February 27, 2006


February Book Review

...I’m not sure if it’ll become a regular thing for me, but I felt the urge to do a book review for this month.
...A little over a month ago I stopped by my local Barnes & Noble and, being the cheap bastard that I am, did my usual run to the bargain section. Sometimes their bargain section has a decent selection from which to choose; other times the selection leaves something to be desired. On this particular occasion I struck gold.
...I’m not sure if I should even say this, but after a few minutes of investigating the shelves I came across a book that caught my eye because of the cover (I don’t mind if anyone laughs or cries over this—I’m just being honest). It was a black-and-white photograph of newsboys standing in an alley, and—being a fan of stories that are set in the early 1900s such as To Serve Them All My Days, The Alienist, and Johnny Got His Gun—it immediately piqued my interest.
...After scanning a few pages I quickly realized that this particular book had interesting subject matter and a writing style that illustrated both intelligence and imagination. The book was The Newsboys’ Lodging-House by Jon Boorstin, and it has since become one of my favorite books.
...I’m not going to go into more detail than that which is offered on the leaf of the dust jacket, so the book’s storyline is this: William James, psychologist and philosopher, suffered a mental breakdown when he was thirty-years-old. He obsessed over the concepts of good and evil, considered committing suicide, and went into isolation. After re-emerging several months later, he had a new attitude and new view on life. No one knows why this change occurred, however, because he removed the 42 pages from his diary which covered that period of time. Boorstin decided to contemplate what might have occurred to James throughout those months, and the result is this addictive piece of historical fiction.
...Looking back on it I feel a bit guilty for having paid only $2 for this novel; it’s worth more than the $24.95 suggested retail price. It's also worth reading again.

February 26, 2006


Port Insecurity

AP Photo

...The more that I read and hear, the more that I find myself wondering if the staunch opposition to the United Arab Emirates taking over American ports is really one of security concerns, or simply one that has come about because George W. Bush wasn’t opposed to it. In turn, I find myself wondering if my own initial opposition to Dubai Ports World acquiring the ports from the previous British owner is merited.
...First we saw a change in stance by people who were previously opposed to profiling and stereotyping based on skin color or nationality. It used to be that they hated to see broad generalizations of foreigners by police and security officials. Now, those very people are more than happy to suggest that the UAE are nothing but terrorists because they’re Arabic.
...The second change in stance was from the folks who work the ports, namely the Teamsters and their affiliate, the International Longshoreman’s Association. In 2002, the ILA wasn’t too keen on the possibility of losing workers at ports after a law was passed that would require criminal background checks for longshoremen and other dockworkers. At the time, officials at the ILA estimated that up to 300 of 2,000 union longshoremen were on the verge of losing their job because of the background checks. By 2003, not a single worker had a background check done due to delays caused by lawsuits. At the time, an AFL-CIO official said that if someone paid for his crime, he should have the chance to show that he’s trustworthy.
...Fast-forward to a few days ago when we saw photos of Teamsters protesting the UAE port deal under the guise of safety and security (see the photograph above). There seems to be one of three possible occurrences here: 1.) The Teamsters have had a change of heart and are now gung-ho about port security; 2.) They figure that potentially criminal Middle Easterners are worse than potentially criminal Americans; or 3.) They oppose the UAE deal because Bush didn’t oppose it, and they—along with many of us—don’t like Bush.
...That brings me to the conclusion that seems to be prevalent in this issue and the reason that I’ve found myself re-evaluating my previous opposition to the deal. Have many of the critics of the UAE deal taken their stance only because it’s the opposing stance to Bush? I didn’t vote for Bush in either 2000 or 2004, but I’ve never allowed myself to oppose something just because he supported it. Likewise, I’ve never supported something simply because he opposed it.
...We’re no better than the people whom we dislike if we oppose something just because the given issue has their support.

