Saturday, May 04, 2002

However much they're paying you, it's too much : I really, really, really hope the FBI has more to go on than this -

"This [the person(s) setting the mailbox bombs] is someone whose thinking ... whose anger, sense of frustration is so strong, that he doesn't care who else is injured because he feels his message is so important," said Clint Van Zandt, [...]


Wow, good thing they called in an expert, who else could have figured that out?

The use of the phrase "attention getter" seems to indicate the writer is older, and other aspects indicate the writer may have mental health problems.


No, ya' think?

Looking at the timing of the bombings, he said, "we're drawn to April 15th. This is someone who may well have some tax protest issues."


And, apparently, calender use issues as well... Given that it's now May fer god's sake. Maybe whoever it is has May Day issues instead?

On Saturday, FBI special agent Jim Bogner invited the bomber to contact the FBI with his grievances.


Dear nutjob, we reallyreallyreally want to meet you.

Oh yeah, that'll work.
Shoveling against the tide : Rep. Ron Paul (R - Texas) has introduced The Identity Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 220 - enter "HR220" into the bill number search box). Sounds kinda boring, don't it? Identity theft bad, we'll punish, blah-blah-blah. Nothing much that effects the average citizen, presuming you're not going around stealing other people's identities.

Well, not quite, the bill is far more interesting than that.

Thanks to congressional indifference, private Social Security numbers now are used by virtually all federal, state and local government agencies as a de facto national ID. As a result, once-private numbers intended only for the administration of Social Security benefits have become widely used in our daily lives.


Perhaps the worst abuser is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which illegitimately uses Social Security numbers as taxpayer ID numbers — an abuse certainly never intended by Congress when the Social Security Administration was established. Today the IRS acts in concert with the Social Security Administration, by requiring the assignment of Social Security numbers to infants before parents may claim a dependent deduction on their taxes. I trust the majority of members of Congress still understand that a free society should not be registering infants.


This abuse of private Social Security numbers has led to a terrible loss of privacy and a troubling rise in identity theft. Since one centralized government number identifies virtually every American citizen, the private sector — including banks, insurance companies, credit reporting agencies and other businesses — predictably adopted the numbers to identify their customers. In fact, federal law requires financial institutions to obtain Social Security numbers from account holders.


HR220 would go a long ways towards undoing some of this damage. It would require that federal and state governments no longer be allowed to ask for or demand your SSN in an attempt to return the SSN system to what it was originally promised to be. It would also require the SSA to issue a new, randomly generated, SSN to anyone with a previous SSN within five years.

It is time to start over with regard to Social Security numbers in this country. The federal government, not the private sector, is by far the worst invader of our privacy. Legislation is needed to reverse the terrible trend toward a government surveillance society — and the first step in that reversal must be to halt the use of Social Security numbers as national IDs.


More than likely this act doesn't even have a snowball's chance in a diffusion furnace of ever seeing the light of day, but it's one worth supporting if we're to have any hope of taking back some of our lost privacy. I urge anyone interested in this issue to write their congresscritter in support of this bill. A listing of representatives can be found here, Senators here.
When bad things happen to bad people : Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz seems to have an amazing grip on the blindly obvious.

“If it [war] comes, we will fight against it. If it doesn’t come, that will be very good for us,” he said.
Crying poormouth : The Archdiocese of Boston has reneged on a deal that would have paid out millions to 86 victims of pedophilic priest John J. Geoghan. To say that people are ripshit about this would be putting it way too mildly. The lawyer with whom this deal was hammered out over a period of ten months, Mitchell Garabedian, means to go to court Monday and demand that Law's passport be taken from him. Another lawyer already tried that and didn't get very far, but this time it might work.

Beyond the obvious, there are two things about this that hint that the Boston Archdiocese is trying to get out of this on the cheap. The first is that this is being played as something that was done against Cardinal Law's wishes. He wanted the deal to go through, you see, but it was the Financial Council that nixed it, for which Law feels terrible. No one is buying. Law runs the Archdiocese with an iron hand and in the entire time he's been here the Financial Council has never gone against his wishes.

Joe Gallagher, co-founder of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics, a grass-roots church reform group that supports victims, added: ``Since when is it even conceivable for lay people to override any member of the hierarchy? If that were the case, Law would have been gone a long time ago.''


The other thing that smells fishy about this is that for the first time recourse to the state liability cap is being floated. You see Massachusetts has a law that limits the liability of charitable organizations to US$20,000. The deal Law's office had hammered out with the lawyer for Geoghan's victims would have cost the church between fifteen and thirty million. If the church invokes the state liability limit it's down to US$1.72 million. The church knows that Geoghan's victims are just the tip of the iceberg and long before this is over they may very well be wishing they could bring back the sale of dispensations.
The Keystone Cops could do better : Airport security strikes again.

