Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ex-captive wants to locate his captors. . . .

This is something new. But I guess that this will be treated as just another instance of how westerners are intolerent of Islam.

The very idea that a hostage of the Islamic terrorists would take it personally and want to get revenge against his captors is just so typical. It's not as if they did anything to him, other than hold him captive for a couple months, taunt him, shave his head, and execute a couple of other people in his presence. Why, the way he acts, it sounds as if he isn't even going to try to determine the root causes of his captors' rage.

A damn Swedish cowboy, is what he is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ominous Trend Department: Their mothers . . .

told them they were special, but the court says news reporters have to obey the same law as everybody else. While this ruling about the ability to not give up confidential sources of information is not actually anything new, the self-appointed watchdog of holy information is describing the decisions as an "ominous trend."

Well, boo f-ing h0o. It's a subpoena for heavens sake. It's a court order and judges, as some journalists might know, are either elected by the people or appointed by the President subject to the interference of the Senate, all of whom are likewise elected.

Where do journalists come from? I've never voted for one since I started voting in 1963. It isn't as if they are licensed, like every lawyer, nurse, chauffer, barber or in Oregon, food server. It isn't as if anybody gives them a certificate -- unless you want to count a goofy degree in journalism, which is where, one supposes, journalists incorrectly form the belief that they have a sanctified right to conceal the identity of the source of the information they report -- if there actually is some source outside the journalist's own sophomoric imagination. Or unless you want to count the numberless awards journalists give one another for being the most annoying, or having the best hair, or whatever it is they do in order to wear tuxedos and make after-dinner speeches.

Ominous trend my imperfect, aging behind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Condemnation of Land and What Goes Around . . .

The Supremes have decided that local government can condemn land and give it to developers who will develop the land for an increased tax to the government.

Nothing to see here, folks. Go on back to your homes and families. It was just the Supreme Court doing their job.

Now, a mere few days after the decision it turns out that Justice Souter, who voted in favor of the condemnation for incresed tax revenue, may soon be homeless, if a real estate developer gets his way and causes the judge's property to be condemned.

Oh, please. Please let it be so. We really need this one. We need to know there is a cosmic sense of humor and proportion that strikes once in a while.

Monday, June 27, 2005

As matters now stand . . .

Okay. I guess we've seen enough CNN to know that we probably should never have gone into Iraq in the first place because war never solves anything. All us deep thinkers agree it's a disaster, right? As Senator Kennedy points out, the occupation of Iraq after whipping Saddam's corrupt behind has been badly mismanaged. So why would this man be saying this thing?

Today I am traveling to Brussels to join representatives of more than 80 governments and institutions in sending a loud and clear message of support for the political transition in Iraq.

Who is this? Prepare yourself. It's Koffi!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

IRS Hackage Happens . . .

It looks like IRS may have, as they say in the vernacular, screwed the pooch. How much do you want to bet that if IRS information can be hacked, it has been?

When it comes to my own computer security, I have choices to make. I can open an e-mail adressed to me, or not. I can even not use e-mail. I can pay by on-line checking account or I can write "dead-tree" checks and send them through the mail. Or I can pay by cash and get a receipt. I can install a firewall, or not. I can use security software, or not. I don't even have to have a computer; I can go to the library. I can open up accounts using computer identities different from my own. And I don't have to buy anything on line. I can control how much information I, personally, put on line and how much information I pull off the web onto my own computer.

But I have no control over information about me collected by others. My medical and financial records, and yours, together with lots of other information about me are out there stored in electronic bits and bytes in a multitude of public and private servers hither and yon. These bits and bytes are watched over by youthful geeks and geekettes who may or may not have degrees in computerology, and who may or may not spend their working hours hiding their computer games and "free" tunes on their employers' servers, and who may or may not care about preserving the integrity of the data they guard -- except insofar as guarding the data from unauthorized intrusion resembles a computer game where the evil dark lord is a hacker fellow geek. Regardless of what they may or may not think, these folk probably have the notion that "information wants to be free." And most certainly, these folk are company men, each and every one. They will do what they are told by their superiors to assure a continued paycheck and access.

And who are the superiors employing the geeks preserving the security of your personal information? Bean counters seeking the least costly, most shoddy product that can still be sold without the formation of an actual lynch mob. Marketers designing the exact fictional exploitation of consumer fear and need likely to generate a desired commercial response. Peddlers who don't plan to be there tomorrow when you discover you've been had. Politicians who will say anything to obtain the attention of the media. And senators (spit).

