the first paragraph:

Study: Homeless, unemployed favor malt liquor
Potent, cheap beer heavily targeted to black, Hispanic youth

Reuters-Updated: 4:14 p.m. ET March 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - Malt liquor, a type of beer that is higher in alcohol than other brews, is largely a drink of the homeless and unemployed, and is likely to be abused, U.S. researchers reported Monday.

And malt liquor is heavily marketed to black and Hispanic youth, the team at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in California found.

Posted by jbz at 3:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

Propaganda, Public Relations, Damned Lies and Statistics

Oh, Scott. Scott, Scott, Scott. You're certainly preparing to fall on that sword, aren't you?

White House press secretary Scott McClellan commented on the recent controversy over the current Administration's practice of distributing packaged, produced video and audio segments 'explaining' Administration policy initiatives to broadcasters:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested the lack of disclosure was the fault of the broadcasters, not the government.

"Many federal agencies have used this for quite some time as an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people," he said. "And my understanding is that when these informational releases are sent out that it's very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from."

Well. Isn't that interesting. Let's have a look. First of all, it's 'his understanding.' In other words, it may or may not be true, and it may or may not be policy. All we're going to risk here is the statement that Press Secretary actually 'understands' what all these other agencies are doing. In other words, for an administration that doesn't seem to have any trouble having, oh, nominees for SecState lie under oath, we're not backing this statement up with much at all.

Next: it's his 'understanding' that when these releases are sent out, it's very clear to the TV stations where they're coming from. That's nice. That's very nice, Scott. The problem here is that it's not the TV stations it needs to be made clear to. It's the viewers. It's the consumers of the information. You have just acknowledged that the pieces are being produced for the consumption of the American public, and to inform the American public - so why, then, isn't the origin of those pieces being made clear to the American public? Why is making that clear suddenly the job of the middleman TV station? Why is there no identification inside the piece as to the source? Hm. Puzzling, that. Begs the question of which stations choose to identify these segments and which don't, and why...but that's for another time.

So, Mr. McClellan - why is it that the information inside these pieces is intended for the American taxpayer and voter...but information as to who produced them is for the broadcaster? And would some reporter please do their fucking job and ask McClellan that question and not let him go until he answers it?

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March 9, 2005

I Hate People More Effectively and Viciously Sarcastic than I.

Really, I do. I hate people who are better at it than I am. So I hate Mykeru. The reasons are many, but should be glaringly obvious.

Behold the Gluttony and Corruption

Wonder why some people were so eager to go to war in Iraq? Read this. Then think about it some more. Then think about Tom DeLay. Then think about your Vice President. Carefully. Then think about those who could be - but aren't - investigating this.

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March 7, 2005

Santorum and cronies at it again. Why is Lieberman a Democrat, again?

I am not sure of the veracity of the analysis laid out here yet, because it's late and I haven't waded through the .pdf of the bill myself. However, it fits with what small crumbs of the damn thing I've been able to keep up with over the past few days. Absolutely disgusting. So in a nutshell, the GOP are trying to pass a bill that will 'raise the minimum wage' by $1.10 per hour. Yep, it will. However, it will also (and here's the kicker, re-e-al close attention to that there man behind the curtain) raise the revenue requirement on businesses for exemption from minimum wage requirements from $500,000 per year to $1,000,000 per year - meaning that (according to this analysis) while one-plus million workers benefit from the minimum wage increase, over six million lose the guarantee (remember those small business owners like the President's logging concern the GOP was so fond of talking about? Here's their payoff- no minimum wage required). Also, the bill will forbid states from passing their own laws to provide minimum wage protection, including those laws which state you can't force an employee to rely on 'tip income' as part of their compensation. As an added bonus, by 'giving the employee flex time' the bill removes any requirement to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 hours per week, so long as hours are removed from the next work week - without the employee's consent. Hence, a regular work schedule is no longer your own. 75 hours this week, 5 the next? Sure, that's legal.