February 25, 2006


"PC" is for "Cookie"

Photo by Chuck Zovko

...Bake sales are traditionally used to help raise money for small organizations, usually ranging from volunteer fire companies to churches. In recent years, however, the politicization of almost everything has seen bake sales become another way to get a social message across.
...Similar to other politically-oriented bake sales across the nation, the Young Republicans at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania decided to hold an “affirmative action” bake sale to illustrate how preferential treatment based upon skin color and sex can be unfair and contradictory to equality. For example, white males are charged more for certain baked goods than black males; white females are charged more than Hispanic females. Not surprisingly, some students became offended.
...A rally of about 100 students ensued—including blacks, whites, and Hispanics—to protest the bake sale. One woman was irate because she was allowed to have cookies for free, as she was awarded a 25-cent credit. A plethora of protest signs were everywhere proclaiming messages such as “Respect Regardless of Race” and “Where is the Love?” A more violent one of “Justice Must Be Served” was also in the mix, as well as one that asked, “Can U Hear Me Now?” Apparently that one was carried by someone who was on their way to a remedial spelling workshop sponsored by Verizon.
...On Thursday, Kutztown University was the site of a “gender gap” bake sale, whereby men must pay more for food than women. Last year the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance of Texas State University held their own gender gap bake sale and charged men 24 cents more for every dollar on the cost of their baked goods to bring attention to the current wage gap between the sexes in the workplace. There were no reported protests at Texas State’s gender gap bake sale.
...Throughout this story—and other ones that are similar to it—we see a common factor: The people who are offended are angry because the groups that are holding the bake sales are bringing attention to the issue of affirmative action and the inequities that are found within its policies—ironically policies that supposedly promote equality. The bake sale organizers are framing the issue in a manner that is more readily understandable for the common person. The issue of affirmative action is no longer something that is discussed solely by political junkies, theorists, or policy wonks; it’s now been turned into something that can be understood by high school kids, soccer moms, and auto mechanics. Such a situation is no doubt very threatening to those who might benefit from its unfairness.
...In the end, though, this entire situation may have been a positive thing. We saw the free expression of two opposing viewpoints, and no reports of physical violence. Even though the accompanying video of the protest on The Morning Call Website shows students who demand an apology for having been offended (would they apologize if someone were offended by them?), Kutztown’s president, F. Javier Cevallos, explained to everyone that viewpoints can’t be silenced just because others are offended by those viewpoints.
...Such a situation doesn’t always occur at institutions of higher learning, but it did here. Perhaps universities that have fascist regimes at the helm—like DePaul, for instance—should be taking notes.

Silence Isn't Golden

...After I wrote my last post I was feeling down—actually, more frustrated than anything. Having a feeling of despair over the possibility of having few, if any, people give a shit about my small voice in a world of 6.5 billion people and 30 million blogs isn’t enjoyable, but then I reconsidered. I reconsidered my frustration after thinking of the “so what?” attitude of punk music in the late-1970s.
...When I say “punk music” I’m referring to the real punk stuff that actually had meaning in their lyrics—the Dead Kennedys, TSOL, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Verbal Abuse, GBH, DRI, et al. Don’t mistake any of this stuff with Green Day, Sum 41, Blink 182, The Used, or any other band that is rebelling against…um…uh…well, I’m not sure against what they’re rebelling.
...These pioneering bands didn’t shoot for popularity; they went for substance. Likewise, if only a few people read this blog, so be it. I’d rather vent and not be heard than know that I didn’t say anything at all.

February 23, 2006


I'm Not Sorry

...I’ve been a blogger for the last year and a half. This is actually my third blog in that time period, and for the most part all three were the same thing: current events that are drenched with absurdity where the main character is stupidity defined. Along the way I grew out of each blog: the first because I grew concerned for my personal safety; the second because I found myself with less time to post on a regular basis and simultaneously read the blogs of those who read mine; and now this one because I keep feeling as if I’m talking to a brick wall.
...Well, no. Strike that last remark. My girlfriend reads my whacky opinions. You rule!
...This post was originally going to be about the FBI and the British Special Branch interrogating the English crooner Morrissey, apparently for reasons that are unknown to both me and him. Morrissey, the former Smiths vocalist, said that he wasn’t sure why the authorities were questioning him, but openly admits to disliking both George W. Bush and the Iraqi War.
...At first, I was going to rant about how it seems as though “FBI” now stands for “Federal Bureau of Intimidation” and that we’re living in scary times when we have to fear being hauled into dimly-lit smoke-filled rooms where G-men wearing institutional-grade business suits ask us all kinds of questions because we’re supposedly a threat to national security.
...Then I read the comments on the Morrissey story. Quickly I realized that my opinion was the minority of the minority. Only one other reader thought that this situation was one about which we should worry, and most of the comments suggested that Morrissey should stop complaining about the investigation.
...So, since it’s become obvious that my kook ideas on liberty and civil rights aren’t welcome in 21st century United States culture, I can’t help but feel that I’m wasting my time writing all these silly thoughts.