These are the kinds of people who peddle a "superior operational plan" for operating energy production companies, where the plan consists of trumpeting fictional earnings to inflate stock values of stock bonuses. These are the kinds of people who will sell a rollover-prone SUV on the premise that SUVs are safer for your family. These are the kinds of poeple who tell you how much they care about their customers and make it unlikely that any actual customer will maneuver through the automated telephone tree to speak with anybody who can make a difference or cares to. These are the kinds of people who, based on their performance, can't be trusted to keep roads consistently free of potholes or provide enough money to lock up the felons placed in their charge for a period of years. These are the kinds of people who make a decision to confiscate fingernail clippers and manhandle boobs as a condition of flying on a commercial airline from Seattle to Los Angeles, but who also figure it's a good idea to leave the entire southern and northern national borders relatively unwatched. And these people are senators (spit).

You don't have a choice when you deal with IRS. Tell them what they want to know. But don't worry. According to the self-serving announcements of big business and big government, the information you supply is confidential.

That's what they say but too often it isn't what they do. The problem is -- what about accountability? If you or I screw up when we deal with these business and corporate bureaucrats, we aren't entitled to say, "We're sorry, gee guys, we screwed up but we are really working hard on it. Probably won't happen again. "

But that pretty much is the response of government officials when they screw up.

Not good enough. I figure it's possible in a large state or corporate bureaucracy to track through the records and find out exactly who made the bonehead decision that compromised our information supplied without choice on the legal promise of confidentiality. But it isn't done because the boss doesn't want to.

I want to see something like this on CNN:

Today, CNN has learned that it was Bob Hypothetical, a senior analyst in the buggery audit team of the financial controls section of the comptrollerz office of Continental Pivot Co, who two years ago decided to postpone implementation of the hacker prevention program suggested by the financial controls section. Bob thought the budget for security would not permit it so he killed the program rather than bust the budget. Being over-budget would have looked bad on his personal job evaluation. The rejected program would have prevented the recent massive loss of personal finacial information including pin numbers that recently made its way to Nigeria, leading to thousands of people being billed for a pledge to Nigerian Public Television in the amount of $10,000 each. CNN has also learned that Mr. Hypothetical was fired from his job. Finally, CNN has learned that Mr. Hypothetical resides at 1234 Tamer Lane in East Disease, Georgia, where inquiries about his present job hunt may be addressed.

It would only have to happen once. Betcha security would get a lot better all over the place.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

From each according to his ability . . .

. . . and to each according to his need. Such is a fine justification for state control of all property. (I refer, of course, to socialism.) Any state intrusion into private property is justifiable so long as it can dishonestly be spun as required as a benefit for the greater good.

The Supreme Court has once again successfully seized a chance to uphold the right of government to do pretty much anything it wants. The court now holds that comparatively low tax value of property is a sufficient and legal justification for condemning private property, when the government wants to make land available to a developer. This is a good thing, because the developer will put the land to a use that will raise more tax money which in turn is used for public benefit.

And I called it. This is what I wrote on February 22:

Eminent domain, a scoundrel's playground . . . . .

For several years, now, when dealing with the matter of eminent domain and condemnation of private property in my real estate class, I've been making up a hypothetical where local politicians go in cahoots with sticky-fingered land developers, and condemn a bunch of homes. The developer plans to raze the homes and build a shopping center in their place. But the developer wants property at a "fair" price -- not the price that would be necessary to buy out all the homes from a bunch of people who have no desire, need, or incentive to sell, other than getting "too much" cash. The politicians, equally as sticky-fingered, would find nice campaign contributions to assure their continued ability to lap at the public trough.

My hypothetical government justification for favoring the land developer? Nothing is wrong with the homes; they're aren't blighted, or anything. But people will work at the shopping center, representing more jobs.

More jobs is the number-one campaign promise of all politicians. 'Cause more jobs sounds good to voters. But to politicians, more jobs means more both business income and more personal income to tax, thus raising $ for elected nannies to fritter away on all sorts of bone-headed projects other than boring things such as keeping the peace and repairing the roads. Plus, more government interaction in normal commercial affairs, leads to citizens increasing their $$ partipation in local politics, to see to it their their needs $$ are adequately $$ represented in the $ councils and $$ legislatures where $ law is made.

Well, now. Somebody told me the Supreme Court is looking at a case like my hypo. The gummint's justification for condemning the land is that the new use, whatever it is, will generate more taxes.

