Friday, December 29, 2006

And people still complain that our government is not parental ENOUGH

Apparently some folks believe that our government is not sufficiently involved in making decisions for its citizens. Some folks might disagree, arguing that our government is, well, just slightly too involved in our day to day lives.

This is apropos of this. Wherein the NYT (again, or subscribe, yawn) reports that the FDA has preliminarily determined that meat and dairy products from cloned animals might possibly be safe for consumers. I have a lot to say about the FDA, which I might detail in later posts, but one thing I would never say about them is that they are not deliberate. They've apparently been ruminating on this issue for at least five years, and as noted, this is not a final decision, but a "draft" promulgated to invite comment and argument. In fact, it is a 700 page draft, with the formal policy not due to be released until the end of 2007 at the earliest.

And yet "consumer groups" are up in arms about this. Why? Well, they don't exactly say. They use the words "safety" and "health" and "consumer" a lot. But they have exactly ZERO evidence to present which would argue that products from cloned animals are not safe (or, indeed, exhibit any relevant difference whatsoever from products currently consumed by everyone).

One thing they do say is that "surveys show that most people are opposed to cloning animals, let along eating them." Ok: (1) opposed why? (2) no, I mean, really, WHY? are these survey participants qualified as doctors, researchers, scientists, veterinarians? or are they some idiot, at home on a weekday afternoon, answering a call that their caller ID has identified as unavailable, thinking for about 2 seconds, and going "oh, no, i don't think that's right!" and (3) has this country, bastion of FREEDOM for God's sake, devolved to such a point that I have to allow "survey participants" to decide what MOTHERFUCKING FOOD I CAN EAT???

The story also reports that there are approximately 500-600 cloned cows in existence at present. Since there are approximately 44 MILLION regular, non-cloned cows in the United States alone, my rudimentary math skills allow me to report that cloned cattle make up, at most, 0.014% of all U.S. cattle. The point being, it'll be awhile before we start seeing this stuff in our local supermarkets. Which gives the FDA and independent scientists time to research this even more.

But some people don't believe in science. Fine. The FDA certainly has the authority to force producers to provide consumers with labels stating that the products in question were produced by cloned animals.

In fact, certain dairies and meat producers are already considering (voluntarily!) labeling their products as "Clone Free!" Great. Let the market decide.

And if, as I predict, ten years from now you have to drive 30 miles to some out of the way specialty store to purchase your "Clone Free!" milk, then that's your business. The rest of us will happily enjoy our cheaper, higher quality cloned milk, available at your corner grocery.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Yet another way the multitudinous arms of the government

regularly smother citizens in their parental embrace:

This is the story of PHILL KLINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF KANSAS, who has made it his mission in life to uphold the laws of our land. Or, rather, those laws of the land that he agrees with and/or can interpret to his liking.

For those of you who are really interested, the Supreme Court of the State of
Kansas wrote this opinion about Mr. Kline and his nefarious doings. It is pretty long, but if you just want more details about the case, you can read only the first couple of pages. To be precise, they didn't think his doings were quite as nefarious as I do, but they did slap him around a little bit, and somewhat thwarted his efforts. But not enough, I don't think. There's also an editorial in the Kansas City Star (again, I encourage readers to look into to get around site registrations (works great as a Firefox extension!)).

To summarize: Mr. Kline, who is an honorable man, has undertaken an inquisition against a couple of abortion providers in Kansas. (I call it an "inquisition" not out of editorial license, but because that is actually what they call this type of legal action in the state of Kansas. I'm not making this up.) As part of his inquisition, Mr. Kline has subpoenaed the medical records of 90 patients of these two clinics.

According to Mr. Kline, this has (ostensibly) been done as part of his criminal investigation relating to violations of two separate laws. First, there is
Kansas' criminal abortion statute, which makes it a crime to give or receive an abortion under certain circumstances (in this case, where the gestation period is more than 22 weeks and the health of the mother is not threatened). Second, there is a statute which requires health care providers to file a report with authorities when they have reason to suspect that a child has been injured as a result of physical, mental, or emotional abuse or neglect or sexual abuse.

Mr. Kline alleges that these clinics performed so-called late term abortions in cases where the health of the mother was not threatened. According to the
Kansas statute, both the referring doctor and the performing doctor must first agree that the mother's health is threatened. If they do, then it is legal to perform the abortion. This is undisputed.

As far as I can tell, it is also undisputed that in none of the cases where late term abortions were performed did the two doctors not agree that the health of the mother was threatened. No, the sole reason Mr. Kline alleges that a crime was committed in these cases was because Mr. Kline interprets the law to say that the mental health of the mother cannot be considered by the doctors in their conclusions, but only their physical health.

Now, you may disagree with Mr. Kline on this point. Or maybe you do agree with him. Either side of the issue might be reasonably argued. But there's just one small problem with his position: the issue has already been argued, in front of none other than the United States Supreme Court, a court whose opinion is binding on the State of
Kansas (and Mr. Kline) in this instance, which court has specifically stated that doctors may consider the mental health of the mother in coming to these conclusions.

Since Mr. Kline is a lawyer, and since he has sworn to uphold and enforce the laws of the State of Kansas and of the United States, we can conclude from these facts that: (a) he knows the law, and he is intentionally violating his oath, a number of judicial regulations, and various ethical rules (not to mention the public trust) in a cynical attempt to undermine the democratic will of the people of his state and our country, all with a view to persecute, and outrageously violate the privacy of, a few dozen anguished women who made poor choices by becoming pregnant and who made the agonizing decision to take advantage of a perfectly legal medical procedure which would, to some extent, in their minds, mitigate the consequences of these poor decisions, or (b) he doesn't know the law, in which case he has fought a three-year legal battle based on his ignorance of the very area of law he is (ostensibly) enforcing, thereby making him the most incompetent moron ever to hold public office who should forthwith be removed therefrom and immediately disbarred.

But the other crimes Mr. Klein claims to be investigating involve the failure of these health care workers to report the alleged abuse of some of the clinics' patients. The abuse in question? Well, some of these patients were under the age of sexual consent. And Mr. Klein believes, and has issued a formal written opinion stating this belief, that all sexual intercourse engaged in by anyone younger than 16 is, by definition, rape and inherently injurious. Keep in mind that this is not
Kansas law. It is only Mr. Klein's opinion, and, while as the Attorney General he has the authority to issue official written opinions on such matters, his opinions are not binding on any court.

A couple of obvious things about this aspect of the case. First off, you should understand that Mr. Kline is not just referring to, for example, 22yr olds having sex with 15 yr olds, but to 15yr olds and 16yr olds having sex with 15yr olds. No state in this country considers this to be statutory rape. Second, I think that for most reasonable human homo sapiens in this world, it is going to be a very hard sell to convince them that every conceivable circumstance in which someone who has sex at age 15 constitutes rape and abuse. I mean, it has been a while, but when I was fifteen, having sex was like my greatest dream come true. These persons, humans, potential jurors, voters, and supreme court justices, have all been 15 at some time in their lives. They know. In fact, in the course of human history, it is only VERY recently that we as a species have decided that 15yr olds aren't supposed to have sex. I have not researched this, but I think that for most inviduals the age of "sexual maturity", at least biologically speaking, comes a couple of years before age 15. Blame this on the Creator.

But anyway, Mr. Kline believes that these girls were raped and abused. Ok, Mr. Kline, for the sake of argument, I'll go along with you. So tell me, what do you want to do about it? Well, Mr. Kline wants to address the rape and abuse of these girls by getting his sweaty hands on their medical records, invading their privacy in the most egregious fashion, and using this information in a public trial to punish the doctors that treated them!!! If that isn't one of the most outrageous things you've heard in a while, then I really don't know what else to say.

Let me suggest that instead of having a cushy job where he gets driven around in a Town Car to eat filet mignon and spend his non-lunching hours profligately wasting taxpayers' money and governmental resources in vain attempts to foist his shit-brained sense of morality onto unsuspecting citizens, instead of THAT, this guy needs to be sent somewhere where he will regularly be raped, abused, and injured in the most horrible ways possible. Regularly, forever.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Not just an excuse to post pictures of hot girls. No, really.

But, of course, a picture does seem to add to the reader's understanding. This girl is Miss Teen USA. She was spotted drinking in NYC clubs with Miss USA, whose story is chronicled below. Miss Teen is also very hot, though she doesn't look like a Teen to me.

Anyway, by virtue of her being crowned Miss Teen, she became a spokesperson for MADD. This is the organization that agitates for increased penalties and enforcement of drunk driving laws.

Or so they say. Based on this story, which says that MADD has cut ties with Miss Teen, I think it is clear that MADD is just another Puritanical, prohibitionist, temperance group that tries to disguise its true intentions. After all, the reason that Miss Teen was dipped in the grease by MADD is because she has been spotted HAVING COCKTAILS in NYC bars with Miss USA and others. Additionally, she was spotted making out with Miss USA (unfortunately, no pics of this event!).

To my understanding, the act of drinking is somewhat different from drinking and driving in that it DOES NOT INVOLVE DRIVING. In fact, in NYC, shining star of public transportation and home to the most taxis in the known universe, a night of drinking very rarely involves driving, for anyone.

If you're waiting for a politician or really any public person to call MADD out on this piece of disconnected thinking, don't hold your breath. No one challenges MADD. Ever.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I can't not post this

My last post was just slightly too sincere, so now this:

Here's a thing about the Miss USA girl who partied too much, got called on the carpet, made a big spectacle out of, and, with any luck, will come out smelling like a rose and appear on the next season of Survivor.

