Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dumb question of the day

Seriously, I saw this poll question on the website of a California newspaper:

"Is the economic downturn responsible for Tehama County's double-digit unemployment rate?"

Maybe the next poll question they'll have will be, "Is rain responsible for the fact that it's raining?"

And newspapers wonder why they can't stay in business even with a website? Of course they're going out of business, if they ask dumb questions like that.

Or maybe this is like during the so-called economic "boom" of several years ago when everyone was out of work but denied there was a recession.

Another funny dream to interpret

A couple weeks ago, I had another weird dream.

In this dream, I saw an episode of 'King Of The Hill' in which Bobby buys a large piece of plywood from a home improvement store for some project to impress his friends. He discovers the wood is infested with ticks, so he returns it to the store.

While he is at the store demanding a refund, Hank lectures him about his unreasonable expectation that the plywood would be free of ticks.

Needless to say, it was pretty damn funny.

"Bobby, don't you know?! When you get plywood, it's gonna have ticks!"

The moral of this dream? Probably to check for mites when you buy plywood.

If the United States was a piece of plywood, Bush conservatives would be the ticks infesting it.

Happy now, DLC?

Hey DLC, it was just sooooo important for Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, wasn't it?

And that's what set into motion the events that led to the potential disaster that may be unfolding in New York's 20th District.

In the interest of disclosure, I was against Clinton's presidential run. She has supported the illegal Iraq War all along. When it came down to it, she was the DLC candidate. (I'm a registered Green now, thanks to the DLC, but that's beside the point.)

And let's get this clear too: Everyone knows Republicans have rigged elections for years, but that's just sort of a built-in assumption now. Not much point in going into detail about that, because you all know it happens.

The DLC has always acted like it's so concerned with the Democratic Party's electoral viability, but look how well their Hillary demands worked this time. New York's 20th House district was a fairly safe seat before it went vacant, which never would have happened if they'd just left Clinton in the Senate for now.

Or maybe David Paterson could have at least appointed someone other than Kirsten Gillibrand to Clinton's Senate seat. That way, Gillibrand could have held the House seat, which was probably safe as long as she held it. Still, that wouldn't be an issue but for the supposed need to appoint Clinton as Secretary of State. (Of course, Paterson is the man who tried enacting the aspartame subsidy, so nobody here said he was all that grand.)

After this display, nobody in the Democratic Party should listen to a single damn word the DLC says ever again. But they don't fucking learn, do they? They sure have a way to snatch defeat from the mandibles of victory.

Incidentally, Scott Murphy is leading today's election by only a few dozen votes. But if Disco Duck beats him, the DLC deserves the lion's share of the blame.

Another close election

I thought we'd have a winner tonight in that special election in New York state, but right now it's 50.01% to 49.99%.

Sorry, folks, but it looks like election watchdogs like me are going to have to stay up all night again! Which I practically do anyway, thanks to Daylight Wasting Time, but that's another matter.

Sore loser prepares to lose sorely

There's a special congressional election in upstate New York today, and already the waterworks are looming.

Republican candidate Jim Tedisco took the strange step of filing a motion to stall the vote certification in case he loses. Tedisco's main opponent is Democrat Scott Murphy. It's unknown if there are any third party candidates.

On page 9 of Tedisco's motion, he sought a restraining order to prevent the certification of his opponent's win, regardless of the margin of victory.

In other words, Tedisco wanted an order saying that if he lost, his opponent couldn't be declared the winner.

Waaah waaah waaah.

Needless to say, the court struck down that paragraph on sight.

If the Republicans spent as much effort finding decent candidates as they do crying over elections they lose, they might actually start winning more elections again. But nope. They'll never learn.

(Source: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/31/711733/-NY-20:-Tedisco-Preps-for-Loss,-Using-Courts-to-Try-and-Block-Murphy-Win)

When I violated Taft-Hartley

We interrupt this blog with this important late-breaking news story...

Hi, it's me. Tim.

Remember me? Well, it's time I confront something that can no longer be ignored: I violated the Taft-Hartley Act.

It's as violated as a bird!

I violated it just last night, in fact. Did anyone else notice? Here's a hint: It was in my entry about Joe the Plumber's idiocy.

The Taft-Hartley Act is a giant Allowed Cloud that has long hamstrung the American worker. In addition to forcing union employees to subsidize antiunion activity, this law also has other methods of keeping workers down. For instance, it broadly expanded presidential strike-breaking powers (which Reagan later abused).

I live to violate unreasonable Allowed Clouds. (I'm just fine with reasonable Allowed Clouds.) I started doing this because somebody needed to stand up against personal conduct being tightly regimented - or the problem would just get worse.

Last year, for instance, I violated an Allowed Cloud by smuggling Pepsi into Riverfest.

Anystink, the Taft-Hartley Act outlaws political strikes. In other words, it bans work stoppages designed to achieve political goals. These strikes used to be legal, and still are in most of the world. But not under Taft-Hartley.

Last night, I suggested a general strike might be necessary to force EFCA to pass.

I knew this would violate Taft-Hartley. But what else was I supposed to do? Are we supposed to tolerate a Congress that won't pass EFCA but lets the Patriot Act and the '96 Telecommunications Act stand unchallenged? We have a right to expect better from a Democratic-led Congress.

When a law is unconstitutional, can you really blame one for violating it? Make no mistake: The Taft-Hartley provision against political strikes is unconstitutional. End of story.

Funny thing is, I probably won't get in trouble for violating the Allowed Cloud against political strikes. Do you really think prosecutors want to make a martyr out of me? They've got a toothless law, and I'm rubbing their faces in it.

And I may defy this Allowed Cloud again if the need arises.

You love it when I'm defiant like this. This blog spent last year being defiant, and everyone ate it up. Most of you probably agreed with each act of defiance, but the rest of you were probably indifferent and just wanted the amusement of seeing how I'd react if I got arrested. Well, I haven't been arrested since the NKU showdown 14 years ago, and I don't think the authorities want to embarrass themselves again.

What did I tell ya?

Well, looky here.

How many times did I say that this pseudoephedrine log bullshit affects only the innocent, because people who actually abuse the drug can find ways around the law?

Now, a report by KYTV-TV in Springfield, Missouri, says that people who actually abuse the drug are finding ways around the law.

(Slaps forehead.)

Gee, I never saw that coming, did you?

Of course, the report seems to be trying to use this as an excuse to implement even tougher laws. So the vicious cycle continues.

If tougher laws are passed, things are just going to get worse. That's an ironclad guarantee.

It's time we face reality: The restrictions on pseudoephedrine don't work, and they inconvenience only the innocent. We need to go back to the way it was before the 2000s by repealing the laws that limit purchases of over-the-counter allergy drugs.

And we must expose the wicked politicians who stand in our way.

(Source: http://www.ky3.com/news/local/42152887.html)

Please won't you be my neighbor?

I mentioned in The Last Word before about how I had a neighbor who vandalized the Peace Bike, threatened to rub dog shit on the other neighbors' front door, and shoved rotten food into their own refrigerator drain (apparently hoping that the next person would have to deal with it).

Well, some moron in Toronto also terrorized his neighbors for no apparent reason - for 7 years. And now he's been convicted on 49 charges over his ongoing campaign.

This had to go on for 7 years before the law did anything about it?

It went on that long before ANYONE did anything about it?

Time was, people didn't tolerate bullies like that. Nowadays, everyone learns early in life that if they look at a bully cockeyed, the bully isn't the one who gets punished. So people are conditioned to think there's really no point in ever fighting back.

We've seen the results of this mentality in schools - and now in neighborhoods.

(Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090327.wscala0327/BNStory/National/home)

Utility giant another step closer to rate hike

Duke Energy has just reached an agreement that brings it another step closer to yet another rate hike for its Ohio customers.

You need to check out some of the comments on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website. It sounds exactly like what people said about Unitil a couple months back...