Two airport concourses were evacuated after a passenger's bag set off an explosives detector, and the passenger and bag disappeared into the crowd before security personnel noticed, authorities said.


Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said screeners were unable to locate the bag in a search of the concourses. He could not rule out the possibility that the passenger got on a departing flight with it before the concourses were closed.


This has gotten beyond pathetic. I mean it's bad enough that every other day we're reading about an x-ray machine or bomb detector going off and by the time anyone realizes it the person whose bag it was has gone hasta la bye-bye. But what is truly amazing is that they not only walk away with no one apparently noticing, but they manage to take the bag with them. I mean, at an absolute minimum you'd expect that if a bag set off a warning they'd keep track of the bag. It'd be nice if they could keep track of the bag and its owner, but apparently expecting that they could keep track of both is too much to ask.

So we'll give Granny a high colonic just to make sure she isn't hiding any rounds in her rectum and confiscate those highly dangerous knitting needles, but if someone walks through security with a bag that looks like its got a gun or bomb in it... Hey, why worry? It's not like it's worth getting worked up about or anything ya' know. The guy and his bag do a Houdini? Eh, that sucks, clear out the concourse and we'll have them go through "security" - the same security that just let the guy and his bag just walk away, by the way - again.

Oh yeah, that makes sense.
Sanctuary! : The siege at The Church of the Nativity is now entering its second month.

There are several things I've been wondering about pretty much from the outset of this mess. The first has to do with the oft repeated claim that this is a holy site revered by all of Christendom. While that's a nice idea, am I wrong in thinking that most of Christendom, at least most American Christians, had probably never even heard of this place before a bunch of Palestinians decided to break in? I'll certainly grant that to certain sects this church may be of great importance, but for most protestants?

Through my teens and early twenties I was a quite fervent believer in Christianity and though my beliefs have changed and the Christian church and I had a parting of the ways, I still have a great deal of respect for it - as I do for many religions. In my younger days I was certainly aware that there were a lot of important historical sites in "The Holy Land" that were of great interest, but the idea of a holy site would have been quite alien to me. Unlike Catholocism, Mormonism, Judaism, and Islam, all of which appear to my eyes to revere particular things or places as having a particular religious (rather than simply historical) significance, such a concept didn't exist in the particular branch of Christianity I subscribed to. A place or thing could have a great deal of historical significance and thus be of great interest, but it could not have an intrinsic "holiness". A church - whether built yesterday or two thousand years ago - was simply a building, holiness existed within the individual as a matter of accepting the holy spirit - this being one of the changes wrought by death and resurrection of Christ and the rending of the curtain.

The claims of this church being a holy site seems to me an attempt to say that should nastiness happen to it as a result of Israeli actions - somehow the actions of the Palestinian gunmen don't seem to count - all of Christendom will rise up in a righteous rage and smite those evil Israelis. Personally I just don't see it. While some sects might feel differently, it seems likely to me that the loss of this church, should it be destroyed, would be of no more and no less importance than the loss of the ancient statues of The Buddha that were destroyed by the Taliban. At least Israel has a reason for being there, rather than simply having decided that they don't like the place so they're going to raze it.

The second thing I've been wondering about is just how much ammo were these gunmen carrying with them? For more than a month now there's been on-and-off gunbattles between the gunmen and the Israelis, right? Well unlike what you see in the movies, even a short exchange chews through ammo at a ferocious rate. Unless the Palestinians (who, unlike the Israelis, presumably don't have a resupply line) are just occasionally popping off a round or two for shits 'n grins, each of these guys must have been a walking ammo dump.

The third thing is what kind of idiot runs into a war zone? Ten activists ran into the church on Thursday. That just blows my mind. You know if any of these mental midgets gets so much as a scratch they're going to scream to the high heavens and I can just imagine what the press will say if anyone starts taking the phrase "human shield" literally. What exactly did these people think they were going to accomplish? Did they think the Israelis were going to think "Oh, there's some Americans and Europeans in there now, I guess we'd better pack up and go home."? These people are proof the gene pool could use some serious chlorine.

The last thing I keep wondering is why no one seems particularly outraged by the actions of the Palestinians. Breaking into and using a church as a shield, not to mention taking civilian hostages, violates every rule of war there is. When the US set up Gitmo to hold prisoners it seemed like everyone and their brother wanted to go over each line of the Geneva Convention with a microscope looking for any violation, real or perceived, possible to scream from the high heavens. And yet here, not a peep. Where is the UN resolution? The EU outrage? The Palestinians routinely use civilians and civilian buildings as a shield, violating every rule of war there is, and yet nary a peep.