February 21, 2006


A Connecticut Barney Fife in King Arthur’s Court

...In England, the Bedfordshire police are having a difficult time telling fantasy from reality. They recently detained and interrogated actors who star in the movie The Road to Guantanamo in an effort to cut down on terrorism. The actors were at the Luton Airport after returning from the Berlin Film Festival.
...Rumor has it that the Bedfordshire police are now trying to track down actor Robert Englund for having invaded the nightmares of children who lived on Elm Street, and several different stuntmen who donned a hockey mask, wielded a machete, and stalked counselors at Camp Crystal Lake during the 1980s.
Source: BBC

Port of No Return

...Governors, Congressmen, and average citizens are criticizing a move by the Bush Administration that allows the United Arab Emirates to control six United States ports following a UAE purchase of a British company that had previously controlled those same ports. The criticism stems from the UAE’s ties to terrorism.
...I’m in complete agreement with those who are criticizing the move by the White House, but it’s interesting to see that so many of the people who are now against a move like this were the same ones who were outraged over the profiling of Middle Eastern peoples by American police and airport security only a few years ago. Last year in New York City we saw the ACLU filing a lawsuit against searches of book-bags and knapsacks following terrorist attacks in England. (The searches were later ruled “constitutional.”)
...So which is it, my fellow Americans? Over the last five years it’s been “wrong” to target certain peoples and nationalities if they have ties to terrorism, but now it’s “right”? Perhaps it depends on the person who is delivering the message and whether or not the move fits your agenda.
...Feel free to join me in my effort to promote equality: View everyone as a potential terrorist.
Sources: My Way News, ACLU, MSNBC

February 20, 2006



...Anyone who has used a chat room has noticed the abundance of acronyms. BBL, BRB, IMHO, J/K, OMG, TTYL, LOL—the list is endless. Diehard linguists are having multiple orgasms over the new vernacular that has come about from instant messaging, online chatting, and text messaging, while others have yet to find the new “language” as fascinating. For some of us, the extensive use of abbreviations and shortened words is nothing more than a sign of laziness.
...Have you ever found yourself discussing something important or engaging with someone only to be interrupted by someone named “mido_egypt_i_love_you” who has decided to send you an instant message of “ASL PLZ”? It happens to me every time that I turn on my instant message program. (Not always from Mido, mind you. Sometimes his friends Amir and Hassan have sent me similar messages, to which I firmly reply, “CNN,” “IRS,” “FBI,” or “CIA.”)
...The new “language” of instant messaging isn’t exclusively used by foreigners, though. It’s become quite popular among people who have found typing full words to be too much physical exertion. Pressing those heavy plastic keys on the keyboard must put far too much stress on the fingers. Either that or the typist is simply too lazy to make the effort to actually type.
...Here is where the concern begins for those of us who are quite anal when it comes to writing and speaking. Is instant message slang something that just comes with the territory of Internet chatting, or is it an outlet that helps to facilitate the destruction of a language? Is it increasing the odds of poor grammar and spelling, or should it not matter because those who are using such “words” wouldn’t be writing anything anyway, if it were not for Internet chatting?
...There’s no doubt that a language doesn’t have an ending point, so the argument can be made that language as a concept is always evolving and changing. This, perhaps, allows us to rephrase the question.
...Is the incessant use of such slang and abbreviations a good thing?
...National Public Radio reported that linguistics professor David Crystal views the use of this slang as a way to “extend the range of the language” as well as the “expressiveness” and “richness” of the language. Last year the Christian Science Monitor reported that Al Filreis, director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, saw writing quality go up in the last 20 years because kids are writing more.
...It might be a good thing for linguists and analysts at some level, but I find it hard to believe that teenagers are concerned with range extension, expressiveness, or richness when we see them replace the words “are” with “r,” “you” with “u,” or the ever-popular “cool” with “kewl” on school work or even tests. It seems more like the path of least resistance, doesn’t it?
...These informalities aren’t going unnoticed by other educators at the college level. English professor John Briggs of the University of California remarked, “Americans have always been informal, but now the informality of pre-college culture is so ubiquitous that many students have no practice in using language in any formal setting at all.”
...On one hand, I’m finding it difficult to say that the widespread use of non-existent “words” is a good thing—it looks more like sloth than range extension. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just join in the fun. My concluding paragraph for this post will be nothing but abbreviations, whereby I, too, can play my part in the growth of the modern English language.