Who was it who insisted I was the only critic of the local utility monopoly? Was it one of these same geniuses who thought Bush would win New Jersey?

Dog may be killed

In recent years, the pendulum has swung too far: People are so worried about nebulous concerns of the collective that basic nature is denied.

That's what all this "danger to yourself or others" bushwa in the nation's "mental hygiene" laws is about. There's a whole system that's so concerned about the convenience of a few that it's willing to gut someone's basic human rights without even any due process.

I think the same concept is at work now in Wake County, North Carolina. Now a dog that reportedly bit a jogger has been seized by the county from her owners over this incident and may be killed by the county.

One thing is for sure: Killing the dog is unconscionable to me. And 30 years ago, the dog would have probably been safe from this fate. But not these days.

In modern America, a man who intentionally almost burned his own son to death walks free. An athlete who gnaws his opponent's ear off faces almost no penalty. A maniac who runs over participants in an antiwar rally with his truck suffers no punishment other than being fined a few dollars.

But a dog bites someone, and it's over.

I don't know the dog's owners, so I have no idea whether they'd been mistreating the dog. I don't know the bite victim, so I have no idea whether she provoked the dog. But make no mistake about it: When dogs feel threatened, they can bite. Dogs will be dogs.

I was biking in northern Kentucky about a year ago and had a confrontation with a scary dog. This was the most frightening dog I'd ever seen. If I had been bitten, I feel that would have been the fault of the dog's owners - not a reason to kill the dog.

I'd rather save a dog than worry about the convenience of the human population.

(Source: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1463526.html)

15 minutes of infamy lasts a lifetime online

I really hate having to encourage legislative action over something like this, but it wouldn't be necessary if Google was on the ball like it should be.

For years, Usenet has been the elephant in the room for the Internet. Usenet's prominence isn't nearly what it once was, but it lingers around like a scar on the landscape from a sanitary sewer that was left half-finished.

As Carmine Guzman would say, let's cut to the chase: People have personal problems (which weren't their fault), they get the wrong prescription, their brains get fried, and they say foolish things on the Internet. Or someone posts idiotic crap online under their name.

Google archives Usenet posts going back for years. So these things stick around, if you know where to find them. Because we all know the victims of this shit haven't suffered enough in their lives. (That last sentence is sarcasm, people.)

The problem here is that Google makes it extremely - and I mean extremely - difficult for people to delete their own years-old posts in its archive.

If they were posted under a dead account, you have to fill out a detailed form listing all your personal information and a reason why you want the posts deleted. The form is supposed to let you list all the message ID's of the posts you want erased. This used to work, but it works no longer. Instead, you have to go back and find the URL's of the posts as they appear in the archive.

Often, it takes 5 or 6 tries for Google to even pay any heed to your request.

Then, after the messages are deleted, they often pop back up again later - sometimes several years after they were erased!

And this doesn't even account for the posts that were phony to begin with. I've determined that it's probably impossible these days to get Google to delete forged Usenet posts.

Why does Google make it so hard to erase old posts? Beats the celery green shit out of me. They probably have some high-sounding reason like their desire for "completeness."

Personally, however, I think privacy and respect for those in need are more important. Usenet peaked during an incoherent time when many Americans' lives were shattered. People deserve the right to ache privately. How were they to know that their posts would still be online years and years later?

If they're your posts, you own them. Google doesn't. For years, I kept hearing about how others' Usenet posts were automatically copyrighted once they were posted (regardless of whether they included a copyright notice). Doesn't that principle apply here? Or is it "copyright for me, not for thee"?

If they're not your posts, and are just someone pulling a hoax, then the posts were fraudulent. This type of fraud is criminal. By not deleting these phony posts, Google is just letting the fraud continue to pay off for the fraudster.

I think it's time for some strong online privacy legislation. At minimum, Google shouldn't be allowed to ask for a reason why you want your own posts removed. Under the right-wing DMCA, Disney and Viacom don't have to give a reason to get YouTube to yank videos. So why should you have to give a reason to get posts that you own removed?

The law should also require Usenet archive sites like Google to remove hoax posts upon the victim's demand.

These are the minimum that we have a right to expect. Leaving old crap laying around doesn't accomplish anything unless it's to "get" someone.

DHL may get tax breaks to return to facility it abandoned

Shipping giant DHL was happy to receive corporate welfare - even in an era when assistance to poor families was being slashed.

In 1998, DHL got $17,000,000 from Kentucky taxpayers to help construct airplane parking areas at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Around 2004, DHL opened a $220,000,000 building at this airfield. But DHL abandoned the airport entirely in 2005 - taking the taxpayers' parking lot money with it and leaving its brand-new building empty. DHL moved out of Kentucky and went to Wilmington, Ohio.

Then DHL pulled out of domestic U.S. business entirely. DHL largely abandoned Wilmington, leaving 5,000 people out of work just in that small town. Only its international business remains there.

Now DHL is considering returning to the airport in northern Kentucky. If it does so, it may again be on the backs of the taxpayers. That's because Kentucky has just approved nearly $2,000,000 in tax breaks for the shipper. This too is in effect corporate welfare.

We all want and need jobs in this region, but honestly, how much is going to be spent on corporate welfare?

Also, DHL is no longer an American-based company. It's headquartered in Bonn, Germany. Shouldn't our priorities be with American firms?

It's bad enough DHL left the area after getting all that state money for its airplane parking lot. Hopefully, the lot hasn't become full of potholes in the years DHL has left it behind.

(Source: http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20090331/BIZ01/903310340)

Smacking down the Senate's biggest horse's ass

Meet the Senate's biggest horse's ass (well, except Saxby Clueless). It's Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina).

Look at that ugly sneer. Just look!

A few weeks ago, DumbMint really thunk he had us like a big pie in the face when he said, "I can see why liberals don't mind if the tax rate goes up because they're not going to pay it anyway." This was a reference to Tom Daschle's tax woes.

Ha ha, Jim, you're a really funny guy!

But wait! Now what's this?!

Now (as I told you on Thursday) several Republican members of Congress have been caught evading taxes by using the homestead exemption for their D.C. digs - a big no-no. Yes, folks, that's an Allowed Cloud.

One of them - Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) - is known to be an ardent backer of a 30% national sales tax. And possibly the others are too. Steve King was the most arrogant of the congressmen caught in this tax evasion scandal.

Well, you know what I have to say about that? Just change one word in DeMint's statement, so it reads: I can see why conservatives don't mind if the tax rate goes up because they're not going to pay it anyway.

As we said in the '70s: Burn!

It's true. This scandal shows that conservatives don't pay their taxes, so they don't give a shit what the tax rate is.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Joe the Plumber clogs things up

I thought the 15 minutes of fame were over for Joe Wurzelbacher - the infamous Joe the Plumber who became a hero to right-wingers. I thought that pretty soon he'd be forgotten forever - like that weirdo who had his kids preach at their teachers every time they got in trouble at school.

But nope! Ol' Joe is back for more humiliation!

Wurzelbacher really wasn't even a plumber. In his jurisdiction, one needs a license to do plumbing work - which he didn't have. According to the Toledo Blade, Wurzelbacher was "not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he's not a plumber."

But now he's taking his campaign of right-wing angst on the road.

Wurzelbacher was supposed to appear in Pittsburgh today for a rally against the much-needed Employee Free Choice Act. The plumbers' union, however, was furious at this grandstanding by someone who's not even a licensed plumber - so the union conducted its own gathering to support EFCA.

Unfortunately, many observers believe EFCA is already dead - which proves how lightweight today's congressional leadership is. With the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress for once, you'd think passing EFCA would be a slam-dunk. Sadly, however, the current crop of congressional Democrats would rather pass laws requiring Sudafed logs than EFCA. (Now you know why I switched to the Greens.)

We may have to have a nationwide general strike to pass EFCA.

(Source: http://www.postgazette.com/pg/09089/959354-100.stm)

Meet the twelvos

What can you say when the other side gets outvoted so spectacularly that you can almost smell their tears?