I knew the sellout was bad. I knew the corporate interests had their arms so far up this administration and this Congress's rectums that little brown fingers were visible behind their smiles, like small tentacles of squid-like Gods. But Good God, the sheer hypocrisy of it all..."small government", "states' rights", and "the power of the individual"...if I ever hear those phrases from a GOP flack again, I swear to God i'm going to vomit on a copy of this bill and then hand it to them.

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March 4, 2005

Morons on Parade

Hard to tell who I'm talking about here, whether it's the writer of this drivel or his syndication company, who appear to have their panties and vibrating falafels in a twist over a perfectly legal link to said crapola. Someone please puncture the hot air container? Please? Or buy him a new vibrating falafel so he can stop explaining to all of us how kids shouldn't be exposed to the topic of sex, ever?

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March 3, 2005

Paging Condoleeza Rice

Sanity is calling. Would you like to have a quick chat, or shall we take a message for you to crumple up and throw in your overflowing wastebin beneath your desk along with so many other increasingly futile reminders from reality about your responsibilities to the world beyond your sugar daddy?

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February 24, 2005

In a World of Closed Minds, those Who Would Have You Not Think Are Kings

I just read this. I'm not sure how to parse my response to it. I don't want to acknowledge it as truth, because I don't like having negative views of people-as-a-whole, or my country as a populace. It takes my negative opinions of the current leadership of my nation and refocuses them on a more widespread, and hence scarier, target. Then I read the comments, and I don't know what to think.

I live in what I want to believe is some form of a representative democratic republic. The answer to 'What if everyone else is wrong?' is supposed to be 'Then make them understand you're right.' What do you do if 'everyone else' is no longer playing the same game? What do you do if enough people are playing by some strange set of rules and motives? Obviously, first, you try to make as many of the rest of the people understand that, and hope you can vote them down.

But what if we've failed already?

Then what?

Then, we have to wait and hope they can't do enough damage in their time in power to truly, irreparably screw things up before enough people realize how bad things have become? Here is where the 'security surplus' that America has had since WWII is a liability. Americans are so secure, and so rich, that simply massive malfeasance can take place under their 'watch' while they're worried about such crap as whether they're allowed to take cigarette lighters on airplanes - or, in the case of the people discussed in the above link, whether their favorite crazy-ass religious nutball theory about the End Times is going to come true. Those who run the country are simply too fucking isolated from the actual problems of life (for example, acquiring food, shelter, education, raising functional children, maintaining a loving and functional family) to have any grounding in the realities of life and the way actual people on the actual planet live.

So instead, we get people worrying about maintaining their power over the system by mobilizing the political power of completely dangerous whackjobs who are dedicated to creating the physical destruction of our environment, by fostering hatred and fear between people, by supporting war and strife. We get leaders who have aggrandized and empowered groups who do these things all because somewhere in some piece of historical fiction their faith deems important a legendary figure will come give them goodies and punish those who insulted them once everything finally drops in the pot.


It's tough being a rationalist these days. But we can't stop doing it. Not for a New York minute. Find friends in the GOP; make new ones. Find rational, thinking, conservative people you don't agree with at all - but who will argue with you on the issues. Hold fast to them. Empower them. Help them reclaim their party from the ideologues and theologists who seem to have hijacked it. Please, get our country back to vehement, heated, nasty arguments over things we disagree over that involve governance.

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February 9, 2005



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February 8, 2005

People who cry out for a beatdown, Mk. II

A while back, I kvetched about a particularly annoying piece of late-night predatory American TV advertising. Well, surprise surprise! Not only is one of those companies a bit, er, full of it, but the annoying woman has her own credibility issues as well. Heehee. Thanks to MeFi for the Schadenfreude.
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January 27, 2005

Eyes on the Prize is most definitely NOT commonsized

I note that Tiffiniy Cheng, director of Downhill Battle, has commented on my previous blog post. For that I thank and commend her. Dialogue is indeed what I sought with it. I'm not sure what it's gotten us, but then again, one is never sure, in the middle of the process; one just has to soldier on.