This girl is super hot, and apparently a bit dumb and a lot pliable. In case you are too lazy to follow the link, here's what MSNBC said about her press conference with The Donald, wherein she confessed, asked for forgiveness, and agreed to enter rehab (how much of a motherfucking cliche is THAT getting to be?):
Donald Trump leap-frogged the likes of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and Martin Luther King with his surreal Miss USA press conference. Only an American with Trump’s remarkable boldness, stunning arrogance and complete lack of self-awareness could have turned a story about a beauty pageant winner having a couple drinks into an international media event.
And that's the real thing in my mind. This chick really did nothing other than go out and do some shots, have a little fun, and behave like 90% of the Wall Street Fucks do every night of their lives. I fail to see what The Big Deal is.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

1st Amendment double shot

"Freedom of Speech" really doesn't seem to be that popular anymore. It's nothing new that attorneys general, law enforcement, our friends at the FCC, and state legislatures everywhere seek to attack it.

But what I see more and more of these days is your average ordinary citizen taking up various positions against it. There was a disturbing poll not too long ago (I'm too lazy to google for it) where they asked people (registered voters, or high school students, or whoever) a series of questions in the form of: "do you think xxx should be legal?", where xxx was a variation of some kind of free speech that has been protected throughout the 200+ years of our country's existence. And of course a large majority of respondents answered "absolutely not".

The poll I'm thinking of was basically a trick, because the examples of speech they asked about was, to your average person who doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff, intuitively bad or wrong or whatever. In other words, the poll (like most other polls, just more obviously) was calculated to make a point. The point being (I think) that your average citizen doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff.

In my view, your average citizen has been subjected to a pervasive message that says... well, it says a few things. first, it says "we are a society of laws. lots and LOTS of laws." Then it says, "but don't worry about all these laws, because you, the average citizen, are certainly not a lawbreaker, because all these laws are based on normalcy, and you are NORMAL, right? RIGHT?" And then it says, without coming right out and saying it, that "there are so MANY fucking laws, that anything you can think of to do or say that is outside the norm is, very probably, AGAINST THE LAW."

So, with that backdrop: a couple of stories I saw today got me thinking about freedom of speech. The "speakers" in this case are radically different. As, I am sure, are most people's view of the speakers and their messages. What I mean is, it is hard to imagine that a single person could, at once, like both of these speakers and/or agree with both of their messages.

The first such speaker is John Lennon. Apparently it was well-known that the FBI took a keen interest in John during the 70s. I'm not surprised by their interest. After all, I suspect he had the attention of a large number of people during this time. But, when the FBI gets interested in you, they don't just sit and watch you on the news or listen to your songs or read your poetry or write fan letters. Instead, they tap into their huge budget and start with the electronic evesdropping, breaking and entering, etc.

But this is so commonplace and intuitive (see above) that no one objects or probably even feels like objecting. So it is with today's news story. No one seems to care that the FBI violated John's right to free speech, invaded his privacy, and subjected him to harrassment for his views, all at taxpayer expense and all in lieu of other things the FBI could presumably be spending its resources on.

But at least some people appear to be objecting to the fact that they tried to keep the fruits of these efforts secret. Actually, they DID keep it secret. The first FBI files on Lennon were released in 1997. This is 25 years after they were compiled, and 15 years after they were requested by a historian. The remainder of the files were released today, 35 years after they were compiled and 25 years after they were requested.

And so you may ask, why did the FBI fight a decades long court battle to keep these files secret? According to their public stance, because they feared that the files would cause a certain foreign government to retaliate against the United States for releasing the files. In other words, the end-all-be-all of government secrecy arguments: "national security". The certain foreign government that they feared would retaliate against us? the stinking ENGLISH.

The unadorned story is here. For those of you with subscriptions (or people who can use, the New York Times has a humorous take here.

The other story concerns the British historian who says the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by the Germans is fiction. Apparently there is an epithet to describe such a person; they are known as "holocaust deniers". (Are there so many of these people that we need a special name for them? I would have thought we could just lump them in with all the other "idiots" with screwball opinions, but whatever.)

Anway. This guy was released from jail today after a judge commuted his prison sentence. His crime? Being a "holocaust denier". In other words, he is a person who has vociferously expressed a very unpopular opinion.