So let's see if the Court does what I cynically suspect it will do - that is, support government. After all. The homeowners are going to get paid, and the fact that they didn't want to sell in the first damn place shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of progress. And taxes.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thunderbirdie? Thunderchick? . . .

The Air Force has just selected its first female Thunderbird pilot. For pilots, that's about as elite as one can get. Take a look for details. Good job, Air Force.

Congratulations. And, good for her!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Charles Jenkins, stupid, stupid, stupid . . .

Forty years ago Charles Jenkins, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was on patrol in Korea. He deserted. This wasn't an accident; he intentionally chose to defect to North Korea and desert the U.S. military. He has said he was afraid he was going to be transferred to Viet Nam. He wasn't a green, rifle-bait kid at the time. He was about 25 years old and he was a sergeant. This man made a choice.

What did he do with the Norks for the last 40 years? They kept him around for propaganda value and trotted him out from time to time for that reason only. While in Korea he was married to a Japanese woman who had been snatched by the North Koreans and was being used to train Nork spies, under compulsion. When the two of them became old, useless and a little frail, the Norks finally dumped them. The wife was sent back to Japan, which had been trying to obtain her return since the late 70's. Charles Jenkins was permitted to turn himself in to U.S. authorities as a military deserter for the last 40 years.

When he turned himself in and confirmed the fact, while no longer under threat of North Korean compulsion, that he had freely chosen to defect and desert, then, and only then, was he officially given a dishonorable discharge. I suppose he had not been formally discharged before because until he confirmed it for himself, there was always the possibility and hope that he had been snatched, in which case he was not really a deserter. But he was a deserter and a defector by his own admission. He was convicted and was locked up for two or three weeks, and then permitted to go to Japan to be with his wife.

What parts of American culture did he miss in the last forty years? The world wide web. Sesame Street. E-mail. Star wars. Personal computers. Cell phones. Video rentals. Mastercard and Visa. Widespread effective birth control. The collapse of the U.S.S.R. Civil rights. Cable television. Home VCRs. Automotive fuel injection. Air bags. And ibuprofen!!!! What did he get in return? North Korea fed him, more or less.

There are many qualities that may be found in varying degrees in humans. One such human quality is stupidity. Another is weakness. Defecting to North Korea was, and there are no other good words for it, stupid and weak.

But compare Jenkins' stupidity to the behavior of some of the ordinary Japanese soldiers left behind in the jungles at the end of WWII. At some level it is probably stupid to continue serving alone in the jungle, following wartime orders with no follow-up orders for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. But such stupidity arises out of another human quality -- fidelity. The "stupidity" of the left-behind Japanese soldiers was really fidelity. Fidelity is a quality insufficiently valued among many American opinion-makers, and is seldom mentioned in ordinary discourse except in the company of U.S. Marines. And Jenkins had none of it.

Jenkins wants to see his mother, now. I guess that makes him an okay guy, now, after all, in some people's eyes. But for myself, I wonder who is feeding him now that North Korea isn't, and mostly I wonder why they bother.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Finally over . . .

The jury of his peers (WTF!!!) has found that Michael Jackson is not guilty of the charges for which he was tried.

I think this probably means that any parents will have to think twice about flaunting their tender young boys in front of Michael, with a view towards a ginormous cash settlement. Michael isn't paying anymore so you might as well keep your kids at home.

Any possibility of suing in tort for a reduced standard of proof, instead of criminal prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt, is probably done for. Where could you find a jury, now, that consisted of people with no opinion about Michael?

But it also means that Michael is still every bit as peculiar as he looks. It's just that the state wasn't able to meet the burden of proof required for a criminal case.

I suspect that his career as a performing musician/dancer is over, and in a way, that's too bad. Nevertheless, I think Michael better explore other activities besides performing.

Ooooh. I just had a mental image of MJ playing golf, and I shivered.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Perturbed off all over again . . .

Some years ago I got perturbed off at 76 gas stations (long story). I decided that just because 76 stations wouldn't miss my business was no reason not to indulge myself in my grudge by never giving them any business again, since they perturbed me off. So, for some years I have happily been not going to 76 stations for anything.

I liked the 76 stations; the people working there were usually friendly and helpful. I just don't like 76 corporate.

It doesn't make any difference as far as the gasoline -- it pretty much all comes from the same refineries. The only difference is who you choose to do business with, and when it comes to 76 stations, I choose to "include them out." (Colorful language courtesy of L.B.Mayer of MGM, if my memory is true.) And there was this other station I decided to go to with both our cars. It's close to home and the employees are friendly. So, guess what. The station that I've been going to for the last couple of years just put up a big 76 sign on the station. Now I can't go there anymore, unless I forgive 76, which I won't 'cause they went and perturbed me off all over again.