The blog The Madisonian asks a good question about this whole issue, wondering if this means that Eyes is 'commonsized' in the way the song 'Happy Birthday' is - that is, moved into the commons. Their conclusion, based on Wired's latest blurb, is a definite 'no' - presumably because the legal representative of the rightsholders stated unequivocally in response to a query that...well, see for yourself.

What appears (to me) to be happening is that various actors seem determined to push this into the status of 'test case' using 'Eyes' as cannon fodder, the effect on Eyes be damned. This saddens me greatly. Several of the figures in this debacle have made attempts to convince me of the purity of their motives, describing their support for the availability of Eyes to the general public, and the like. I don't in any way believe they are lying to me. I think they are, in fact, just as fervant as they sound when they tell me it is incredibly important that the public have access to Eyes on the Prize. I think it's important too.

The problem is that the reason I think it is important that the public have access to Eyes on the Prize differs from theirs. They think it is important as an example. I think it is important because of what it says. There shouldn't necessarily be a conflict there, but there is. Why? Because the example that gets used to push this case is going to suffer. The points, teachings and content of that example are going to be backgrounded, slightly, forevermore, behind the more-recent and now-blazingly-public part of its 'new role as poster child' for this new fight.

That's where we part ways.

I'm in no way suggesting that the fight that's being fought here is less important than the fight that Eyes on the Prize chronicles, educates about, and poignantly remembers. But I am saying that the fight that's being fought here isn't that fight, and that it's a disservice to the people who suffered, fought, died even in that fight to have their struggle and the record of that struggle appropriated as the symbol of a new fight - one which really has nothing to do with theirs.

It disturbs me that none of the outlets pushing this project seem willing to mention this 'other side of the story' - link to it, mention it at all, or offer comment sites where it could be mentioned. Still, it makes sense. If you're trying to roll a bandwagon, you don't want to point out the potholes.

It's a funny feeling, being 'the other side' in the blogging revolution. I'm now (I suppose) one of 'them' - the 'evil rights holders' who doesn't agree with the 'cool revolution.' And I don't have a voice - because nobody links to my blog, and because - unlike the record companies, who are the usual targets of this sort of action - I don't own media channels and don't have money. I'm a workin' stiff with a computer - that's all. So I don't get heard unless somebody decides to come over here and read my opinion.

What that means is that the blogging revolution has come full circle in this case. They're not the plucky underdogs. Blackside, inc. is not some megalithic corporation with big vaults of IP that they Won't Give You, and money that they're hoarding. Blackside is two of Henry's sisters, one retired and one nearly so. I'm his nephew, workin' stiff with a mortgage and a condo. I don't have a TV station, or anything like that. Blackside itself is a set of legal documents and a telephone line, these days - because my mother and my aunt aren't filmmakers, and the real purpose of Blackside (as told me by Henry) wasn't even really to make films; it was to train young black filmmakers in a time when there weren't really that many of them out there.

He (and others with him) did that. Many of them went on out into the world to make films, and tell the Black Side of things. That made him proud. At that, Blackside served its purpose. That, and it allowed Henry to make movies - movies he'd wanted to make all his life.

Anyway, now, suddenly, the bloggers are fighting Big Media, the copyright system, what have you, but they're doing it using my family's property as cannon fodder. To use a metaphor only slightly less ludicrous than some that have been offered to me as justification for their actions (by the players), I feel like someone whose hennery has been raided by protesters, and all my eggs thrown at the congressman during a protest. The cops aren't after me, and we have an enlightened enough system that it's all treated as protest - except I'm out my eggs, and if I want recompense, I have to go after the protesters in court. And then I'm the bad guy, not the congressman who voted for the law or the lobbyist who pushed for it - me, the guy whose eggs are missing.

But the protesters still get the press.

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January 26, 2005

It doesn't matter if the cause is just.

So I'm reading one of my favorite blogs, and this pops up.

Oh boy.

This touches me much harder than usual, and in conflicting directions. On the one hand, I agree wholeheartedly that the copyright system in the United States is fucked up and in dire need of repair. I also agree that Eyes on the Prize is one of the sterling examples of how badly the system has failed us.