February 18, 2006


Shot Down...Again

Pappy Boyington

...When I was in college for my undergraduate work I was immensely interested in politics and things related to them. At the same time I had little interest in becoming involved in the student government organizations that were available because more times than not the students who were involved in them shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Most of them were involved for the power of the position or because they seemed to think that belonging to such a group might make them appear more intelligent than they really were.
...It’s too bad that the more things change, the more that they stay the same.
...At the University of Washington, a student proposed erecting a small memorial of former student and World War II legendary pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, who shot down 28 Japanese planes and led the famous Black Sheep Squadron. In response, the school’s student senate shot the idea down.
...Some of the student remarks that aided the ‘no’ vote on Boyington’s proposed memorial might make one do a double-take. Jill Edwards said that she’s not sure if a member of the Marine Corps should be the type of person that the University of Washington would want to produce. Ashley Miller illustrated her investigative reporting skills and said that the university already had enough monuments commemorating rich white men. (Boyington was part Sioux and had trouble holding jobs.)
...Other students opposed the memorial because it would “honor war,” but there was no word on whether these students were going to cut down the trees on UW’s main entrance which honor 58 former UW students who died in World War I.
...In the end, though, my favorite student comment was one that was on a televised interview regarding this story. The young man said that Boyington shouldn’t be honored because it’s not as if he had been a physicist or famous actor. It’s good to know that today’s college students equate physicists with actors.
...The future looks really bright knowing that these kids are tomorrow’s leaders.

February 14, 2006


Beggars & Choosers

...It’s interesting to see how the term “pro-choice” is becoming more and more misleading. If anything, choice is something about which the movement cares little, and a recent Massachusetts ruling against Wal-Mart is just more proof of this assertion.
...Now, before I continue with this essay, I feel the pressing need to make a brief announcement: To those right-wingers who are reading this and think that I’m one of you, look elsewhere—or better yet peruse my posts on wiretapping without warrants and the No Child Left Behind legislation. It’s more than likely that you’ll think that I’m a liberal. On the other side of the coin, to those left-wingers who are reading this and think that I’m a conservative (or “neo-con,” which has become your trendy catch-phrase) nutcase in disguise, you can peruse my other posts, too. I’m calling this as I see it, and it’s rather easy to see.
...The court ruling in question forces Wal-Mart pharmacies in Massachusetts to carry emergency contraception pills (a.k.a. morning-after pills) whether they want to or not. The decision was made by the state’s Board of Pharmacy after three women sued Wal-Mart for failing to carry the pills, and it’s similar to others that have been brought against other pharmacies across the country which have made similar decisions.
...I probably shouldn’t be shocked to hear that a private sector pharmacy isn’t allowed to make a choice as to which pharmaceuticals it carries. It’s becoming popular to sue when someone makes a choice that others don’t like. A few months ago we saw California posers Motley Crue sue NBC because NBC didn’t want them to perform on their network again after vocalist Vince Neil decided to illustrate—on live TV—his limited vocabulary that consists mostly of profanity. As if it weren’t an absurd move to begin with, the band sued the network on the grounds of free speech violations—even though NBC isn’t a government entity.
...In the case of the morning-after pills, it’s unfortunate that the three women didn’t make a move that might have required using some intellect (maybe that explains it), whereby they could have recognized that Wal-Mart was exercising their choice and chose not to sell a particular product. A wonderful response would have been a public campaign against Wal-Mart, including a push for consumers to boycott their pharmacies. If enough people boycotted, the power of the market might encourage Wal-Mart to begin offering the pills. Even if it didn’t, consumers could protest by shopping at other pharmacies that do sell the pills.
...Then again, organization requires effort and we all know that it’s easier to just file a lawsuit.
...There’s really no reason to think that there is a concept of freedom of choice anymore for anyone, or even a true state of being “pro-choice.” It’s become clear that when someone actually attempts to use their right to make a choice, they must now worry about budgeting for legal fees due to the potential of being taken to court when another person doesn’t like the choice that was made. All the while, the ones who file the suits are doing it for “choice.”
...“Pro-choice” people are for choice as much as “pro-life” people are against the death penalty. Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise.