Funny, that.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

I don't know if it's art, but I like it : Is there an ounce of sense left anywhere in the educational system?

A Pennsylvania school suspended an 11-year-old girl for drawing two teachers with arrows through their heads, saying the stick figures were more death threat than doodle.


Lemme see... An eleven year old girl gets a D on a vocabulary test, vents her frustration by (poorly) drawing stick figures of her teacher at Custer's last stand, and that's a death threat? Good lord, if I'd gotten suspended every time I said, drew, or wrote something nasty about my teachers I'd have spent most of high school at home - a frightening thought indeed. I took particular pleasure in trying to come up with inventive ways my Bio II teacher might meet his end, and yet, oddly enough, I was never particularly tempted to rampage through the school with a 22 rifle, or blow up the teacher's lounge, or otherwise hasten certain teachers to their much-deserved end.

Kids vent, doodling or writing is often an outlet, and oftentimes their imaginations can run to the macabre. God knows mine did, I blame it on too much Pink Floyd. I suppose that in a world where a principle thinks that panty and bra checks are a good idea it's probably too much to expect sense out of school officials, but this total lack of proportion and common sense has to stop. For god's sake, which is healthier - letting her draw a nasty picture of a teacher and get it out of her system or having her seethe about it for a week? And what in the world is this kid supposed to learn from this? That authority figures can arbitrarily decide when your expression is offensive to them and punish you for it?

Zero tolerance is simply an excuse for zero thought.
And then there were three : SWVCTM has much to say and has decided that she would like to say some of it here. So now she joins myself and my sister here on "It Can't Rain All The Time...".
No Negotiation with terrorists

I am SWVCTM (someone who is very close to Myria). Today began the second week of my radiation therapy against bone cancer and the first session of my second course of chemotherapy. It was long and tedious and occasionally painful. All that aside, it did not make me nauseous (thank heavens for small favors) and they tell me I won’t lose my hair this time. Boo-yeah!!

Two things happened this afternoon that made me think about the concessions we often make in our lives without really thinking about them. I grant, in the overall scheme of things, they are probably minor irritations but at this point in my life, I’m not willing to put up with them. Nor do I believe that anyone else should have to should that be their choice.

On the way home from the hospital, our route takes us past a restaurant situated in the most difficult location in the city. Oh it’s convenient to the highway and right smack in the path of rush hour traffic so it practically mints money between 4:00 and 7:00 PM. And it is all but impossible to enter into or exit from because it is surrounded by frantic and constant two-lane traffic.

Does this slow down business? Not in the slightest! The patrons of this restaurant have adopted a type of semi-kamikaze approach to the problem. When they want to get out of the parking lot, they just come ahead. They don’t look to see if there’s traffic coming (they already know there is) nor do they pause at the street. They just nose the car out about halfway across the first oncoming lane of cars – and stop.

Then they start looking around. Actually, they start glaring at the drivers hoping to force someone to stop and let them pull all the way out. As a rule, this takes little time as it seems that most people aren’t troubled by being intimidated by idiots.

However, there are some people, I among them, who refuse to capitulate to this little machination. You pull your car out in front of me improperly and I will not let you out. I will attempt (usually successful, I might add) to go around you. If I can reasonably manage it, I will stop in front of your car, file my nails, empty the ashtray and check my oil.

It’s nothing personal. I don’t negotiate with terrorists. Just policy.

When we got home, I sat down to look at my email which is full of notes these days from friends and co-workers who are concerned for me and wish to stay in touch. I love and honor them all for this because I very much want to stay in touch and their friendship means a great deal to me.

However, amongst this group are a couple of folks who feel that receiving every inspirational story floating around in cyberspace will give me the hope and strength I need to hang on, fight the good fight, yadda-yadda-yadda. I can live without the stories; I’ve seen them all dozens of times anyway. Half of them are legends and the others are so emotionally manipulative as to make Bill Clinton look like a straight shooter. Almost inevitably, these stories of faith, hope and sap are tagged with the following lines (or variations thereof):

You now have two choices, you can:

1) Pass this on to your friends or
2) Delete it and act like it didn't touch your heart.

See, this is what makes me see red. This bit of business passes itself off as a painfully earnest and sincere attempt at getting you to acknowledge some responsibility for making someone’s day, helping them to feel better and in general asserting the nobility of the human race.

But what it really is – is blackmail and fairly explicit blackmail at that. You can pass this along to your friends and lighten their loads, bring a ray of sunshine to their lives and a tear to their eyes by forwarding that noble, unselfish piece of boiled balderdash thereby making you… Well, let’s not mince words here eh? Making you a hero! Someone who sees the opportunity to do a good deed, shine a light in a naughty word and, damn the torpedoes, just goes ahead and does it because shucks, that’s the kind of person you are!