On the other hand, I have some skin in this game, and also some information that many people might not. Henry Hampton was my uncle; I spoke at his memorial service. I loved him dearly, and miss him daily. As a young 'un, I remember doing 'makework' gaffer tasks on some of the interviews for Eyes I.

This protest might be a good thing, as far as copyright goes. However, as far as Eyes goes, it's really not. Really, really, really not. It's a bad thing in many senses of the word. I know that one of the first things I'm going to have to convince everyone of is that I'm not saying this out of greed, so let me be clear about how I'm involved. My mother and her sister inherited Blackside, Inc (the film company my uncle Henry started, which made Eyes) and also inherited the rights to the Eyes films. My family receives no royalties on any sale of any Eyes media, as far as I'm aware; all rights to duplicate and sell Eyes have expired (which is one reason it is not available) and when it was available, PBS received most of the proceeds. At the time, Blackside received whatever royalties were forthcoming, and Henry was alive and owned Blackside, so the question of my motives would be moot.

Here's why it's a bad thing that Downhill Battle is doing and proposing.

I am heartily in favor of everybody showing their copies of Eyes to as many people as they can. If you have a copy of Eyes that you bought or inherited, great; show it. But please, please, please don't don't encourage others to duplicate it and distribute it, and please (above all, as some motherless losers are doing on eBay) don't sell it.

There are negotiations ongoing (on and off, but ongoing) to re-issue Eyes on the Prize in DVD format, ideally with additional materials for teaching. Funds are being solicited for this effort, and sponsors pitched. This would allow the production of additional materials and allow Eyes to be distributed to the public and libraries and schools once more, playable on modern equipment and archived on more durable media. Every time the 'COPY EYES!' website gets seen by one of the rights-holders we have to negotiate with, however, the chances of us ever getting this done diminishes. This brings me to my second point.

Eyes on the Prize is not about the copyright movement. It is not about intellectual property. It is about the Civil Rights movement, and the Black experience in America. Using it in this way, no matter how noble the intention, will serve to brand it fairly indelibly in the minds of the policymakers as the 'spearhead of the p2p movement' and the 'emblem of the anti-copyright movement.' While I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, I am saying that that will absolutely detract from the teachings and message that Eyes was, in fact, created to get across - teachings of history and messages of racial tolerance and diversity - by irretrievably muddling in a contemporary, hot-button (and entirely unrelated to the original topic) fight.

Whatever the motives, the countercopyright crew are essentially hijacking someone else's life's work and appropriating its power and recognition for their own purposes. In the process, they are potentially diminishing and damaging its own effectiveness. It's not their place to make the decision to throw the weight of Eyes behind this fight.

Finally, I would point something out. They invoke Henry Hampton's name and legacy on their page, where they advocate downloading and illegally distributing his works. Henry Hampton may have made documentaries, but that doesn't mean he worked for free. Blackside, Inc. was always a for-profit corporation, and Henry Hampton took home what profits his films were able to generate. So trying to invoke his name while you encourage everyone to trample on the rights granted his works strikes me as extremely hypocritical.


It has been pointed out to me that the use of Eyes on the Prize by Downhill Battle could be looked upon as akin to the use of "This land is our land" by JibJab during the recent campaign. I respectfully disagree, and here's why. JibJab did, indeed, take someone else's existing piece of work and make it available for download without asking consent in order to make a point about a modern debate. However, JibJab used that piece of work as the basis for an original satire, and the piece of work itself (the Woody Guthrie song) was relevant to the point at hand (as in all good satire). On top of it, they layered an original contribution (a Flash piece) which was linked to the music.

In this case, Downhill Battle has done no such thing. The have taken an existing piece of work (Eyes on the Prize) and are offering it for download, and encouraging others to download, duplicate and distribute it, in violation of the law. No original work has been added, and - more important - nothing about Eyes on the Prize is relevant to the current debate save its status as an out-of-print film! As such, any out of print film could be substituted for it, and Downhill Battle's page would make just as much sense. However, it wouldn't be as effective. Why? Because Eyes on the Prize has recently been profiled in Wired Magazine and, talking about this very issue. It already has name association with this problem. Plus, it is (or was) a relatively well-known documentary film, one of the highest rated films on PBS when it was aired. Libraries and schools are fond of it. In short, there is a ready-made sympathetic audience.