February 13, 2006


Expendable Youth

...What do you do when your penis is smaller than normal, you’re illiterate, you smoke crack on a daily basis, and you don’t know who your father is because your mom has been with more men than a $5 whore? Why, you become a gang member, of course.
...I apologize to anyone who is accustomed to PG-rated vocabulary, and may have unfortunately happened upon my harsh R-rated verbiage. I have little interest in restraining myself this afternoon, however, because I’ve been informed that my small town is becoming one more battlefield for the Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings. I think that it’s a good reason to become fired up, because it’s something that is permeating throughout America, and it’s something that seems to be accepted—if not embraced—by more and more people.
...When I was younger, hearing about kids getting into fights wasn’t anything unusual. Sometimes they fought over girls, sometimes over personality conflicts, sometimes over exchanged insults, sometimes over cars, and sometimes over petty nonsense that wouldn’t even merit fisticuffs. It’s now 2006, though, and all that has changed in small-town America.
...A few nights ago I saw an ambulance screaming by my house, and later learned that a 16-year-old boy had been involved in a street fight. Early reports from my neighbors were that the boy had been done-up pretty badly, having lost several teeth and winding up with a bloody face. I thought to myself, “Oh, just a bunch of punks who have nothing else to do than beat each other.”
...How wrong I was.
...It’s now a few days later and I’ve been informed that the victim had no association with the victimizer. It was revealed that the perpetrator—who is only 14-years-old—targeted the 16-year-old because the boy was wearing red clothing, and the 14-year-old was going through an initiation into the Crips street gang where he had to brutalize someone—anyone—who might be wearing the “enemy” color. The 16-year-old is now lying in a hospital bed with a fractured skull, toothless mouth, and ruptured spleen—all because he was wearing a certain color of clothing.
...The 14-year-old criminal was charged, but will probably spend no more than a few weeks or a few months in a juvenile detention center because “children’s advocates” are opposed to anything harsher. Hell, they might even say that the 16-year-old shouldn't have worn red clothing. Eventually the 14-year-old piece of shit will then be back onto the streets where he can assault a few more people for wearing the wrong color, rape a few little girls and murder a few people for kicks. He’s just a child after all, and we need to stand up for all these good children.
...The proliferation of violence has become fashionable, gang membership is a status symbol, and anyone who calls for accountability for such heinous acts is labeled an “extremist.”
...Maybe the Soviet Union should have nuked us in the 1960s and done the rest of the world a huge favor (save for the radiation fallout).

You Can Bet On This

...Most of my close friends—both of them—know that I’m a huge fan of hockey and baseball. It works out quite nicely that they run at different times of the year (for the most part), so there’s always something to hold my short attention span.
...Unfortunately, right now the National Hockey League is suffering what has become popularly called “another black eye.” Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet has been implicated in a national gambling ring that is said to have ties with mobsters and a clientele list that includes Janet Jones, the actress wife of Coyotes head coach—and hockey legend—Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky was discovered to have made inquiries into possible ways to keep Jones out of trouble should the ring be investigated.
...Since I’m known for being critical of professional athletes who break the law or just do stupid things, it probably seemed odd that I haven’t commented on this topic sooner. It may have seemed as if I had been ignoring the issue, but in actuality I was just forming a solid opinion.
...To preface this, I want to say that I’m openly opposed to gambling laws, regardless of who is doing the gambling—from drunks playing a round of poker to rich stiffs wagering millions of dollars on the Super Bowl. If you’re dumb enough to risk losing your money, then you deserve whatever comes to you.
...When it comes to athletes, the only time that gambling should become illegal is when and if the athlete in question gambles against his own team and intentionally loses a game to collect on the bet. Take Pete Rose, for instance: He bet on his own teams on occasion, and then tried his hardest to ensure that they would win. Yes, as a person Rose was nothing more than a Neanderthal with talent (in 1999, then-NBC reporter Jim Gray received death threats for asking Rose questions about the gambling), but to his credit he wasn’t willing to lose games—even for a profit.
...Now that I’ve established that, it’ll make a little more sense when I suggest that Tocchet, Jones, and Gretzky should be vilified—if not crucified—for something other than their illegal acts (if the allegations prove to be true); they should be crucified for their sheer selfishness and unadulterated stupidity.
...The NHL suffered a massive public relations meltdown last season when an entire year was lost to a lock-out. Television ratings were on the decline even before the work stoppage, so the timing for a lock-out made things even worse. ESPN considered the lock-out (combined with commissioner Gary Bettman’s greed) to make the decision that they wouldn’t renew a TV contract for the league, leaving it to find a new home on the upstart OLN Network and a few games on NBC.
...Somehow and someway the fans returned with gusto, but now this new problem has emerged—this time with the help of Gretzky, who had become known as an ambassador to the entire sport of hockey.
...If the allegations turn out to be true, and if Tocchet and Jones were, indeed, part of this gambling ring with Gretzky acting as a look-out man, there would be no reason to not blame them for any dark clouds that might hover over the Coyotes for the rest of the season, Team Canada in the Turin Olympics (Gretzky is executive director of Team Canada), or over the NHL in general for the rest of the season.
...No matter which rink they’re in, or which league they’re in, any team with ties to Tocchet or Gretzky will experience whispers in the stands, on the blogs, and across the radio waves. No matter how quiet the whispers are, the players on these teams will hear them. Players always hear them.
...While I’ll continue to believe that gambling laws need to be re-evaluated, I’m still able to realize that it’s currently illegal to do it, and those who violate those laws are going to cause strain within their particular environment if they happen to be caught. When that environment is one on a national—if not global—stage, it becomes even more important to avoid the potential problem from the start. Because of that, Rick Tocchet, Janet Jones, and Wayne Gretzky should have used a modicum of common sense.