Or you can be a heard-hearted rat-bastard who knows your friends e-mail boxes are already stuffed with more junk than they want to wade through, who understands that having to shoot Old Yeller is tragic, but that it is a tragedy we will all have to learn to deal with in our own ways when the time comes, and who refuses to hallow emotional garbage like this by passing it on to people who already have enough on their plates to deal with – and delete it.

Better yet – make a dozen copies first and delete them ALL!

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Power Tool Hell

We bought a house recently. Well, really, its a 900 square foot shack in dire need of remodelling, which we are currently doing with money we don't (and likely never will) have. Hey, it has a nice yard, though, and we can always put up a tent, right? In any case, interior demolition commenced immediately upon closing on the house and the current project involves the kitchen floor. Actually, I should say *one* of the current projects, since there is very little actual house left and my, wouldn't it be nice if we actually built some stairs to replace the ones we ripped out, rendering it impossible to get to the bedrooms upstairs? But I digress and run-on.

Back to the kitchen floor. This house was built in 1912, when hardwood floors were all the poor man could afford. Then, sometime later, someone with a horror of hardwood floors and an appalling love of linoleum tiles (my, what a step up in flooring THOSE are!) tarred over the hardwood and applied said tiles. They were, presumably, a nice pristine white at some point.

Times change and more bad taste items are marketed. So, over the linoleum tiles, someone nailed plywood and covered it with modern linoleum in the usual brain-numbingly boring and completely forgettable yellow pattern thang.

Let me recap: first hardwood, then tar, the linoleum tiles, then plywood, then linoleum.

And I, in my vast wisdom, decided it would be a lovely idea to restore the hardwood flooring. Really, how hard could it be? Just rip the newish linoleum and its backbone plywood out, take a heating gun to the linoleum tiles to pry them up easily, use a stripper to take the tar off, sand the hardwood down, seal it, and presto-flasho, restored hardwood floors.

It has taken over two weeks of smelly dirty tarry disgusting work, but we finally got to the Sanding of the Hardwood today. Now I (again in my vast wisdom) decided that a belt sander would do the trick nicely, since the kitchen really isn't very large and certainly not big enough to bother renting one of those big honkin' push-mower type sanders. No, no, a simple belt sander would do the trick.

I've never used a belt sander before. Where the hell I got the idea I had any talent with even such a minimal power tool is, at this point, beyond me.

The first thing that happened when I turned the sucker in is that it tried to take off across the room without me. Nearly suceeded, too, pompous little sneak. But I outflanked it and in a bold (but stupidly dangerous) move, I snapped it up off the ground and gave it a good shake for its impudence. Then, after a minute of wary regard, I located the off button and taught it a lesson by cutting its power. Probably could have just pulled the plug in the first place, but I was so outraged by its near-escape (after paying $49 for it at Home Despot) that the thought really didn't occur to me.

After that little incident I decided that perhaps I should do a few things before turning it loose again on my kitchen. After all, a loose belt sander in a house built in such a half-assed manner is really not a good idea. So, I figured I had better start with checking to see if it was actually wearing sandpaper (Oh, my, it WAS!) and maybe even leaf through the instruction book. After doing the latter, I felt somewhat less in control of the situation, since I had been doing exactly what the book said the first time I turned it on and there was no mention in the book of the belt sander needing to be broken via whip before use. Obviously, I had the wrong instruction book, but I couldn't let the belt sander know that or I'd be in deep, er, sandpaper.

So, hitching up my special "work" jeans (bought specially for doing work on the house, of course) and taking a deep (somewhat fearful) breath, I reentered the kitchen and faced the belt sander head on. Well, sort of. I actually plugged it back in and said a little prayer that I'd be able to control it when I hit the on switch.

Control was shaky at best. The belt sander bucked and kicked and etched little (well, okay, kind of large) marks in my hardwood floor, clearly trying to throw me off its back. I gripped it with both hands and gave it its head. It dragged me four feet across the kitchen (oh, look--that's nearly wall to wall!) before I could dig my heels in enough to slow it down. It dragged me forward. I dragged it back. We repeated that pattern until my arms simply couldn't take it anymore and I feebly managed to find the off button again. I sat, gasping for air, on the floor for a solid ten minutes before I was ready for Mr. BeltSander's Wild Ride again (definitely an E ticket). We repeated this ridiculous act quite a few more times over the period of nearly five hours. Eventually, as I sat in forlorn exhaustion on the much-desired hardwood floors once again, I looked around and decided that the floors no longer required any sanding. They were perfect and woe to any who suggested otherwise, dammit. I have had my day with power tools and I have found it not in the least to my liking.

As for the belt sander...you may be assured I will be taking care of that little twit of a power tool, and I *don't* mean gently oiling and cleaning it. Why in the name of all that's holy do men find these rebellious tools in the least exciting?!
Do you know where your children are? : The government has discovered that kids are being watched by their grandparents. The horrors!

Nearly one-third of paid child care workers are relatives who often lack training and government oversight, according to a national study released Wednesday.


[...]


Brandon said the study illuminates the need for more training and support, especially for informal and unlicensed caregivers. According to the Labor Department, child care is one of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations.


“You want to find the isolated, clueless caregivers and give them help,” Brandon said.


Were you aware that Granny is an isolated and clueless caregiver destroying your children's lives because you give her a few bucks to watch the diaper dragons and the government isn't involved?
Coming to a discrimination suit near you : First the PLO got evicted from their office space for failing to pay their rent. Now they can't find anyone who is willing to rent them new office space.

The poor dears.

And to add insult to injury -

The point may be moot in six months, however, because the Bush administration has said it will kick the PLO out of Washington — and restrict its leaders’ travel to and from the capital — if Arafat doesn’t crack down on terrorism.


I'm sure there's office space for them in Ramallah...
Now that we've had our way : The feds have decided that single sex schools are okay.

I can hear them gnashing their teeth at VMI from here.
And they ran like rats! : I found this story on remote control rats to be both intriguing and disturbing.

What they've done isn't really quite as shocking as the title of the article sounds. These rats aren't remote controlled exactly. They have implanted electrodes to stimulate the nerves associated with their left and right whiskers as well as to stimulate the rat's pleasure center. The rats have been trained to turn left or right, depending on the stimulation, knowing that if it does so it will get a little jolt of pleasure. These electrodes are radio controlled and have a range of 1,640 feet - presumably much farther with a more powerful transmitter.

There are some interesting potential applications for this. Rats are small and can get just about anywhere, they are certainly far more versatile than any robot we can design today. The rat would act as an intelligent agent, you tell it where to go and it figures out how to get there. If you could strap a small camera on the back of one of these rats you could, for instance, send it into the rubble of a collapsed building to look for survivors.

Realistically what they've done really isn't much different from any number of positive reinforcement techniques one might use to train an animal. You could presumably do basically the same thing without ever touching the brain. But they did, and that introduces a serious squick factor. Even though you're not actually controlling the rat - presumably if you gave the rat the signal to turn left and pass through a curtain of flame little ratty would give you the finger (paw?) and head the other direction, lack of pleasure jolt or not, post haste - the potential for this sort of thing can be a tad disturbing.

"I think that a lot of people are very wary of that sort of thing and understandably so," Rears said. "I don't think it's a sign of paranoia to react against this because it is very odd. It's Brave New Worldish."


Brave new rattish?
They went that-a-way! : Six wanted Palestinians are now apparently in the custody of the US and British.

Israeli armored vehicles began rumbling out of Yasser Arafat's battered compound Wednesday night, ending his five months of confinement in a diplomatic breakthrough that also saw six wanted Palestinians whisked away to a West Bank jail in a U.S. and British convoy.


[...]


The standoff ended when the sides accepted President Bush's plan to move the six wanted Palestinians from Arafat's offices to a jail in the West Bank town of Jericho, where they will be watched over by American and British wardens. Israel had been demanding custody of the men.


Leaving aside for the moment why anyone (well, anyone besides Arafat) wanted Arafat to be running free again, a lot of people in Blogtopia have been wondering what in the world is going to happen to these US and British wardens. After all, Palestinian mobs routinely break into various jails and release prisoners either because they want to hang them as collaborators or free them so they can go blow up civilians. A quick glance at the situation makes one wonder if this isn't one step short of a suicide mission for these wardens, who are very likely going to soon face a mob and are either going to have to run very, very quickly or they'll be toast.

I'm not sure a more subtle game isn't being played here as it sets what must be a disturbing precedent for Arafat. Another routine part of the Arafat cycle of deception has been his rather nasty habit of picking up and jailing extremist when the heat is on and then, when the heat and international attention has died down, releasing them. This, rather understandably, ticks the Israelis off to no end.

What if those US and British wardens actually manage to run a functional prison that isn't controlled by Arafat and the mobs? I grant you that this is a big "what if", but consider it for a moment. Now there's a precedent and the next time Arafat is supposedly rounding up dangerous extremist instead of letting him handle them, knowing they'll be released in a few days or weeks at the most, they can demand that they go to the US/British run prison where they will actually be kept for trial and held for the length of their sentence. Arafat wouldn't care for this much, to be sure, but he may not end up with much of a choice and he's already shown that he's willing to hand people over if he feels he's getting something in the bargain.