None of this, however, matters to the point - which is that what Downhill Battle really cares about is not the work itself, but the action. The action of downloading, distributing, and showing it. Defying the currently broken copyright law. Thus, it is qualitatively different from the use of "This Land is Our Land" by JibJab - who utilized the content of that famous song to make a political point that resonated.

If, in fact, what they really cared about was 'preserving Eyes on the Prize for posterity' as they have claimed - I find it extremely troubling that no attempt was made to contact any of the current rights holders (my family) to simply ask us what efforts, if any, were being made to ensure the future availability of this work to the public. We would have been happy to detail (as much as we were able) the state of ongoing research, fundraising and negotiations, all with the aim of clearing, producing and distributing a DVD release of Eyes on the Prize. This is why I have trouble believing arguments that what they're doing is really 'for the good of preserving Eyes.' Even if they don't agree with my arguments about how this effort damages ongoing attempts to reissue it, they never attempted to determine what (legal) efforts were underway to preserve and release the films.

Addendum Mk. II:

Oh yes. That little dig about eBay...for anyone who is desperate to acquire Eyes on the Prize and is offered a set for sale, please note that it was NEVER issued on DVD. Anyone trying to sell you Eyes on the Prize I or II on DVD is selling you a homemade (illegal) copy. There was a Laserdisc version of Eyes I (and II, I believe) available for classrooms, and a lucky few folks have those, so Laserdiscs are likely real - but no DVDs, nope, never. If you see them on eBay, report 'em as frauds. Not for my sake (as I said before, I don't see any money from any of this) but because we don't want some poor person taken for their money because some unscrupulous loser is sitting in a basement turning out DVD burner copies of the thing. Yes, I've seen it happen, and yes, I've called eBay down on them. I've felt unclean for doing it, but also felt that it had to be done.

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January 20, 2005

Compare this to a blowjob and some missing files.

It just blows my mind.

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November 14, 2004

People who cry out for a beatdown.

Today's jolly candidate - a hideous looking woman who presides over an equally hideous advertisement on the cheaper slots of American television. The ad is for some dietary weight-loss supplement called 'Corti-Slim' or some such. The pitch? I'll give you this quote: "Overweight people belong to the unhappiest club in the world - the overweight people club." Um, what? "It's a club of poorly cut clothing, avoiding food, fad diets-" -like the stuff you're pitching? - "-and bad news when you step on the scale. See those people who look and feel their best? They've resigned their membership in the unhappiest club in the world forever! They've learned..." blah blah blah, how to take these lovely pills I'm trying to sell you, blah blah blah.

I'm overweight. I spend a great deal of time trying not so much to cope with the physical problem so much as the constant onslaught of shit like this in order to interact with the society I live in. I swear, fat is the new cigarette smoker. Heavy people are the next scapegoat for all of our skyrocketing health costs, just wait. Fat people are selfish bastards who consume too many resources. They look different. They act different. They can't control themselves. They're members of a club of the unhappy! And all they would need to do is take these nice pills to be just like us.

The facelifted, starched, dyed-blonde, breast-surgeried, teeth-modified and still ugly-ass-Please-God-Don't-Ever-Let-Me-See-You-In-Spandex white chick that I cringe from in the Gym.

The culture wars rage on. Pass me the fucking Doritos, and if that bitch ever shows up near my house, we'll see how well her Cortisol pills do her when my carry-me-around-exercised-legs decide to administer a severe ass-kicking, the stupid cunt. Then she can have my membership card to the unhappiest club in the world, as I intend to make sure she needs it.

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November 10, 2004

A rant that I am not worthy of a rant. A rant. Regardless of the content, it is a pure and true example of the craft, one which I aspire to someday be able to produce on command. I am in awe. I want to study at this master's feet.

I am in awe.

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