But his opinion is unpopular for a reason. You can read the article, but here's a textbyte:

The court heard abstracts of the original charges, in which Irving was quoted as saying that Hitler extended a protective hand to the Jews, that there were no death camps during the Second World War and that Holocaust survivors claiming the opposite should be subject to psychiatric examination. “Is it not time to stop this gas chamber fairy tale?” Irving was quoted as saying.
Now, I haven't read much about the holocaust. I have seen some accounts which assert that the number of Jewish persons killed was significantly less than the 6 million figure which seems to be currently accepted. I have no idea how many Jewish persons were killed, but the main point for me, and one that seems utterly undeniable, is that the Germans DID engage in genocide against Jews. Isn't that enough? I mean, does it really matter exactly how successful they were at this?

But so this guy, Irving, has his views. Maybe he is crazy. Maybe he is a bigot. Maybe he is a hate-mongering, cowardly, evil motherfucker. And, as unlikely as it appears, maybe he has some small scintilla of a point, whatever it might be. The fact is, most everyone can agree that some of the opinions he has expressed are reprehensible.

Regardless of all that, what we have are two people. John Lennon, almost universally revered. Someone whose thoughts on the Vietnam war and the state of society as a whole are now generally accepted as being correct, or at least on the right path. And David Irving. A person almost universally abhorred. Someone whose thoughts are generally accepted as being hateful and wrong. One is surveilled and harrassed by the United States Government, one is imprisoned.

Two very dissimilar people. They can only be equated in the sense that they were both oppressed for stating their opinions. Other than the purely coincidental fact that both their stories appeared on the same day, the only reason I bring them together here is simply to state that you can't outrage against the oppression of only one of them. Sure, you can pick and choose as to which opinion you support. Clearly you may, wholly within your discretion, using your logic and reason, decide which you feel is right. But what you cannot do, what we as a society cannot do, is suppress either of them without harming the other.

In a free society, we must trust that reason will prevail. That truth will prevail. We cannot appoint judges and legislators -- and presidents -- to determine what flavor of information will be disseminated among us. We must trust in ourselves, as individuals and as a society, to sift through the superabundance of ideas and end at the truth.

I think we are up to the challenge. So let's stop imprisoning people for what they think.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

TIVO v. dvr continued

16. When you are watching a program and you stop it and watch something else (live tv or a different program) or go do something or whatever, and then you come back and want to finish watching that program, you are not given the option to resume watching from the point where you stopped watching before, but must instead begin from the beginning and fast-forward back to the point where you stopped watching before, a problem which is made EVEN MORE maddening because of the problem noted in #15 above.

17. While the other problems noted here seem to be BY DESIGN(!), there are also of course BUGS, which happen very frequently, including BUT NOT LIMITED TO:

(a) when you hit the fast forward button once (one forward arrow), about one out of every three times the picture will freeze on the screen (while the program fast forwards) until you hit play, so that you don't get to see the program going forward;

(b) when you are watching tv (rather than a program you have already recorded), and you have paused or rewound so that you have some recorded "buffer" built up, occasionally (but pretty damn often) the screen will freeze out of nowhere, and when this happens you can rewind and watch the program up to the point where the screen froze, but you cannot watch anything past that point, EXCEPT that you can hit the "Live" button, which will make the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 unit (pictured) jump to the live broadcasting point on that channel, and when this happens, if you hit Pause or Rewind it takes you BACK to the place where the screen originally froze (and again, you cannot go forward from this point, etc (see above)), the net effect of this whole thing being that you have irretrievably LOST all the buffered programming and you must now change the FUCKING channel, then change BACK to the original channel, at which point you may now use the Pause button to start to build up more of a buffer (but beware! because this whole thing could easily just happen all over again). This, needless to say, is a HORRIBLE bug that will absolutely RUIN your viewing experience (especially if you happen to be watching, for example, a highly anticipated NFL matchup between the division-leading Dallas Cowboys and the second place New York Giants and the game happens to be, for example, in the 4th Quarter), causing you to VERY NEARLY hurl your remote into, for example, the sneering face of one Bill "Big Tuna" Parcells which is at that moment frozen, sneering at you on the beautiful surface of your almost-new 42" plasma high definition tv screen, which screen, presumably, not having the ability to withstand such an action without a certain amount of BREAKAGE, such breakage, presumably, not being covered by the 1 year limited warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I've seen some crazy things...

but this has to be near the top of the list. There appears to be a scarcity of coverage and comment on this issue, which is surprising given its outrageousness. The provided link is to a page where you can view the actual legislation, but as I understand it, the law, which was passed by the Michigan House, boils down to the following:

A health care provider must carry out "coercion and intimidation screening" on their patient before performing the procedure. This apparently involves asking if anyone has tried to influence the patient to have the abortion.

Ok, that seems to be somewhat intrusive in that the government probably shouldn't be telling health care providers what questions to ask their patients, and it assumes that women can't fend for themselves, and it generally exhibits a "parental" attitude on the part of government that I personally find reprehensible and against the principles of freedom that this country was founded on... BUT at least a decent argument could be made that this is a question a doctor should probably ask his patient as a matter of course in regard to any potentially dangerous elective procedure.