And what about those mobs? Well typically they're breaking into a Palestinian run jail and it's fairly clear that the resistance the jailers put up is little or none. Will they be willing to face jailers who are far more likely to shot back than to hand over the keys? And will Arafat be willing to take the risk of what the US and British might do should their people be attacked?
What if they threw a massacre and no one came? : Even the Palestinians now admit that there was no massacre at Jenin.

Palestinian officials yesterday put the death toll at 56 in the two-week Israeli assault on Jenin, dropping claims of a massacre of 500 that had sparked demands for a U.N. investigation.


The official Palestinian body count, which is not disproportionate to the 33 Israeli soldiers killed in the incursion, was disclosed by Kadoura Mousa Kadoura, the director of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement for the northern West Bank, after a team of four Palestinian-appointed investigators reported to him in his Jenin office.



Is anyone surprised by this? Anyone? I should be expecting retractions from all those breathless commentators who couldn't wait to tell us all about Israeli brutality, right? Yep, any minute now...

But here's the real kicker -

He no longer used the ubiquitous Palestinian charge of "massacre" and instead portrayed the battle as a "victory" for Palestinians in resisting Israeli forces. "Here the Israelis, who tried to break the Palestinian willpower, have been taught a lesson," Mr. Kadoura said.


So we've gone from the evil Israeli massacre to the Israeli's having got their bum kicked, eh? Stunning, but oh-so-predictable.
You can't keep a good tax down : Taxachusetts rides again.
Power tools : Legislation has been introduced to revamp drivers licenses, requiring that they include a chip (making them "smartcards") with biometric data on it for identification purposes.

Legislation to standardize state-issued driver's licenses across the United States, and to mandate that those licenses carry a computer chip and incorporate some kind of unique identifier such as a fingerprint, will be introduced in Congress on Wednesday.


The Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002, sponsored by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Tom Davis, R-Va., also directs that the chip be capable of accepting software for other applications, including those of private companies.


Uhhh... Software for other applications?

Ignoring for the moment that the feds have no business sticking their nose into this in the first place - if they want to create a national ID card they should be up front about it instead of trying to backdoor their way in - why in god's name are they even talking about making these things capable of storing information on you for businesses? Why are they even considering adding cost to the manufacture of these new drivers licenses so that they can be used for purposes other than what they are issued for?

He also stressed that use of the enhanced driver's license for private-sector services is strictly voluntary.


This argument gets extraordinarily tiresome. In theory your SSN was never supposed to have been used for identification purposes by anyone save the SSA. This was explicitly stated exactly because the fear was that the SSN would become a de facto national identification number. A fact a lot of people are completely unaware of exactly because the SSN is now a national identification number with the number of governmental and private agencies demanding and using it expanding exponentially every year.

Given the government's record when it comes to such things why should we trust them now? Why would we want them to have one iota more of information on us than they already have? Why would anyone think that if they had just one more way of tracking you that you'd be more safe when indeed likely it makes you less? And why, oh why, is anyone even talking about spending tax money to make a drivers license a more convenient tool for business?
The Frontier just ain't what it used to be.

Get a family from Southern California, a family from Tennesee, and a couple from back east, send them out to Montana, and make them do the homesteading thing a la 1883---this is the premise for PBS's Frontier House. PBS seems to think it a great history lesson, this taking of modern folk and only letting them eat food and use tools that would have been found in that time period. Show the public how things *really* were back then.

Yeah, right. What it is proving to be is one giant whine-fest on the part of the families involved. The family from California was utterly horrified when they found out they wouldn't be allowed to use their mascara. The mother of the family actually broke down in tears over this and the two girls smuggled in make-up anyway, then were forced to bury it when people found out they were using it. Exactly how they thought they could hide the eyeshadow and lipstick they were wearing is a complete mystery to the viewer. The entire family from California freaked out when they discovered how much food they were allotted, claiming they would starve to death. The father of the family, after loosing a little weight, screamed Malnutrition and the doctor was called in to assess him. The doc's professional opinion? The man had been fat and was now more fit. That, and he was dehydrating himself, stupid moron. In any case, the family remained deeply concerned over the amount of food they had, so the enterprising father took to making moonshine in an effort to make more money to buy more food. Guess we know what sort of stock he comes from.