Hey, I'm not calling for a boycott. I'm just never going there myself, ever again.

When it comes to consumer grudges, 76 isn't my only one. I'll never own a Volkswagen, even though I really like the product. I'm p.o'd at VW of America. I'll never wear any product sold by Nike or adidas, even though they sell fine, fashionable products which would look good on me. I'm p.o'd.

I have other companies I won't deal will, and you maybe do, too.

What's the point? I know I don't make any difference to these corporate giants. But I may not be the only one who is now making a judgment about that company, not based on their products, but based on the corporate marketing and attitudes towards its customers. I don't care how good their products are. It's who I'm dealing with, not what I'm buying. Maybe some day some corporation is going to try to figure out why it seems to encounter such unusual sales resistance despite having a superior product positioned for success. Maybe somebody will think to ask, "What's wrong with out products; people used to love us?" And somebody else will be smart enough to answer, "It isn't what's wrong with our products; it's what's wrong with us. We really don't give a ratchet about our customers and they've caught on."

But I don't really care if that thought ever occurs to 76, Nike, adidas, or VWofA, or whether everybody else buys their stuff, or not. It's simple and so am I. They are on my personal list.

I'm half inclined to pay for another site and domain to invite people like me who bear grudges to post the names of corporations, to send them a message - "I don't care how good your product is. It's who I'm dealing with, not what I'm buying."

But they probably don't really care.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

The Scientific Method, Part II . . .

So this is how science is done. I bet next we'll find out that CNN polls are unreliable or WWF wrestling isn't a sport.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mary Jane at the Wall Street Journal . . .

Even the Wall Street Journal, you know, the newspaper for rich old white guys who play golf and smoke cigars and oppress the masses, does not seem to approve of the Supreme Court's decision about federal prosecution for medical marijuana. (registration required.)

The times they are a-changin'.

They all look alike to me . . .

This is satire, but it's funny satire. At least, I think it's satire. 'Cause in Oregon, we have to vote by mail so I couldn't find the back of the line.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Here's a marijuana fun fact . . .

The Supreme Court of the United States has just decided that the federal government can pretty well do whatever it wants to do, when it comes to regulating marijuana. Who knew?

Once government set itself up in the business of licensing professions, well, government became a full party in the relationship between the provider and the consumer of services. And once it is decided that government, state, federal or local, can interject itself into the doctor/patient relationship, all sorts of mischief is available.

Difference is, of course, that doctors are responsible for the mischief they do, whereas government is not. That is, government can do whatever it wants to do, so it could be responsible if it wants to be. Or not.

Oh, I know what many are thinking. But if we back government out of all the intrusions into our daily lives, then who, oh who, can protect us from the evil that evil men will do to us, for we are weak and foolish and unable to decide things for ourselves?

The Supreme Court says that government has the power to do the job, and reserves for another day the implicit but obvious question about what if government uses the power stupidly in service of stupid notions.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why Ben Stein is famous . . .

. . . and why I am not.

As you can see from the two previous posts, I've not had sympathy for the notion that the number two guy in the F.B.I. who leaked information to the press instead of prosecuting, is some kind of American hero. Neither does Ben Stein, but you'll see why he's famous when you read what he wrote.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat continues to entertain . . .

Tell me you couldn't see this coming.

W. Mark Felt is now being deified in the press because he "did the right thing." He is a hero in his own mind and that of his keepers, and the reporters who use anonymous sources to sell a story, like Woodward, who thinks Felt "took an enormous risk," are being beatified.

A hero accepts risk of personal harm for the aid of others. What did Mr. Felt risk? Whatever it was, he thought the risk of personal harm to himself was sufficiently great such that he was obliged to shirk his duty as a lawman to investigate and prosecute crime, and had to sneak around in the night whispering secrets into the ear of a newspaper reporter, all on condition of anonymity. The risk? Oh, gee. Another agent had raised the possibility of prosecuting evil-doers in government and found himself transfered to the midwest. That's what Mr. Felt risked. The mid-west, oh, the horror of it all.

And why is what Felt did a good thing? Because he and Woodward/Bernstein took down an American president who committed the one unpardonable sin of American politics. Nixon was a graceless man who despised the popular press and espoused ideas rejected by the press. But he crossed the line when he got himself elected by a majority of the voters. And Mr. Felt punished him.