I don't know, because we've run out of tears ourselves from having to fight them for so long. Trust me, if I thought 15 years ago that America's PUBLIC schools would start requiring uniforms, I would have run off to hide in the woods forever with no Internet and only berries for food.

But at long last, this story proves what happens when a public school at least makes an effort to conduct an accurate survey of the school community.

In Boonville, Indiana - not exactly an ultraliberal town - school officials sent out a survey about whether to require students to wear uniforms. Well, the results are in, and uniforms won the support of only - get this - 12%.

That's right - 12%! Nothing more. I've long guessed that's about how much support mandatory public school uniforms would receive in a scientific nationwide poll.

From now on, let's just call the uniform supporters the 12-percenters - or simply the twelvos.

They should be made to walk around every day with each digit of the number 12 painted on each side of their face. They should have all their shirts emblazoned with the number 12. They should be made to wear size 12 underpants. They should be obligated to scribble the number 12 on the backs of their hands and greet each other by saying, "12 out of 12!"

Then they'll know what it's like being forced to wear something they abhor.

There's some serious principles involved here. If a worker doesn't like a uniform, you can fire them. If an athlete doesn't like a uniform, you can kick them off the team. But school is compulsory. You can't just tell students to stay home if they don't like the uniform.

And it's not just students who despise the uniform. After a new report revealed that the school uniform industry was exploiting sweatshop labor, I'm sure a lot of people don't like it. Yet some schools continue to require families to buy uniforms made in abusive sweatshops. (Maybe it's because schools themselves are abusive sweatshops?)

Will the twelvos shut up following their amazing 12% support? Don't hold your breath. That genie was let out of the bottle years ago, and unfortunately, we're stuck with their babblings.

(Source: http://www.tristate-media.com/articles/2009/03/28/warricknews/news/doc49cba5fbc441d271797986.txt)

Harassment of convention protesters continues

It's bad enough the Twin Cities had to be blighted by the 2008 Republican National Convention, but the stink still hasn't worn off 7 months later.

Before and during the convention, police charged folks just for organizing peaceful protests against the event. A group of 8 people who were charged now calls themselves the RNC 8.

On Saturday, the RNC 8 organized a bike tour of the places where they were raided. This event drew dozens of locals. Nothing illegal about this outing at all. It's a bit like the Tim Brown Expulsion Tour, in which we show folks the schools I got kicked out of by driving past them.

Nonetheless, when the cyclists stopped at a local church for a scheduled lunch, they noticed the cops were on their tail. They found 6 bike cops and several police vehicles waiting for them outside the church. It appeared to be a joint effort by 20 to 30 local and federal law enforcement officers.

Although the cyclists broke no laws, Minneapolis police had the chance to arrest one of them for disorderly conduct when he had to leave the event early.

Doesn't the city have anything better to do than harass people over last year's GOP convention?

All this after the FBI informant who is central to the case against the RNC 8 was found guilty on assault and property damage charges in an unrelated case.

With so many RNC protesters being acquitted, you'd think authorities would figure out by now that they don't have a case against them.

(Source: http://twincities.indymedia.org/2009/mar/letter-minneapolis-police-chief-tim-dolan-about-continuing-post-rnc-harassment)

Power company blasted at hearings

If you're from New England and think Unitil customers are alone in their plight, then you need to read this brief article about Duke Energy's monopoly in Cincinnati.

If you're the type who sighs loudly and scowls every time someone dares to criticize a major corporation, you also need to read this article.

If you think this blog's longtime criticism of Duke Energy is exaggerated and unwarranted, you need to read this article.

If you're anyone, you need to read this article...


(Granted, that's a dinosaur media piece, but it'll have to do.)

Pay special attention to the paragraph near the end that begins, "Customers ..." Apparently, people have complained about the fact that the power often goes out even in fine weather - not to mention Duke raising customers' bills to pay for the September blackout.

Now Dook wants yet another rate hike - separate from that.

If Duke thinks it needs the money so badly, maybe it needs to end the sweetheart deals it has with other major corporations (which we're already paying for).

"I don't get it"

You know you've really pushed conservatives' buttons when they're still sending you nasty e-mail 2 weeks after the fact.

I got another one on Saturday from one of the Cincinnati Tea Party cultists. Like some of the others, this one practically admitted that they stayed at the swanky Westin. It says:

"I don't get it? What's the problem with the Westin?"

Reminds me of Bert of 'Sesame Street' looking at the camera and saying, "I don't get it," when Ernie wins a segment.

The problem with the Westin? It's one of the most expensive hotels in Cincinnati. A rally can't very well pass itself off as a populist gathering when so many of its participants stay at the Westin. (As if the "Thank the rich" sign didn't already dash their claims to populism.)

If I traveled to another city for any reason, I wouldn't in a billion years expect to lodge at a Westin - even if my trip was mostly paid for by some think tank or party leaders (as the Tea Party farces are). If I got a Motel 6, I'd feel like I was being treated like a king.

The person who sent me this note isn't just from out of town. They're from Portugal, in fact. They came all the way from Portugal to make a fool of themselves on Fountain Square! Evidently, they spend most of their time making right-wing comments on YouTube videos - earning themselves much ridicule.

The conservative (bowel) movement ran the United States for 28 years consecutively, yet their brains haven't even evolved past the amebic stage yet?

Woman jailed for being poor

Although the United States abolished debtors' prison in the 1830s, postdemocratic America has seen the revival of this hated practice.

A woman from Escanaba, Michigan, has been jailed because she is too poor to reimburse the court for her teenage son's sentence in juvenile detention.

Making people pay to be sentenced to jail or detention is itself a practice that gained height with the class-charged incarceration boom of the '90s. It's fundamentally wrong, as the punishment for the crime is supposed to be only jail (unless there's some additional penalty).

When the judge sends you to jail, that's the penalty. The punishment isn't supposed to also include paying for the jail stay. Running a jail is a cost the county has to pay.

It's unclear what crime was committed by the teenager in this story. One thing is for sure: There's a whole system in place designed to throw the book at young people as well as adults for things that weren't even illegal 30 years ago. With the laws these days, the average American probably breaks the law monthly without even knowing it.

The mother in the Michigan case was initially found in contempt of court because she couldn't pay for her son's detention. She had also been denied a court-appointed attorney, even though the Constitution requires her to be provided with one.

When she finally got paid at work, the jail took that money too - and kept her incarcerated. So it sounds like a vicious cycle: Can't pay, go to jail, rack up more jail bills, can't pay again, stay in jail, and so on. It's a nifty little racket the system has.

The ACLU of Michigan has taken up the woman's case. The Michigan ACLU also successfully represented a disabled man recently whose probation was extended because he was too poor to pay the supervision fee.

(Source: http://aclumich.org/issues/due-process/2009-03/1353)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cops shoot unarmed college student over marijuana

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and the drug warriors being completely out of control.

Two weeks ago, police in Michigan barged into the apartment of a 20-year-old man and shot him in the chest - nearly killing him. His only crime was that he had a tiny amount of marijuana in his possession.

The young man never threatened the police - and he was unarmed.

The incident has prompted rallies at Grand Valley State University, where he attends college. Meanwhile, he is still recovering from a punctured lung, a shattered liver, and broken ribs.

I've said a lot about the failed War on Drugs in the past few days, and this incident proves yet again what a disaster the drug war is. Not only does it breed outright corruption, but it also fosters a "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude.

(Source: http://www.hollandsentinel.com/news/x1984813816/GVSU-student-shot-in-drug-raid-calls-for-patience-in-investigation)

No insurance for you!

I thought the government finally cracked down on this years ago. But after Newt and little George erased 60 years of progress, I guess the country is back to the sepsis and bedbug days.