And then there is the family from Tennesee, the mother of which is an utterly militant, sharp-tongued organization freak. Her husband, apparently having missed this fact in all their years of marriage, has suddenly, on the frontier, discovered it. They are now on the verge of divorce--something one might add was unlikely to be allowed in 1883.

The only decent ones in the group are the couple from back east--newlyweds. The wife is none too thrilled about being there and does a fair amount of complaining, but her husband does his work with little or no complaint and actually appears to be pleased with being there. Refreshing.

The one thing that I completely fail to understand about all of this is how these people missed the fact that homesteading is HARD freakin' work and that the 1800's were no cakewalk. Did they never read a history book? Did they not research what they were going to be getting into *before* actually applying to be part of it? Are they really that stupid?

Well, in any case, tonight will be the airing of the final two episodes. If you like whining and seeing neighbors feud, tune in or check out their website at PBS.org.

Monday, April 29, 2002

By jove she's got it! : While driving home from the hospital today I had a brilliant insight - Sunnydale is obviously a suburb of Springfield.

Just thought I'd share that with y'all...
That meddlesome priest : I've not had anything to say about the whole pedophilia in the Catholic church thing, what can one really say about it? The whole sordid affair is incredibly saddening and sickening, those involved or who knew about it deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The way this whole thing has played out has been bizarre in the extreme. As my sister mentioned, the Catholic church has had a couple of thousand years to learn how to handle Scandals (capital-S, dontchaknow). Yet in this they've acted like rank amateurs, at every turn seeming to do almost exactly the wrong thing. At every step they seem intent on making things worse, not better, and they seem almost unaware of how much damage has been done. It almost seems as though they still think this a minor matter that they can sweep under the rug. Their house is burning down around them and they're talking about seeing a fire insurance agent tomorrow... Maybe.

Mind you, I'm not Catholic (nor, for that matter, do I subscribe to any particular religion), but it has never seemed to me that Bernard Cardinal Law has ever been particularly popular around here and he certainly isn't now. From what I'm told his predecessor was quite popular and was seen as a man of the people, everybody's grandpa. In contrast Law was seen as a cold fish, rather condescending and patronizing and certainly no one's grandpa. So when this whole mess finally started to see the light of day Law didn't have a whole lot of goodwill to draw on. He still has his supporters, but they're quickly getting to be few and far between.

Around here we're used to seeing the word "embattled" next to politico or judge's names, but not Cardinals. Even had Law handled this mess well, which he most assuredly has not, it's questionable in my mind whether he could have reasonably continued to be an effective leader of the Boston archdiocese even assuming he himself was not shown to be legally culpable for the heinous acts of some of those priests working under him. When the US Cardinals were called back to Rome for their Weekend at Bernie's, a lot of people around here figured that would be the last anyone would see of Law and there were more than a few sighs of relief. The question of his presence for depositions aside, there seems little or no chance that the Boston archdiocese can even begin to start to heal while Law was still around.

Of course it was not to be, Law did return. Quickly thereafter the rumor ran around that he would soon be "elevated" - that is, the Vatican would get his bum out of here as soon as reasonably possible. But, of course, that idea - at least so far - has been discredited. Apparently Law intends to stay and fight.

Who exactly does he intend to fight? Apparently anyone in the priesthood or laity that happens to not be happy with how things have been handled.

In a letter faxed to priests throughout the archdiocese late Thursday at his behest, Law's top aide called a proposed coalition of parish councils ``superfluous and potentially divisive'' and said laity seeking a greater voice must do so ``within the hierarchical structure of the church.''


``The archbishop does not endorse or recognize the proposed association,'' wrote Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, vicar general of the Boston Archdiocese. ``As pastor or parochial vicar, you are not to join, foster or promote this endeavor among your parish pastoral council members or the community of the faithful at large.''


The letter referred to a proposed diocesan-wide association of parish pastoral councils, which include laity and which act as advisory boards to local pastors.


[...]


The letter nevertheless appeared to have a chilling effect among the clergy, coming on the heels of a series of meetings - described by some as reprimands - between Law's top aides and priests who have criticized the church's handling of the crisis.


Reading about these sorts of moves, I have to wonder if the hierarchy of the Boston archdiocese has collectively lost its mind. They don't want to deal with the problem, instead they must wait for yet another meeting and in the meantime apparently they're going to do their level headed best to try and piss off as many of those who might have actually helped and supported them as absolutely possible.

And then I read this and all doubt is removed.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in documents filed by his attorney, said ``negligence'' by a then 6-year-old boy and his parents contributed to alleged sexual abuse of the child by a priest.


The cardinal's six-page defense document is in response to the lawsuit filed against him Gregory Ford and his parents, Rodney and Paula Ford of Newton. The Fords have charged that Law was negligent in overseeing the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, who he knew, or should have known, was a danger to children.


[...]


In the court document, Law declares: ``The defendant says that the Plaintiffs were not in the exercise of due care, but rather the negligence of the Plaintiffs contributed to cause the injury or damage complained of ...''


The response also says that any damages assessed against Law ``should be reduced in proportion to the said negligence of the Plaintiffs.''


Bernard Cardinal Law has lost his marbles, it's the only explanation I can come up with for something like this. I don't care what his lawyers may have told him, to try and make the legal claim that a six-year-old boy who was sexually abused by a priest was somehow negligent is insanity.
A Barbie girl livin' in a Barbie world : Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel and generally credited with having created the Barbie Doll, died Saturday at the age of 85.

I've been a sometimes collector of Barbies for years now - I've a modest collection, though I haven't bought any new ones for a couple of years. You might be surprised at just how many collectors there are, the claim is that doll collecting is the second most popular hobby in this country, and a fair percentage of the new dolls made are mostly for the collector market. One does not typically, after all, buy a multi-hundred dollar porcelain Barbie for one's nine year old daughter. The most expensive Barbie yet made, Pink Splendor Barbie, went for $900 new. Original Barbies in mint condition have gone for as much as five thousand dollars or more.

Contrary to popular mythology, Mrs. Handler did not come up with the idea for Barbie herself. Indeed she "borrowed" it from a doll called Bild Lilli. Bild was a German newspaper that in 1952 started running a comic strip, considered somewhat risque for the time, featuring a character called Lilli. Much to everyone's surprise, Lilli became quite popular and it occurred to someone to make a Lilli doll. The Lilli doll likewise became popular - still is on the collector's market - and at first was mostly a kind of gag gift that one gave at parties, mostly to men, presumably because of the risque factor. Some have described Lilli as being a bit beyond risque and more into the pornographic realm at the time as she was generally depicted as being half dressed and usually scheming to find a "sugar daddy".

While in Europe Ruth Handler got three Bild Lilli dolls and came up with the idea to market something similar in the US to girls. You see at the time dolls for little girls were either infants or children and Ms. Handler believed that an adult doll would be very popular with young girls. As it turned out, she was right. She and her husband formed a company called Mattel (a contraction of "Mattson", from their friend and partner, Harold Mattson, and "Elliot", her husband's first name) and Mrs. Handler convinced a Japanese company to manufacture a "new" kind of doll for them which she named after her daughter (and, later, Ken was named after their son). Almost overnight Barbie became extremely popular.

Barbie's mythical full name, if you're curious, is Barbie Millicent Roberts. She is from Willows, Wisconson, and graduated from Willows High School.

Whatever happened to the guy who invented Bild Lilli and his doll? Basically Mattel squashed them like bugs. Mattel has, almost from the beginning, been extremely protective of its market, and not without reason. Barbie has been one of the longest lasting and most lucrative toys of all time.

Of all of the controversies that seems to crop up about Barbie, the one that has always struck me as being the oddest concerns her figure. Certainly Barbie's dimensions are exaggerated but any idea that this was done, oftentimes said as though it were some kind of plot, to present some sort of unrealistic expectation for little girls is ludicrous.

On an adult woman clothes have a certain flow, they look a certain way. This is a combination of the woman's curves and the way the weight of the clothes causes them to cling in some places and fall in others. However when you scale those same clothes down to fit a doll they have little or no weight, you've removed half of the equation and all that's there to give them shape is the underlying form of the doll itself. The somewhat exaggerated dimensions are simply an effort to make clothes "look right" on the doll, simple as that. Mrs. Handler and company wanted a realistic appearing doll, which in this sort of thing is not the same thing as wanting a perfectly scaled model.
Join the dark side, Luke... : The European Commission president, whose only real power - at least as far as I can tell - is the ability to generate huge amounts of hot air, means to spank those naughty British today -

Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, will deliver a withering attack on Britain today for being too "afraid" of the European Union to take a leading role in shaping its future.


'Fraidy cat, 'fraidy cat! Neener-neener-neener!

Yeesh.

I've no idea how this will likely sit with our UK cousins, but I know it'd go over about as well as poop in a punch bowl here. Tactically it just doesn't seem that bright - not that, from what he's said in the last few months, it seems likely that Mr. Prodi is at risk of accidentally winning a Nobel Prize anytime soon.

Scratch that, considering what a joke the Nobel Prize - at least the Peace Prize - has become, maybe he is.

In any event, it's my fervent hope that the British won't give in to this kind of rot, won't give up all of their freedoms to the Eurocrats, and perhaps in doing so they may help save the whole mess from becoming an even worse disaster than it seems most likely it is going to be.