February 07, 2006


Bad Religion, Part III

...In an effort to retaliate against the Muhammad cartoon, an Iranian newspaper is staging a contest for cartoons that make fun of Holocaust victims.
...While I support the paper’s right to publish the cartoons, I think that it’s interesting to see how free speech in the Muslim world is embraced when it suits their purpose, but when it’s against them they stage widespread violence.
...Maybe there’s a positive here, however: In the future, all Middle Eastern conflicts can be fought with comic books instead of guns.

February 06, 2006


Bad Religion, Part II

Reuters Photo

...The Islamic cartoon war is still waging, with some militants calling for a “European 9/11” and other militants staging attacks in Beirut, where thousands of Muslims set fires, destroyed shops, and vandalized cars. Resident Naji Korom didn’t understand why they had been the targets of the Islamic violence and asked, “Why did they attack us? Why?”
...This situation is becoming more violent and more irresponsible as each day passes. At the same time, it’s important to see two of the discussions that these barbaric atrocities have spawned.
Free Speech vs. Offending People
...Since justification has become a huge issue for both sides of this story—on one side the newspapers that printed the Mohammed parody and on the other the Muslim terrorists who feel the need to seek revenge on any and all non-Muslims—it’s important to see how each side wants their view to be the only one that is embraced.
...The newspapers that have printed the caricature of Mohammed have said that they have free speech on their side, as the press cannot begin to hold back on printing things that might offend certain segments of the world’s population. If that were to happen, real news would never be reported and real dialog over pertinent issues would never be discussed. The news would essentially become bullshit that could be enjoyed by only those wearing rose-colored glasses.
...On the opposing side, Muslims are arguing that free speech has no place in the media if it offends them. Don’t believe me? Click here to read a story about two Jordanian newspaper editors who were arrested for publishing the Mohammed cartoon. They were said to have committed an “unnecessary abuse of freedom of speech.”
...An opinion Website for the BBC has an interesting thread of comments, but two of them stuck out the most. One was the usual “you must not offend us or you’ll suffer the consequences” kind of comment, while the other summed it best by making the astute observation that such back-and-forth dialog wouldn’t even be happening if it were not for free speech.
...Even so, in Australia, the president of The Islamic Council of Queensland, Abdul Jalal, wanted an apology from papers that printed the cartoon there and said, “I was hoping, praying that our media people would have more—I hate to use the word—more sense, in not trying to agitate the situation in the local scene here in Australia.”
...Jalal thinks that there’s no sense in printing a cartoon but there is sense in using violence when you’re offended?! I’m not surprised, and that brings us to the second issue in this mess.
...The same people who are committing violence after being offended by a drawing are the same ones who have no problem with kidnapping and beheading innocent people or murdering dozens of innocents via suicide bombers. In fact, such killing will supposedly get them into heaven where they will receive 72 virgins and various riches.
...“But suicide is forbidden in Islam,” you say. Suicide (qatlu nafsi-hi) is forbidden in the Traditions, but a nice way around it is to call suicide bombers “martyrs” and say that they’re dying for the noblest of all causes. How convenient.
...Things are going to be said that we don’t like to hear, but—so long as the speech isn’t false—we can’t censor ourselves for fear of violent reprisals. No matter what religious or political affiliation a person has, it doesn’t give them the right to perpetrate savagery against those who say something that they don’t like. They must counter with non-violent discourse and free speech of their own.
...Of course, that’s assuming that that particular group actually knows how to carry out anything that doesn’t involve violence.