It seems that in today's America, not a single decision is made about anything unless an insurance company approves it. This is worse than merely annoying. It can be deadly. Everyone remembers about a year ago when a young person died because she was denied life-saving medical treatment by her insurer. This happens more than you realize.

Insurers actually have more power than doctors in making medical decisions.

Sadly, this trend continues unchecked.

Now it's been revealed that health insurance companies secretly blacklist patients with certain conditions or who take certain medications.

If you have gallstones, for instance, you'll be denied coverage automatically. If you take certain diabetes drugs, you'll be denied as well. If you have asthma or if you're even slightly overweight, odds are you'll be denied too.

Suppose you get the bright idea to fib a little and tell your insurer that you don't have these conditions or don't take these drugs. Well, that probably won't work. That's becuz insurers hire data-mining companies who will sell them all your health information.

Isn't your health data supposed to be confidential? I thought there were laws to protect you from having your health history blabbed everywhere.

Several of these data miners have been accused by the Federal Trade Commission of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by not letting folks see the data about them.

Insurers have their own confidential, secret documents that they use as a guide to deny coverage.

This scandal is a key reason why insurers can't be part of any serious health care reform. In the meantime though, we should pass laws barring insurers from denying coverage in this manner.

America's greed-driven health care system is broken.

(Source: http://www.miamiherald.com/323/story/973158.html)

End the War on Drugs? ('Pail Poll)

You came through again in last week's 'Pail Poll!

This survey asked whether you'd favor shortening the standard work week in the U.S. from 40 hours to 35 hours.

Understandably, this was a contentious issue, thanks to the fear that working shorter hours might make workers less money. In the comment section of last week's entry though, I hinted that there is an obvious solution for this. Surprisingly, none of you seemed to figure out what it is.

Can you figure out what it is? The comment section is open below...

Nonetheless, you voted 12 to 7 in favor of a shorter work week.

This week's 'Pail Poll asks about the failed War on Drugs. Almost daily now, we see more evidence that the drug war is a failure. The battles in Mexico are just the latest example.

The latest survey here asks whether you'd support ending the War on Drugs in its current form. By that, I mean the current line of drug war methods that has been carried out since the Reagan era or longer.

So vote and peep!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Idiot bubbles while dancing in street (Bubble Gum Weekend)

In the '80s and well into the '90s, there was no end to the unlikely situations in which bubble gum commercials would depict bubbling as a suitable activity.

We all remember the Care-Free gum commercials with the "bubble blowin' sugar-free" song. These ads evolved from some with a more bombastic jingle, and they started out featuring people bubbling while engaging in various athletic activities such as tennis or lifting weights.

Eventually though - when blowing bubbles that burst all over one's face was ceasing to be the phenomenon it once was - Care-Free started taking a very slightly different tack. This ridiculous 1988 commersh uses a similar jingle as before, but the activities aren't as strenuous, and no bubbles pop on any faces:


That commersh grows increasingly absurd throughout its mere 15 seconds. It finally culminates with a balding man in a goofy yellow t-shirt dancing in the middle of a city street while bubbling.

Hell of a stupid way to hold up traffic, huh? You can almost hear motorists yelling, "Get out of the road, you idiot!" But he seems to be paying no attention to these cries, as he is more concerned about his bubbling.

And yes, this ad played on the now-familiar fallacy that assumed the bubbling public would rather get bladder cancer from artificial sweeteners than get cavities from sugar. Considering it's been years since I've seen anyone chew Care-Free, that appeal didn't seem to work too well.

Traffic cams to appease insurance racket?

A new proposal in Chicago is like a corporatist's wet dream.

One of the major concerns Americans have had about red light cameras is the obvious potential for expansion. Apologists for traffic cams, however, have always tried to assure us that we have nothing to fear as long as we're innocent. The cameras are for our own good, you see.

Maybe it's true that those of us who aren't guilty of running red lights have little to fear - unless of course the camera misreads someone else's license plate so you get sent a citation (which happens often).

We may have little to fear, that is, until the cameras start tracking lesser offenses.

And now - to the surprise of nobody who paid heed to our warnings - a new proposal would do just that.

See why we were so concerned about traffic cams? I bet more people wish they'd listened to us now.

Chicago Alderman Edward Burke now wants red light scameras to also catch motorists who drive uninsured. His primary rationale is that it would generate money for the city through fines.

I don't doubt the city is cash-strapped, but come on! Using traffic cams to catch uninsured drivers to generate revenue is like if you go out and rob a bank because your boss won't pay you.

How would the cameras know who's uninsured? I was almost afraid to find out, because I knew the proposed method would be unconstitutional. And it is. The license plate of each car would be scanned, and then checked against a national database to see if the car's insurance is up to date.

Remember when law enforcement used to need something called probable cause to conduct a search like this?

If you don't know the real purpose of car insurance laws, you probably haven't been reading me for very long. It's not about safety. Mandatory insurance was enacted because insurance companies lobbied lawmakers for it to pad their profits.

Yet, even though states mandate insurance, they have repeatedly rejected bills to require insurers to lower the costs of their product. They say that limiting the cost of insurance violates the "free market", you see. Well, then what do you think the law requiring people to buy insurance does? I guess regulating the economy is A-OK as long as it pours more money into the deep coffers of big corporations like insurance companies.

It isn't just insurance companies anymore. Now it's also companies that run the databases that verify motorists' insurance information. Indeed, these companies are lobbying Chicago City Council to pass the insurance camera proposal.

ACLU spokesman Jay Stanley said, "If all the talk is about revenue, I think it's a good indication that there's something fishy about this." I'd say so. Someone needs to investigate to see if there's kickbacks involved between the city and insurance companies.

Incidentally, Burke in 2007 proposed a ban of devices that let travelers detect red light cameras. So, with his support of prohibition of everyday devices, Burke was already a little too far removed from our constitutional foundation.

(Source: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world-news/red-light-cameras-at-traffic-intersections-to-spot-out-uninsured-vehicles_100172422.html)

Another "Jump the Shark" moment for 'Cops'?

I've long enjoyed the TV series 'Cops', but the War on Drugs chest-pounding has put a damper on this long-running actuality show.

You might say 'Cops' jumped the shark around mid-decade when it seemed like every episode was a "special edition." Much of the time, the subject of the episode was..."War On Drugs"!

I believe this was shortly after it was revealed that the Bush regime was ordering TV shows and magazines to include drug warrior propaganda.

I checked the TV listings for tonight, and I noticed the second episode of 'Cops' is called...'"High Crimes #4"!

Gee, I wonder what that's about. Ponder, ponder.

If I was a betting man, I'd wager that this episode is another series of endless lectures full of trite drug war talking points and the police telling suspects, "You know, I really hate dope."

And these are the episodes I try to miss deliberately.

Luckily, "High Crimes #4" is the 8:30 episode, so it starts at the same time as the Earth Hour blackout, in case I opt to participate in that.

This comes on the heels of New York state's long-awaited elimination of its antiquated Rockefeller drug laws.

While we're at it, let's discuss the latest drug law reform in New York. What parts are good? What parts are bad? Leave your comments below...

(I know the comment section has been slow here lately, but this blog has enough readers that it shouldn't be. Trust me on that. I see how many people read this blog each day, and it's a miracle Blogspot doesn't restrict this blog for getting too many visitors.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Teen may be labeled sex offender over MySpace photos

Just to be clear: The sex offender registry was never meant to list teenagers who post naked photos of themselves on MySpace.

I think we should come down hard on child molesters and other serious sex criminals. Child molesters are the thugs I hate the worst.

But it's not fair for a 14-year-old girl to have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life all because she posted a naked picture of herself on MySpace for her boyfriend to find. The mother who was behind the passage of Megan's Law agrees with my stance.

Law enforcement in New Jersey, however, does not agree. And they're throwing the book at the teen in this story.

I'm not saying it's a good idea to put naked photos of yourself on MySpace. Frankly, I think it's stupid. But this case is clearly not something that should invoke Megan's Law.

The real inconsistency is this: why is the teenager in this case being regarded as a major sex offender, when some folks who clearly are major sex offenders are not?

There's a whole corrupt system in place to mollycoddle adults who abuse children, especially in institutional settings. The system tells victims that they're liars right to their faces. Abusers are rarely punished - so they keep doing the same things for years.

Is that fair? I don't think so.

(Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/03/26/2009-03-26_14yearold_new_jersey_girl_may_get_sex_of.html)

Rockefeller drug laws vanishing

For almost 40 years, the state of New York has been plagued by the draconian Rockefeller drug laws.

These laws mandate stiff prison terms for even minor drug offenses. Every once in a while, lawmakers succeed at relaxing the laws somewhat. But conservatives have prevented these laws from being completely consigned to the toilet where they belong.

Now Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders are just about to finally erase what remains of the Rockefeller drug laws.

Few will miss these laws. Except the Republicans, of course, who accuse supporters of this move of coddling criminals.

Yeah, I know, because we've all seen how well the Rockefeller drug laws and other Republican policies have worked at fighting crime. Here's a hint: They haven't worked. Not one bit.

This latest reform doesn't let drug dealers run wild by any means: Although the deal eliminates mandatory minimum prison terms, it also stiffifies punishment for drug kingpins. Even so, there'll be no more mandatory minimums for every college student who gets caught smoking a joint.

(Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/03/27/2009-03-27_end_is_near_for_rockefeller_drug_laws_go-1.html)

Um, Harry?

If you look up the word 'lightweight' in the dictionary, it should have Harry Reid's picture next to it.

Today, the Senate's Democratic leader lamented John Roberts's dishonesty in a Christian Science Monitor forum.

Uh, Harry? Whose fault is it that Roberts got away with lying about being such a right-wing activist jurist?

I know Reid voted against confirming Roberts, but it's not like Reid did anything else to stop Roberts from being approved. Reid couldn't even get half his own party members to oppose Roberts.

If Reid had listened to progressives, he would have known all along that Roberts was full of shit.

Since the 2000 campaign, it's been clear to me not to trust Bush to protect even a carpet fuzz. So why the hell did anyone trust Bush with a Chief Justice nominee?

The way Bush kept getting his nominees through by pretending they were moderate reminds me of how Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip kept promising not to yank the football away from Charlie Brown, and how Charlie Brown always fell for it.

Fuck the "moderates." The courts are going to need some decidedly progressive judges to outweigh the right-wing ideologues who have been allowed to serve. And it's all because of lightweights sitting on their asses for years.

(Source: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/20560.html)

Draconian drug laws fuel Mexico violence

Drug violence in Mexico is gaining attention from the Obama administration. But one has to ask why it's gotten so out of control in the first place.

If you don't know the answer, you haven't been reading my writings for the past 15 years.

Drug prohibition - more specifically, drug laws that are outrageously rigid - fuel violence by drug gangs.

We've seen it in the United States. Violent gangs flourish while small-time drug offenders get ruinous (often lifelong) prison terms.

Now it's fueling the Mexican battles too.

The #1 culprit is the Patriot Act's crackdown on even innocent purchasers of pseudoephedrine allergy drugs.

Frankly, I don't believe statistics that say these laws have reduced meth labs. I've seen other statistics that show the opposite. Also, statistics that claim a reduction are put out by the drug warriors, who want an excuse to keep the laws in place. That way, they can keep hitting up the government for funding for neater weapons.

Perhaps the real issue here is that the new laws have actually promoted the importation of meth ingredients. Meth cooks get around rules that allergy sufferers cannot.

So they bring it in from Mexico. And that feeds the shootouts on the border.

Another factor though is that Mexico began cracking down on previously legal pseudoephedrine drugs just before the current wave of violence started. The fact that violence followed the enactment of a harsher law is more proof of the failure of prohibition.

Let's end the War on Drugs. Just end it. The drug war doesn't work.

(Source: http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/1525654.html)

Tear down this wall!

Since we're on the topic of Newport, Kentucky (my birthplace!) I think it's time I mention an important local topic that I don't think I've brung up yet.

I'm not a professional civil engineer (because that opportunity was robbed from me), but the engineer in me needs to speak about this before local highway departments make mistakes that'll make us wish we clawed out our own eyes so we didn't have to drive on them. (Ooh, that's edgy!)

It has to do with the ramp from southbound Interstate 471 to KY 8. Yes, the first ramp when you cross from Cincinnati into Newport - the one for northern Bellevue and Newport on the Levee.

Everyone agrees the traffic on KY 8 in that area fucking stinks to high hell. I've had this apartment for 12 years, and traffic has gotten progressively worse the entire time.

For now, I'm proposing one very simple change that'll ease much of it.

Well, notice how the ramp in question dumps you on Park Avenue. It seems like it could go straight ahead on 3rd Street, but nope, it has a tiny curve at the end that automatically places you on Park.

It is in effect a barrier to keep you from going southwest on 3rd. It's not literally a wall, but it is in the figurative sense.

Why is it like this? Because some opulent, gentrified neighborhoods didn't want to share the traffic burden. According to this so-called "logic", it's fine to clog the other roads. Just not theirs.

Granted, the area right around the intersection is fairly working-class. But it was other blocks that raised the stink.

My proposal: tear down this wall! Remove the traffic island, and let motorists continue southwest on 3rd. While we're at it, you can probably make it so you can also go the other way on Park.

Locals have noted that the work could be done in a single day - and very inexpensively.

This change hasn't happened, because richer neighborhoods are generally against it, and they have the clout.

This is kind of like what happened with the rerouting of KY 17 in south central Covington in 2007. Affluent, leafy neighborhoods wanted traffic off their roads - so highway officials obliged by designating KY 17 to follow other streets, which encouraged motorists to use and clog them.

Money talks. And we all pay - with crumbling roads, traffic jams, and blunted interest in our working-class neighborhoods we worked so hard to build.

Lexington gets stores; what about Newport?

In the Cincinnati area, greed too often rules the roost, and our downtowns die.

But in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, when a downtown store closes, it often gets replaced.

Last year, a Rite Aid drugstore in downtown Lexington closed. To fill the void, a locally owned drugstore has already opened nearby, and a CVS pharmacy with an expanded grocery section is also in the works. I don't know what stood on the sites of these new stores before, but at least now there's a store to serve the public.

Other cities can learn from this. In most American regions (Cincinnati included), it seems like the only new stores being built are big box retailers in the exurbs - where folks in poor urban neighborhoods can't reach them. Ironically, new businesses built in city areas now often cater to upscale suburbanites.

Take Newport, Kentucky, for instance. This city across from Cincinnati has been blighted for some 5 years by the closure of the Thriftway supermarket downtown. The city has let the building sit empty since the early 2000s. I saw it just recently, and it was still vacant.

But the city wanted more retail space. So it abused eminent domain to gut a working-class neighborhood on Grand Avenue and turn the property over to a development firm. The developer had promised not to build a Wal-Mart, but then tried going back on this pledge. Luckily, a public outcry killed the Wal-Mart plan. But the retail complex is going through. Last I heard, it would contain a super-sized Kroger and possibly a gargantuan Lowe's home improvement store.

If the city needed a Kroger so badly, why not use the old Thriftway site? If nobody wants to build a grocery there, why not an electronics store? Every time I want to buy electronic goods, I have to order them off the Internet, because the closest stores that have them are usually 15 miles out of town.

Greed drove the decision to wreck southeastern Newport instead of adding a store on the old downtown Thriftway site.

Just to be clear: it's illegal to use eminent domain to take private residences and turn them over to developers. There had been court rulings in Kentucky that say this much. If Newport wanted more space to bring in stores, it should have condemned and purchased the Thriftway site, kept ownership of it instead of reselling it, and leased it to a retailer - under conditions that uphold the spirit of public use.

I don't know what's going to become of that old Thriftway. I thought someone told me the county now wants it for courthouse parking, but I must have been half-asleep when I heard this, because I can't find anything about it.

(Source: http://www.kentucky.com/179/story/740505.html)

Hilarious poll numbers for Bunning

Election Day 2010 has the potential for yet another night of laughs at the GOP's expense.

Now we know why embattled Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky gets so defensive when people ask him what his poll numbers are. It's because they ain't good. In fact, he's losing to one possible opponent by almost 2 to 1.

It's been reported that a poll sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows Bunning trailing possible Democratic challenger Dan Mongiardo 56% to 29%.

Granted, that's a party-sponsored poll - but you also have to realize that if anyone wants accurate polls, it's the parties and candidates themselves. Otherwise, they'd just be throwing good money after bad.

Bunning is losing almost 2 to 1 to Dan Mongiardo, for crying out loud! If the Democrats ran rip-roaring populists like they used to, just think how badly Bunning would be getting clobbered!

And if the media would have also covered Bunning using his supposedly nonprofit charity to make a profit, think how badly he'd be losing.

I've waited since I was in 8th grade to see Jim Bunning lose an election, and I may live long enough to see it!

Of course, this story assumes Bunning doesn't lose the Republican primary to someone more likely to keep this Senate seat in GOP hands. It also assumes he doesn't resign just to spite the party leaders who don't want him running again.

(Source: http://theruraldemocrat.typepad.com/the_rural_democrat/2009/03/breaking-leaked-dscc-us-senate-poll-numbers-for-kentucky.html)

Freeper fails geography

The LOSEianne protesters are still upset that I made fun of their stupid rally on Fountain Square?

Poor babies.

A few days ago, I got yet another nasty e-mail from one of the BTPers. They complained about how I violated their True Free Speach Now (tm) by not posting every single comment of theirs, and repeated their usual ignorance about downtown parking garages. (They still think there's only one garage.)

"I highly doubt locals stayed at an expensive hotel for a 3pm LOCAL event," they scoffed.

Uh, that's because for a majority of the protesters, it wasn't local. Like I said before, a majority of them were out-of-town hired agitators.

The e-mail concludes with this run-on sentence: "You're from Ft. Thomas you should have a little more intelligence than that."

I'm from Fort Thomas now??? That's news to me.

They attack me for allegedly not knowing the geography of parking garages, when they don't even know that Fort Thomas, Highland Heights, and Bellevue are different cities?

Freepers are funny when mad.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Congressman who cried about others' tax problems dodged taxes

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is a scuzzy fuck who ought to resign immediately.

King got a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry on the old blog because he praised Joe McCarthy and because of his bill (as a state legislator) to expand workplace drug testing. (So if conservatives are so worried about the unemployed not having to take drug tests while the employed do, it's the conservatives' own fucking fault.)

Now Steve King is one of 4 congressmen - all Republicans - named in a Roll Call report describing their tax evasion. The others are Tom Petri of Wisconsin, Phil Gingrey of Georgia, and Mike Rogers of Alabama.

According to this report, the legislators are improperly claiming tax deductions on second residences in the Washington, D.C., area. King is getting a homestead tax deduction on his Washington condo.

The homestead tax credit is supposed to apply only for homes that you use as your primary residence - not as your second home. But King's official primary residence is in Iowa. Otherwise, he wouldn't be allowed to run for Congress from Iowa.

What a goddamn tax cheat.

Now here's the real bipper: In February, Steve King criticized Tom Daschle for his tax problems. King said, "Confirming Tom Daschle as Health Secretary would be an insult to the millions of Americans who work hard and pay their taxes on time. If President Obama continues to press for Daschle's confirmation, it sends a message to the American people that paying taxes is irrelevant and unnecessary. This nomination represents the height of hypocrisy from an Administration that promised change and new levels of transparency in government."

What about your own damn tax problems, Steve? If King thought Daschle shouldn't be confirmed because of his tax woes, then that means King should resign himself for his own tax issues.

Of course, King blamed the whole debacle on the D.C. tax department.

Yep, nothing's ever a Republican congressperson's fault, is it?

(Source: http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2009/03/26/news/local/a4a7beff29050e748625758500097706.txt)

School system won't send surveys to uniform opponents

Well, this is just fucking royal, isn't it?

School bureaucrats seem to place their reliance on pointless rules such as uniforms above all other concerns - so much so that anyone who dares to dissent is written off as some sort of pariah. It happened in my youth, and it happens now.

I've written before how schools that are considering requiring uniforms have sent surveys to parents - and how parents who are thought to be against uniforms suspiciously never receive a survey.

Now the exact same thing is happening in Muncie, Indiana.

As Muncie's so-called public school system is considering a uniform sumptuary law, it claims to have sent a survey to all parents asking if they'd support requiring uniforms.

But that is an outright lie.

A parent who opposes uniforms because she can't afford them never received the survey.

Hell of a way for the schools to rig the survey, isn't it? Then again, it's not like I haven't encountered school systems that lied about everything, so it's hardly surprising.

This follows the educratic disaster that unfurled in nearby Anderson, Indiana. When Anderson's alleged public schools adopted uniforms, a family promptly sued the school district. Outrageously, a right-wing federal judge ordered the family to pay the school's legal bills, totaling some $40,000.

Last I heard, the plaintiffs were standing up against the school system by announcing that they were refusing to pay the schools' legal fees. It's unclear whether the school system was dumb enough to try to collect.

Ironically, Muncie plans to use the Anderson dress code as a template. I guess the Muncie schools enjoy getting sued too.

(Source: http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20090326/NEWS01/903260354/1002)

Classist brain trust on autopilot

Just because the Nazis seem to be reduced to background noise doesn't mean you shouldn't still be vigilant against their recycled hate. Now the right-wing brain trust is rehashing a failed idea that tasted like shit to begin with: forced drug tests of folks who get government benefits.

Let me be clear: Anyone who supports this bullshit should stay home on Election Day, because they obviously don't understand basic civics.

I'm telling you point blank that this idea is evil.

The first wave of this fascism, back in the '90s, was derailed when a federal court correctly ruled that drug testing welfare recipients was unconstitutional. Did lawmakers learn? Of course not, because they're fucking stupid.

Now legislators in at least 8 states are trying to require drug tests for people who receive welfare, unemployment benefits, or food stamps. Their usual excuse is that people who have jobs often have to take drug tests, so why not those who don't?

Um, probably because not everyone who gets welfare is jobless, perhaps? To get most forms of assistance (other than unemployment), you must be poor - not necessarily unemployed. The working poor are called the working poor because they work. (It's been proven before that a disproportionate number of Wal-Mart employees make so little money that they qualify for food stamps.)

So this proposed law is about classism. Nothing but.

If legislators are so worried about people with jobs having to take drug tests, why don't they propose a law to limit employers' powers to require such tests?

In West Virginia, far-right Republican Del. Craig Blair whimpered, "Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs." Hey, Craig? Have you seen the poverty and unemployment statistics lately? Or are your math skills as limited as your civics knowledge?

As more proof of Blair's idiocy, he made a website touting his drug test idea, graced with a goofy caricature of himself.

Luckily, other West Virginia legislators aren't so receptive to the idea. Democratic Del. Sally Susman told Blair in a letter, "Your latest legislative proposal is such staggering nonsense I was surprised the members of your own party did not laugh you out of the House of Delegates."

Blair's proposal is so idiotic, in fact, that Susman actually thought someone submitted the bill using Blair's stationery just as a joke.

Maybe the first folks who ought to be tested are legislators. They must be smoking something pretty powerful to come up with the shit they come up with.

It gets worse: The Kansas House approved a similar measure. The Oklahoma Senate passed such a bill unanimously. Then again, you can expect that from Oklahoma lawmakers, after they tried to censor a biologist's speech because it disagreed with the Answers in Genesis cult that most state legislators are a member of.

Of all the humiliating, cruel things to do, why test poor people for drugs? Bank executives who waste bailout money don't have to be tested, so why the poor? If this passes in any state, there ought to be marches in the streets of every town. Forced drug tests of the poor used to be considered an unthinkable taboo anywhere outside Nazi Germany. Now it's become taboo just to remember that it ever was taboo.

In their hearts, the fascists are fighting a higher power.

(Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hWSQNKlnu1j_2qJbg2HdBi_HUEaQD975O5Q80;

Singer Dan Seals dies

Singer Dan Seals died yesterday at the age of 61 from lymphoma complications.

You may remember Seals as England Dan - who was half of the '70s pop music duo England Dan & John Ford Coley. Seals was born and raised in Texas, but he acquired the nickname England Dan because of his admiration for the Beatles. Also, his brother was Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts.

Dan Seals was later known for his successful country music career, which included his 1985 hit single "Bop." A couple years ago, I got in a debate on a Cincinnati radio forum over whether pop station WCLU played "Bop." I distinctly remember WCLU playing it, which would not be unusual, as it nearly hit the top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100. Someone who worked at the station denied it, however.

Seals was quite an influential musician for many years.

Lawmakers investigate evolution speech

Oh, the stupid. It burns.

It really is hard to believe that the Oklahoma legislature has nothing better to do than this.

Early this month, the University of Oklahoma hosted a speech by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins - a noted expert on the science of evolution. This sent right-wing lawmakers into a screeching shitfit. In an attempt to avert the speech, legislators tried to bar Dawkins from delivering it.

Lawmakers' stupidity in trying to ban Dawkins was almost enough to make one scratch their own face off with their keys.

But the silliness continues.

Now the legislature is launching an investigation into the speech and into the university for daring to allow the event.

Just to be clear: the legislature can't do this. There have been cases dating back decades that say lawmakers can't investigate speeches just because they disagree with them.

Conservatives are always crying about how "big, mean libs" are stifling academic freedom. This story, however, proves that suppression of academic liberty comes not from the left, but from the right.

Ironically, the legislative resolution opposing Dawkins's speech said that the university "should be open to all ideas" and "not indoctrinate students in one-sided study and thinking." But by trying to disinvite Dawkins from the state, the resolution itself was stifling ideas and being one-sided. This resolution went on to say that evolution itself was "indoctrination."

Do lawmakers not have anything more important to work on than this Stone Age hypocrisy?

(Source: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/06/1726211;

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When a Statue of Liberty puzzle got ru

Since I've given up on the pop-up media for the rest of the day, how about another story about the Statue of Liberty?

I know you're in the mood for it, since I talked about the old 'Sesame Street' closing credits earlier today. So how about it?

When I was growing up, we had a round Statue of Liberty jigsaw puzzle. It was cool. I think it had 256 pieces, and each and every one of them was in pristine condition.

Until one day.

I don't remember who the culprit was in this act of mischief. It had to have been either one of the neighbor kids or an offspring of some family friends. I know it wasn't one of my relatives, because nobody with such a similar DNA would do something as incredibly stupid as what transpired that day.

Anyway, the young one responsible for this incident somehow made his way into the den, where the puzzle had been put together on the floor. He then sat in the middle of the circular puzzle and cradled on his hands and knees.

Mind you, this kid was maybe 8 or so, so he was too old to be doing that shit.

Of course, my folks blamed me, because I failed to stop him. I didn't get in too much trouble though.

The Statue of Liberty puzzle, however, wasn't so lucky. Because of this incident, several of the cardboard pieces were frayed and appeared to have some of their colors torn off. One could still assemble this puzz, but damage to the pieces was clearly evident.

Not long after, it became someone else's problem. We sold the puzzle at a yard sale (probably right about the same time we sold the Fritos t-shirt that had been thrown in the toilet).

The young visitor's ruinment of our Statue of Liberty puzzle is symbolic of our liberty later being chipped away little by little.

Another far-rightist who needs to be fired

Lovely. America still has Clinton's Justice Department and (worse) Bush's FBI.

FBI Director Robert Mueller III is now asking lawmakers to renew Patriot Act provisions that are scheduled to expire in December.

Let me be frank: The Idiot Act is bullshit and should be flushed down the johndola where it belongs. Courts have periodically struck down portions of it as unconstitutional - but not nearly quickly enough. The Patriot Act should be repealed at once.

But not according to dinosaurs like Mueller (a Bush appointee). He wants unconstitutional provisions that allow the probing of Americans' financial and phone records to remain on the books.

Dissenters from the Mueller order have a tough road ahead. That's because Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. supports renewing these provisions too. Sadly, this isn't much of a surprise, considering Holder's involvement in the Clinton Justice Department. While Bush was the most hostile administration ever to basic liberties, the Clinton era also saw its share of infringements on our freedom. (Who remembers the NKU arrest scandal?)

One asks why Mueller was confirmed 98 to 0, because only 10 years ago, support for anything that's in the Patriot Act now would have probably been considered outside the political mainstream.

How can America be truly free if Bush's conspirators such as Mueller are allowed to stay in control of law enforcement?

(Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/25/AR2009032501862.html)

Another babyish censorship episode

You'd think the moral panic crowd would get bored with raising childish stinks over stuff like this, but I guess not.

At Roxboro Middle School in northeastern Ohio, the November ish of Nintendo Power magazine has been yanked from the school library because the principal considered its cover to be "violent."

I know, man. A big fist might pop out of the magazine cover and punch someone, or something like that.

The librarian was outraged at the principal's act of censorship, because he didn't even bother to follow school district policy. But the school bored (in all its foolishness) sided with the principal.

Sometimes I think school boards have some sort of disorder that prevents them from experiencing happiness unless they're defending censorship.

Also, it's amazing that while Federalist Society whack-a-doos like Samuel Alito think school bullying is free speech, those who favor Alito's position also support some principal infringing on free speech by arbitrarily limiting an entire school's access to a Nintendo Power magazine that's perfectly legal.

(Source: http://columbusdispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/03/24/amag.html)

Music industry bullying continues

Songwriters and musicians are among the world's greatest creators of art, and they deserve to be paid for their work.

But the RIAA and the major record labels don't give a shit about them. They're more interested in exploiting the artists' work and pocketing many times as much money as the artists get.

When the industry speaks, it's never about protecting performers and writers. It's always about padding corporations' coffers - even as they refuse to adapt their business model to the digital age.

Now the industry is trying to mandate a "3 strikes" policy for alleged file sharers. In a few countries, they've already begun this. EMI, Sony, Universal, and Warner got Eircom - Ireland's leading Internet provider - to begin yanking accounts of users accused of illegally downloading copyrighted music.

Just as bad, Eircom promised to begin blocking a website that directs users to illegal downloads.

Even if a site does tell folks where to download music illegally, blocking it is improper and may be illegal (depending on a country's laws). It's not much different from a phone company snooping at customers' phone conversations and cutting them off.

The industry - ever gleeful about its victories in Ireland and elsewhere - are now trying the same shit in the good ol' U.S. and A.

Under this plan, folks who are accused of 3 illegal music downloads would be banned for life from ever accessing the Internet again.

Since when do we go around punishing people based on mere accusations instead of actual convictions? And since when do we place the power to punish in the hands of corporations instead of a judicial system that represents the people?

Under this proposal, criminal charges wouldn't even have to be filed. Your ISP or some record label could just accuse you, and you'd be considered guilty (whether you're really guilty or not). There would be no recourse.

The Internet is so central to modern America that banning someone from it for life would be like banning them from the phone for life. Even the most durable phone harassers don't face such a penalty. (In Kentucky, they don't face any penalty, as I've seen.)

While it's reasonable to bar certain violent predators from the Internet because they endanger the public, unproven allegations of copyright infringement are a different matter entirely.

The industry is working with public officials to try to work out a "3 strikes" system, but it would require collusion by ISP's. After the telcom industry conspired with Bush in the illegal wiretap program, I don't expect ISP's not to buckle under.

This follows years of RIAA bullying. For most of the decade, the RIAA has been extorting money by accusing folks of copying music, demanding money from them, and threatening to sue for a larger amount if they don't pay up.

If the "3 strikes" policy takes effect, ISP's may try to hide behind contracts with customers that supposedly give the ISP's permission to cut off their access. Under current U.S. laws, however, that would likely be illegal. Still, the laws may need to be strengthened to provide greater protection for consumers against such quirky contract clauses.

Statue of Liberty dances, Big Bird gets laryngitis ('Sesame Street' Wednesday)

I grew up watching 'Sesame Street' in the '70s. So if I happened to see it in the '80s, I considered its themes and trappings to be not quite as grand as they were previously.

When kids who grew up on it in the '80s saw it in the '90s, they didn't think it was quite what it was in their day.

Now folks who grew up on 'Sesame Street' in the '90s actually long for what it was in that era.

Old schoolers like me never would have predicted that 'Sesame Street' graphics we thought were too cheesily newfangled would now be considered classics, but I guess we were wrong!

'Sesame Street' around 1992 to 1995 featured a bizarre closing sequence. This was the standard closer for only about 3 years, but I happened to catch it once around the time I was in college (possibly because some other students were watching it on the giant TV in the University Center lounge). My heart sank, because I knew things would never be the same as they once were.

Now, however, this closing sequence looks like one of the all-time greats:

Although this theme was mostly retired around 1995, I happened to tune in to 'Sesame Street' one day about 2 years ago, and imagine my surprise when I found that they had brung this sequence back just for one episode!

This actually may well be the most humorous 'Sesame Street' ending ever. It starts off with a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty dancing to the theme music, and it doesn't get much less funny from there.

About 50 seconds into the sequence, a child starts dancing with Big Bird. Throughout this scene, Big Bird repeatedly opens his beak as wide as it will go, but no sound emerges. It reminds me of when my dog chewed a piece of bubble gum. Near the end of the clip though, Big Bird recovers from his laryngitis.

However, this theme misses the funky music bed that previously accompanied the all-text funding credits at the end. For this sequence, that music was replaced by what sounds like an oboe rendition of the 'Sesame Street' theme.

Also, I noticed years ago that the funding credits mention the 'Sesame Street' sign being a registered trademark of Children's Television Workshop. Does that mean that if some town had a road called Sesame Street that it couldn't post a sign for it without risking a lawsuit by CTW?

This '90s outro of 'Sesame Street' is now recalled so fondly that one commenter on YouTube said that "this is one of those things that should be illegal to change."

I'm sure that even the Cincinnati Tea Party crowd would agree. Nah, they hate everything that doesn't involve Glenn Beck.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Science skeptics censor New Scientist

I've had to put this story on the backburner for a bit, because I've had so much fun this month crashing stupid right-wing rallies and taking the Peace Bike about town, but anyway...

I'm going to be perfectly frank about this: Creationism is nonsense.

I'm not against Christianity. I'm not against religion in general. But the creationist party line is utter insanity - no matter how much the Bush regime (which was never friendly to science) tried legitimizing it.

Recently, New Scientist magazine ran an article called "How To Spot A Hidden Religious Agenda" by the magazine's book editor Amanda Gefter. It focused largely on code words used by creationists to push their anti-people schema.

But then a creationist complained. So the article was removed from the website.

One person complained, so the article is bye-bye. New Scientist didn't even have the courage to defend the article from a single, solitary complaint.

If New Scientist was afraid of being attacked if they kept the article online, it's not like they'd be the only ones assailed. Today's creationist zealots attack everyone who doesn't toe their party line completely. And not just on the issue of creationism either: They're movement conservatives, so even if you disagree with them on taxes or the Iraq War, their response is always the same. They manage to shoehorn every major political issue into their dogma.

Creationist fanaticism is more virulent than I've indicated before. I've noticed one website in particular in my area has turned into a Freeper-like lovefest praising the laughable Creation Museum, which is run by the Answers in Genesis cult.

It's one thing if readers of the site considered the museum just a comedy act, but apparently they take it seriously.

You can laugh all you want at the Creation Museum. But I draw the line when the museum attempts to recruit children into its cult. And that they do. So the cult is actually pretty dangerous.

Last thing America needs is another generation of "values voters" to bring scientific progress to a standstill.

(Source: http://www.examiner.com/x-4112-Skepticism-Examiner~y2009m3d14-New-Scientist-pulls-story-on-creationist-code)

School appeals strip search case

I've followed the case of the illegal strip search in Safford, Arizona, for years.

Six years ago, a 13-year-old girl was strip-searched by Nazi school officials who accused her of bringing prescription drugs to school. No drugs were found.

The victim of the search sued. Unbelievably, she initially lost - but the court reversed itself, and she emerged victorious.

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing this case.

Which means only one thing: After losing the case, the school actually wasted taxpayers' money and time appealing.

And for what? The school system is so eager to conduct strip searches of 13-year-olds that it's spending all this money in the hopes of being able to do so! Talk about sticking by a failed, indefensible policy.

The school wouldn't have appealed if they weren't intent on strip-searching other kids in the future.

Why aren't the school officials who conducted the strip search in jail where they belong? While the Supreme Court is hearing the case, folks in Arizona ought to be circulating a petition for the prosecution of the school officials. The school officials should be doing life with no parole.

(Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/us/24savana.html)

Monday, March 23, 2009

O'Reilly thuggery

The rank sickness of Bill O'Reilly is on display again.

Regarding the 2006 rape and murder of a young woman, O'Reilly callously blamed the victim.

But then a blogger who criticized O'Reilly's insensitivity promptly found herself in the crosshairs of the O'Reilly team.

O'Reilly's producer and cameraman sought out the blogger while she was on vacation out of town and accosted her on the street. The producer shouted questions at the blogger and accused her of causing "pain and suffering" to rape victims.

But how? It was Bill O'Reilly (not the blogger who exposed O'Reilly) who blamed an 18-year-old woman for being raped and murdered.

It's bad enough that O'Reilly had members of his production crew stalk a blogger on her vacation. But they wouldn't have known where she was going on vacation if they hadn't staked out her apartment and followed her for 2 hours when she left. (The blogger had told nobody where she was going.)

When the blogger was being confronted, she tried to ascertain why the O'Reilly thugs were bothering her. The thugs then told her it was because she was part of the "smear pipeline", which they claimed was "Soros-funded." Then they filmed her as she walked down the street.

This is how a supposedly mainstream network like Fox News behaves? Then again, Fox isn't exactly credible as a real news outlet.

Bill O'Reilly is a grown man with a broken child's mind.

(Source: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/23/712005/-The-Stalkerish-Thuggery-of-Bill-OReillys-Program;

Alaska volcano puts on show

Last month, right-wing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal scoffed at the notion of funding volcano monitors. "Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington," the possible Republican presidential hopeless complained.

Well, he may have lost Alaska's electoral votes right there.

Jindal apparently didn't know that the country has several active volcanoes perilously close to large cities. Among them is Mount Redoubt, only 100 miles from Anchorage.

Since last night, Mount Redoubt has erupted at least 5 times, sending a plume of ashes 9 miles into the air.

Volcanoes can be spectacular. One pictures Mount Redoubt with its limbs glowing in the springtime sun and emitting beauty from its face.

But this beauty can be disastrous.

Many flights in and out of Anchorage International Airport have had to be canceled because of the eruptions. Locals have been warned of more eruptions.

Methinks this sort of knocks the wind out of the sails of Jindal's readiness to abandon vital government programs just to prove what a big conservative he is. Apparently, he forgot that he's supposed to represent the people, not the ideologically driven Republican party bosses.

(Source: http://www.kypost.com/news/national/story/Mount-Redoubt-erupts-five-times-more-expected/vQtV5s39t0O_t0TQWWy0qA.cspx)