However, they don't stop there. If the results of this screening (or interrogation, however you want to look at it) turn out to be that the patient believes that someone has tried to influence her to get the abortion, it then becomes a criminal matter. Yes, the person (but only if that person is a male, as far as I can tell) who allegedly tried to exert this influence will now be investigated for committing a crime.

But I have buried the lead. The idea behind this law is that a boyfriend or husband commits a crime if he threatens to move out, divorce, or withdraw financial support from the pregnant female if she doesn't get an abortion. The definitions involved in these "threat(s)" are rather murky. In fact, from what I've been able to gather, they are ambiguous in the extreme, and actually contradictory.

It is worth noting here that this is a crime even if the husband or boyfriend is not the father of the unborn child(!). Thus, if you are a male, and your live-in girlfriend cheats on you, and gets pregnant through such cheating, and you threaten to move out if she has the baby, you will be investigated, prosecuted, fined up to $5000, and jailed for up to 1 year.

Needless to say, the NOW and the ACLU are against this. Also needless to say, if there was such a thing as the National Organization for Men, they would be against it as well.

This bill passed easily, by a vote of 67-38.

My take on this is as follows:

1. The Michigan House is a bunch of asshats;

2. Said asshats are either: (i) extremely stupid, (ii) evil, or (iii) both.

3. If this law is ultimately passed, it will (and should) even further increase the disrespect citizens have for all other laws (is this a shocking statement? it shouldn't be. the whole reason people should (and generally do) abide by laws that they don't agree with is because of a thing called the "social contract", and everytime a bunch of fucking asshats pass a law like this, it increases the mountain of evidence we have which shows that the government has irreparably breached this contract, making it non-binding on the other contracting party (i.e., us, the citizens)).

Friday, December 8, 2006

Gee, that's good to know...

This, from the Dallas Morning News:

These are among the ways that Farmers Branch has put into practice the language policy it adopted Nov. 13. City leaders stress that it applies only to city government, not to schools, churches or other organizations. It does not mean that city employees will not be allowed to speak in languages other than English. And it doesn't mean that residents can't communicate in other languages, said City Council member Tim O'Hare, the driving force behind the illegal immigration crackdown and language-related initiatives.
I for one am happy to know that Mr. O'Hare has seen fit, in his infinite wisdom, to allow his subjects to continue to communicate in languages other than English.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

just because it's corporate doesn't mean it's good

Let me first say that I am in no way "anti-corporate". I think corporations are an integral part of our economy and society in general. I plan to detail this thinking in later posts. But for now...

A friend of mine is employed by a corporation. Let's call her "Susan". Susan is a non-exempt, employed in a business capacity. The corporation that employs Susan has recently instituted a company-wide Drug and Alcohol Policy. Susan came to me for some friendly advice regarding this policy. The policy states, among many other things, that any employee of the corporation is prohibited from performing any work for the company while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are some narrow exceptions to this broad prohibition, none of which are relevant here.

At first blush, the above-mentioned prohibition seems reasonable and intuitive. I imagine that your average, ordinary, responsible employer would agree with the concept here: you don't want your employees performing their work while they are shit-faced. Duh. And your average, ordinary, responsible employee would also agree.

But consider further.

My friend Susan's work is, in large part, intellectual in nature. Although she does do some physical things from time to time (for example, she sometimes makes copies, prints and files documents, and carries various things to and fro), these activities are merely incidental to her primary duties, which essentially consist of receiving information (primarily by reading or hearing), processing this information, using this information to form new information, and transmitting this new information to others (primarily by writing or speaking).

Susan sometimes gets invited to attend a happy hour. For those of you living on the planet Mars (or in Utah), a "happy hour" is an event wherein (typically) employed persons meet at a designated place (usually, a bar) at a designated time (usually, 5pm-6pm or so, but in any event, after the normal work-day is done), drink alcohol, blow off steam, and generally relax for a while. Sometimes a happy hour will consist entirely of people from the same workplace. Sometimes not. Frequently, happy hours can foster social relationships within a workplace, among persons who normally don't get to meet or speak together in an informal setting. For this reason, sometimes happy hours are officially sanctioned by a company, but for the sake of this post we will not consider these instances. Here we are simply talking about an unsanctioned, ad hoc happy hour.

Now, at one of these types of happy hours, Susan will in all probability have some level of social discourse with her colleagues from work (whether or not from her same company). If you are not from Mars or Utah, you know how these things often go: the talk turns to work at some point. Why? Because this is typically the weightiest and most pervasive thing that the happy hour-goers have in common.

What is involved in one of these typical, work-related, instances of social discourse? For Susan (and others, but for example), it will almost necessarily involve receiving (work-related) information, processing this information, using this information to form new information, and transmitting this information to others (her colleagues); in simpler terms: "work". All while "under the influence of... alcohol".

So, Susan's conduct at these periodic happy hours is prohibited by the policy, and will subject her to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of her employment.

Should her conduct be prohibited? I think reasonable people can agree that it should not be. As long as she is not drunkenly spouting confidential information to persons unauthorized to receive such (which would be a fireable offense even without the policy), her conduct is harmless and even beneficial to the company.

Is it really the intent of the company, acting through the policy, to prohibit this conduct? Likely not. Probably the conduct is prohibited by the policy because of laziness and poor drafting or, more specifically, failure to give sufficient thought to the nature of the "work" performed by Susan and those employees similarly situated. It is worth noting here that the number of employees working for the company in question is somewhat large, with many of these employees performing potentially dangerous physical labor. A fact which itself points out a major deficiency of these type of one-size-fits-all corporate fiats (i.e., "policies" of many kinds).

Even if the promulgators of this policy recognized that the work performed by Susan and her peers didn't fit into a neat little box like the work performed by, say, a truck driver, I would suggest that they glossed over this small problem and went ahead, knowing that the policy was overbroad but also knowing that they would have a certain latititude in its enforcement.

Which brings us to the question of whether Susan, if "caught" violating the policy by her conduct as described above, would be disciplined under the policy. Again, likely not. But certainly this does not allow the policy to escape scrutiny. First of all, this would mean that the policy will be selectively enforced. But what's wrong with that? Well, for one thing, the whole purpose of promulgating such a policy is to establish firm guidelines, so that each person who is subject to the policy will be treated equally according to its terms and will have a certain amount of certainty in knowing where they stand. Selective enforcement introduces uncertainty into the equation, and opens the door for biases of many different flavors.

But there is something else more important involved here. Regardless of the actual intent of the policy, and regardless of whether Susan is disciplined under it, there is a question of personal integrity. In other words, by engaging in the otherwise innocent conduct described above, Susan is violating the official policy of her company, a policy she has agreed to abide by (either explicity, if she were made to sign the policy, or, if she were not, then tacitly by continuing her employment with the company).

Monday, December 4, 2006

TIVO vs. dvr

I like to watch me some TV from time to time. There is a lot of crap on TV, and I am busy. So I need to be selective about my TV. To this end, I acquired TIVO. This happened many months ago, and as soon as I got TIVO, I realized (like the ads say) that I would never watch TV the same way again. It is truly an indispensible thing, once you've had it.

But TIVO isn't just an object you buy at the store and plug into your television. It is that, but not only that. It is also a thing you subscribe to. You can either pay a monthly fee ($13-$15), or buy a "lifetime" subscription (lifetime of the box, not of you). But for this, you get lots of stuff (more later).

But so then, after enjoying my TIVO for many months, I determined that I just wasn't getting the most out of my TV watching experience (ok, yes, I am a consumer, so kill me). I determined that I would step forward out of the mindset of if-I-just-wait-a-little-while-longer-plasma-TV-costs-will-go-down-more, and not let another college football season go by without watching it in Hi-Def on a large TV. So I did my due diligence (surfed the web for a couple of hours), and went out and bought an HD Plasma TV.

So now I'm all ready to watch college football in HD on my big plasma TV, right? Of course not. Now, I need actual HD programming to watch. For that, I must contact my friendly local cable monopoly (which in this case is Charter Communications, possessor of quite possibly the worst website in the history of the interweb). After much extraneous bullshit which I won't detail here, I come to the understanding that in order to watch HD programming on my new TV in my accustomed manner, I must do three things: (1) extend my cable subscription to include the "HD Channel Package" (cost: $10/month; includes: 10 whole, entire HD channels(10!)), (2) acquire an HD capable cable box/dvr (cost: $15/month; includes one Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 unit (pictured)), and (c) retire my TIVO.

But so now, aside from spending these additional dollars, and aside from having to spend a not insignificant portion of my personal time in various dealings with my friendly local cable monopoly, I am finally ready to watch HDTV, right?. Well, yes. But...

I am ashamed to say that I used to gripe about my TIVO. Not harshly, just in a "hey guys, that's great and all, but you really can do better, ya know?" pep talk kind of way. Sort of like the way the basketball coach who spends part of the Fall coaching the freshman football team might talk to his second string tight end on film day. I thought it was just a bit too much pitched toward the lowest common denominator of TV watchers. It wasn't reaching its full potential.

Now I know better. The TIVO is so far advanced beyond my current dvr, I am pretty much at a loss of where to begin. Maybe I will update this later with the details, but for now suffice to say that the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 (pictured) is, at least when coupled with cable service from Charter Communications (it is difficult for me to separate hardware issues from service issues), a horrible, insanely illogical, utter piece of crap. Stay away. Stay far, far away.

Here is a NON-comprehensive list of SOME of the many monumentally stupid failures of the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 that I have found UP TO THIS POINT:

1. the list of recorded programs does not indicate which CHANNEL the program was recorded from (despite PLENTY of on-screen space to do so);

2. the list of recorded programs does not include the episode name, only the name of the program;

3. programming information (which you use to select programs to record) is only available (at most) 7 days in advance;

4. you cannot search within all available programming data for a particular program without first navigating to the DAY on which the program will be broadcast (kind of difficult if you don't know which day (or even channel!) the program is on);

5. you cannot search by program genre;

6. you cannot search by actor, director, or topic/subject;

7. when setting up a TIVO-like "season pass" for a program, you cannot set it to only record first-run programs (meaning you wouldn't then record all re-broadcasts of the same episode);

8. in fact, since the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 does not recognize episode names, it can make no distinction whatsoever among different episodes of a program;

9. there is no mechanism for setting priorities among different season passes;

10. if you have set a season pass for a program, and you for whatever reason want to cancel the recording of a particular episode, you CAN'T, you can only cancel the recording of ALL episodes of that program (this is unfathomably, absurdly STUPID);

11. if you set a program to record, and then, sometime after the program has started, you decide you want to watch that program, when you click on the program to begin watching (either from the program list or from the program guide), you DON'T start watching from the beginning of the program, but rather from the point in the program as it is currently being broadcast(!!!);

12. if #11 above happens, you must inexplicably, unbelievably, REWIND from that point in the program to the beginning, and THEN...;

13. if the program you are watching in #11 and #12 above ENDS (in real broadcast time) while you are watching the recording (which it most likely will), the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 will then SKIP FORWARD(!) to the very end of the program and start showing real time programming from whatever channel the program WAS on;

14. if the program you are watching in #11, #12, and #13 above happens to be a football game, the programming being broadcast AFTER the end of the recorded football game will, ain all probability, be the last two minutes of the very football game you are watching,which has run past its scheduled timeby a few minutes, in which case you will, without any warning whatsoever, see the SCORE of the game as it exists in the final minutes (or seconds) of the game, THEREBY ruining your ENTIRE football watching experience;

15. when navigating through a program using the rewind and fast forward buttons, there are no "chapter" markings (e.g., at fifteen minute intervals) which you can skip to, therefore making navigation of the program INSANELY slow, especially in the case of a 3.5 hour football game (and thus BADLY compounding the problems noted in #11 and #12 above);

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I like lawyer jokes as much as the next guy

And this one was pretty funny:

One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied, "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the lawyer said.

"But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree."

"Bring them along," the lawyer replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us, also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, "But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all along as well," the lawyer replied.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine. Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place.

The grass is almost a foot high."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One of the Many Things

about this world that I just don't understand:

Stoplights. Or, as our friends at the Institute of Traffic Engineers like to call them: "traffic control systems". Of course, this term makes you envision something that has been planned, designed, engineered, thought about, or at least considered in some remotely intelligent way.

I'm sure many traffic signals, and more importantly the intersections that have them, do fit this description. To be fair, I know that they exist, and have used them. I like them, and believe they are a credit to our evolution as a species.

On the other hand. Being someone's brother-in-law does not make one an engineer. Nor does receiving a (presumably) lucrative contract to "engineer" something.

By the same token, erecting poles, putting pretty lights on them, and painting lines on the road does not constitute implementing a traffic control system. In fact, in certain cases that I am personally aware of, it constitutes, at best, an infuriating mess, and at worst, an environmental scourge and a safety hazard.

Consider if you will, a well-traveled suburban artery, 3 lanes in each direction, intersecting with another road. Well, not so much a road... more like what I, eschewing engineer-speak, call a "place on a road where there are infrequently-used entrances to parking lots on either side". I hesitate to call this an intersection, as that term implies at least 2 roads, but I suppose we must call it that because of the presence of approximately 8 different poles, sturdily constructed, with horizontal gantries, adorned with approximately 24 different arrays of signals. Plus a whole bunch of painted lines delineating various crosswalks and left- and right-turn-only lanes. In other words, a hell of a lot of expensive hardware and construction.

Now then. Consider a typical weekday morning in this delightful suburb, where business persons (Tahoes), office workers (Pathfinders), customer service personnel (Explorers), real estate brokers (Escalades), soccer moms (Suburbans), small business owners (King Cab trucks), and lawn care professionals (1995 GMC crew cab pulling overloaded trailer) are all motoring along this pristinely maintained suburban artery, 10 mph over the 45 mph speed limit, on their way to do whatever it is they do to enable them to fill their 25 gallon gas tanks twice a week.

Try to calculate in your mind the amount and different kinds of energy that are expended when, hundreds of times a week, every week of every year, 30+ of these vehicles and all of their occupants must suddenly, inexplicably, slam on their brakes, come to a complete stop at a red light, wait about three minutes for the lights to cycle through all the various configurations, then accelerate back up to 55mph from a dead stop, all so that the "cross traffic" can proceed through the intersection unimpeded. Said cross traffic, of course, consisting of... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AND NO ONE.

The Dreaded...

Wintry Mix has arrived!

What would you think about a man who does the following:

1. Unnecessarily takes his child with him on an errand which is almost certain to end in both their deaths. Deaths which will most likely be prolonged and excruciating. An errand which his child does not want to go on. An errand which would, in the extremely unlikely event it is successful, have an outcome which the child has unequivocally stated that he does not desire. And "unnecessarily" because: the child cannot possibly make any meaningful contribution to the errand's success. In fact, the child's presence will almost certainly hinder the attempt.

The man's motive in taking the child with him? Unknown, but probably explicable as an attempt to assuage the man's loneliness in undertaking the errand OR because the man considers his child to be the only thing of value that he has.

2. After the errand is unexpectedly interrupted before it becomes truly dangerous, by an incident during which the child is kidnapped, the man then recklessly endangers several of his closest (only) friends (and a couple of other people who are merely bystanders and good samaritans) by charging off in a clearly futile attempt to "rescue" the child. I put "rescue" in quotes because the man, while possibly hoping to actually rescue the child, appears to merely be allowing his guilt and vanity to override his reason and his consideration of others.

3. But anyway. So then he gets himself also kidnapped, by a group of people who: (a) are the sworn enemies of the man and his group of loyal friends (who, as previously stated, risked their lives on at least 2 occasions to save him from his own selfish actions), (b) appear to be actively engaged in bringing about the torture and death of the man and his group of friends, and (c) are the same people who kidnapped his child.

4. After being captured, the man's captors do nothing to change his perception of them as ruthless killers and torturers. He clearly believes them to be heinous, inhuman criminals, intent on the destruction of all who oppose them (or, even come anywhere near them). So what does he do? He agrees to: (a) go back to the headquarters of his friends, (b) bring about (by force, deceit, or otherwise) the release of one of the captors' agents, who is currently being detained by his friends, and (c) bring certain of his friends (he is given a list of 5 names, his friends, several of whom, as noted above, risked their lives to save his on multiple occasions) to a remote location so that they can be ambushed by his captors who, as noted above, he believes to be the most thoroughly vicious, heinous, inhuman, monstrous type of characters imaginable.

5. Not only does the man agree to do these things, he actually does them! First, he goes back to where his friends are and tells them a bunch of lies. Then, he MURDERS 2 of them, both unarmed and unsuspecting. He then releases the enemy prisoner, injures himself to make it look like he was the prisoner's victim, and makes up a bunch more lies to tell the rest of his friends when they appear on the scene. THEN, he deviously convinces the 5 people from the list (his friends, who risked their lives, etc etc) to go with him to ostensibly "avenge" the deaths of the 2 others who he himself just murdered in a most cowardly fashion(!), all the while intending to turn them over to their enemies (vile and unspeakably cruel murderers, torturers, etc etc etc)

6. During the journey the man and his friends undertake to "avenge" their fallen comrades, the man is presented with a tailor-made opportunity to come clean and atone for his various transgressions. He does not, but rather goes ahead and turns his friends (probably the only people who have ever actually befriended him or lent a hand to help him in his whole life) over to the enemy (odious and loathsome persons who, well, neverf***ingmind).

So this is what the guy did. (You may recognize his story.) I have attemped a very objective account of his nefarious doings in the hope that you, the reader, will supply your opinion as to whether his actions are good, bad, or indifferent. Selfish? Evil? Heroic? Believing also, of course, that your opinion will coincide with my own (hopefully) well-concealed views on the subject.

Even Idiots Can Blog, Apparently

Hi. I'm the Hick Town Rap Star /slash/ Hip Hop Lawyer. As I write this, I am forced to consider the "Wintry Mix" mixing outside. Forced, because all my various media-to-brain inputs are simultaneously broadcasting its presence. But I continue to blog, unabated.

Now that I have understanding of blog posting, soon I will have understanding of posting pictures and links, and when I have understanding of them, I shall have understanding of html...

"Robert: Understanding of what, master?

Evil Genius: Digital watches. And soon I will have understanding of videocassette recorders and car telephones. And when I have understanding of them, I shall have understanding of computers. And when I have understanding of computers, I shall be the Supreme Being! God isn't interested in technology. He knows nothing of the potential of the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how he spends his time: forty-three species of parrots!"