February 05, 2006


Bad Religion

...Violent Islamic militants have set ablaze the Danish consulate in Beirut in their continuing effort to somehow “avenge” the printing of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a turban that resembles a bomb. This comes a few days after Muslim gunmen threatened to kidnap European workers in Gaza City if the European Union failed to apologize for offending them.
...Torching buildings and kidnapping over a fucking cartoon? I thought that it was bad enough that I have to deal with militant Christians telling me that I’m going to go to hell some day because I haven’t accepted Christ as my personal savior. At least they haven’t burned my house down.
...It’s not hard to figure out why some people have no respect for organized religions.

February 04, 2006


Buffalo Chips

Ryan Miller (Photo by David Duprey)

...It’s old news by now that standout goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres was snubbed by the United States Olympic team in favor of three goaltenders whose abilities—while still quite good—are just a wee bit under his.
...It seemed to be worth discussing the issue once again because Miller’s Sabres beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-2 on Thursday night (Miller had 21 saves in the contest). That’s the same Flyers whose goalie, Robert Esche, was named to Team USA, along with Tampa Bay’s John Grahame and the New York Islanders’ Rick DiPietro, instead of Miller.
...Since the bigwigs in Team USA seem to be interested in being the underdog right from the start, I can’t help but think that losing in the quarterfinals is their goal. Maybe it’ll be more fun rooting for Canada or the Czech Republic, where statistics actually matter.

February 03, 2006


Can You Hear Me Now?

Author’s note: In the following post, my use of the word “stupid” is meant just as it is defined in a dictionary (i.e., lacking intelligence). It is not meant to be a name-calling tactic.
...First we saw stupid people en masse file lawsuits against tobacco companies because smokers were somehow “fooled” into taking the initiative to stick cigarettes in their mouths. Cigarettes have been called “cancer sticks” since the 1930s, but these people had no clue that inhaling poison could cause lung cancer.
...Then we saw stupid people—led into battle by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and his half-witted documentary Super-size Me—go after fast-food restaurants that supposedly made the plaintiffs overweight by offering them fatty food. Sure, the plaintiffs took the initiative to enter the fast-food joints and purchase the food, but it wasn’t their fault, or so they claimed.
...Now the stupid have a new target: Apple, and more namely, their iPod.
...John Kiel Patterson has filed a class-action lawsuit against the technology giant on behalf of all other iPod users, and he wants Apple to cough up some money to compensate for his—and the others’—lack of common sense. Patterson thinks that Apple hasn’t done enough to prevent hearing loss by iPod users who have decided to listen to their music at absurd levels. In addition to monetary damages, Patterson’s suit calls for Apple to provide software that will limit the volume of the iPod headphones.
...Apple has an entire section in their iPod users manual entitled “Avoid Hearing Damage,” where it states:
Warning: Permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume. You can adapt over time to a higher volume of sound, which may sound normal but can be damaging to your hearing. Set your iPod’s volume to a safe level before that happens. If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce the volume or discontinue use of your iPod.
...At first, you might be thinking that Patterson (and the other unnamed plaintiffs) simply ignored the warning, because most people who lack intelligence don’t read things. Sadly, no; Patterson actually read this warning, but in his suit he claimed that he wasn’t sure what the terms “high volume” or “safe level” meant.
...I can only hope that a lawsuit as asinine as this is thrown out of court before anyone gives it any credence. If it does succeed, it will be one more nail in the coffin for the concept of personal responsibility. How intelligent a species are we if we have to blame others for our own behavior? Scapegoats have gone from poverty and environment to companies who simply offer the choice of purchasing and using products, whether they’re chemicals, food, or technology.
...Some of us like to think that all people are equal, but as long as we continue to see members of our society who are lower on the intellectual totem pole, such as Morgan Spurlock and John Kiel Patterson, we know that such a situation isn’t the case.
...Put out the cigarette, put down the Big Mac, and turn down your headphone volume. It doesn’t take a lawsuit—or even much intelligence—to figure that out.

February 01, 2006


Diebold with a Vengeance

...I’m not sure what’s more interesting: having things occur at similar times (these things being ones that make you go, “Hmmm…”) or connecting dots that end up forming a path of potential fraud and corruption. How interesting might it be if both happen simultaneously?
...Such a situation happened a few days ago when I was doing some research for a friend who needed information on lesser-known court cases dealing with the First Amendment. She was told to forgo using the more popular First Amendment cases, such as Roe v. Wade and Miller v. California, and asked me for some input on the issue. Having an interest and reasonable background in politics and law, I jumped at the chance. I quickly came to discover a few things that are frightening.
...Allow me to preface the rest of this post by saying that the aforementioned “things occurring at similar times” was a reference to the news that my home state of Pennsylvania is required to have new voting methods in use for the May 16 primaries in accordance to the federal Help America Vote Act, which was made law following the 2000 Presidential election debacle. I came across a story from the eastern half of the commonwealth saying that one more county—Schuylkill—has voted to use Diebold electronic voting machines.
...The vote by the county’s commissioners was 2-1, along party lines where the Republicans have the majority. There was debate and argument from people who were opposed to using the machines, and the Schuylkill County Democratic chief, Edward Kleha, has threatened to sue the county on the grounds that Diebold’s machines would be easy to hack and that there’s no assurance that the “e-voting” machines would provide for privacy while voting. The county’s GOP chief, Dan Daub, called the threats “a partisan political grandstand,” “childish,” and “deceitful.”
...Since Mr. Daub is apparently opposed to deceit, I can only hope that he—as well as every other voter in the United States—is aware of Diebold’s history.
...In 2003, Diebold Election Systems, Inc. sent cease-and-desist letters to multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) after internal Diebold documents were leaked and appeared on various Websites. The internal documents that were leaked dealt with security flaws in the systems of Diebold’s electronic voting machines. Some of the documents included e-mail discussions about how to resolve any problems; others contained suggestions on hiding the flaws and faking demonstration results.
...Diebold claimed that the leaked memos and e-mails were their intellectual property, and that they held some kind of inherent copyright on them; they insisted that their cease-and-desist letters be honored. In response, they found themselves being sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation—an online free speech advocacy group—and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School. EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic argued that Diebold didn’t have a legal copyright on the memos or e-mail, and—considering the importance of the information on future political elections—said that the information belongs in the public domain.
...At the time, Diebold attempted to silence anyone and everyone who so much as mentioned their case on their site, or even provided a link to the documents that showed Diebold’s flawed system. The matter ended up in court in the form of Online Policy Group v. Diebold, but in the end the case’s judgment was granted in-part and denied in-part for both sides. Essentially, each side had strong points and weak points.
...Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer-security professor, managed to get his hands on Diebold’s computer source code. What he and his computer science students discovered was not only shocking, but frightening: the Diebold code to prevent potential fraud was completely amateur. Rubin said that the Diebold system was “far below even the most minimal security standards,” and added, “Anyone in my basic security classes would have done better.”
...In addition to actually fixing the source code flaws, a suggested solution to the problem was requiring that electronic voting machines offer a print-out for each vote. The print-out would occur after each vote and would go directly into a secure lockbox, and in the event of a discrepancy, the vote totals of the computerized tally would be compared to the vote totals of the paper print-outs.
...To their credit, Diebold has designed a paper-based, voter-verifiable printer module which allows for a printed hardcopy of each vote. Diebold themselves mention, however, that such a module can only be used once it is allowed by Congress and the White House. They also insist that their machines are now safer than they were in the 2003 reports, labeling any accusations suggesting otherwise as “false accusations.”
...The paper trail requirement has been given serious consideration by New Jersey Representative Rush Holt in his Voter Confidence Act legislation of 2005. The bill, HR 550, was referred to the House Committee on House Administration in February 2005, but has stopped there.
...Why hasn’t the bill made any headway? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but the chairman of the House Committee on House Administration is Republican Bob Ney of Ohio—the same Bob Ney who was recently in the news after he was alleged to have been given expensive trips, meals, and entertainment excursions by corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for official favors. Abramoff recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud.