Friday, February 29, 2008

A Couple of Bitches

As I type it's just before 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, Leap Day, 2008.

I'm unhappy about two things, both quite small in the world of unhappy, but irritating nontheless.

First, the flat screen is being delivered tomorrow, so today I hauled in the ridiculously heavy box containing the TV stand that I bought, it weighs more than the TV. I laid it all out. The instruction sheet says that it contains 6 1 1/4" bolts. Nope. So I called the 800 number. A person answered! A nice young woman. I explained my problem. She pleasantly said they would ship and deliver within 7 to 10 days. When I noted that the TV would be delivered in the morning, she said I could go and buy the bolts and call her and they would reimburse me. I thanked her and said that I appreciated the offer; but, that getting back the buck fifty or so for the bolts wasn't worth the effort. She understood and told me she was sorry.

So, I have to get up first thing, make sure the cell phone is on so as to get the call, if it comes, from the store telling me that they are on the way, and run to Brookhaven Hardware, the home of absolutely everything you need for whatever it is you want to do, and run back home and put together the stupid table so they can put the TV on it. Just my luck, I'll be the first delivery.

Second and finally. Do not order a Papa Johns "The Meats" wheat special pizza. I sucks big time. I choked down two slices. I'm not sure that it was the wheat crust or the fact that it barely qualified as "warm." I'm about to publish this and see what's in the frig to eat - it was that bad.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"I want to buy alcohol on Sunday like the other 47 states in this country!"

I just "signed" an online petition (I'm number 43,000 or so) requesting that our Legislature vote on Sunday liquor sales in Georgia. The format required your name and zip code and allowed you to "comment." I decided to surf some of the comments. The title of the post is one of them.

Maybe Sunday sales are not such a good idea, loss or lack of brain cells and all.

Or, am I reading this wrongly? Is Georgia one of three states that don't allow Sunday liquor sales?

Doesn't seem worth Googling. I like my first read of the comment.

Dude, I'm with you on this!

Experience: What A Difference Sixteen Years Make

Fifteen years would have sounded better in the title of the post; but, you’ve got to work with what you have, rather than making up an argument for the current Democratic race.

Making up an argument you say? Yep, you see back in 1992, now Senator Hillary RODHAM Clinton was supporting the candidacy of her husband William JEFFERSON Clinton (middle names are recently important in this race to become the President of the UNITED STATES of America).

Even John DAMN I DON’T KNOW HIS MIDDLE NAME McCain is getting on the bandwagon taking shots at Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s lack of EXPERIENCE. But this post is about Senator Clinton.

Back then, Senator Clinton espoused the outsider credentials of Bill. The evil George HERBERT WALKER Bush (make up your own parenthetical about the two middle names) and his experience. You see GWHW had a lot of national, domestic and foreign, experience; and, according to the then Arkansas First Lady and Governor Clinton, it was a liability.

These days Senator Clinton touts her “35 years of experience.” Putting aside the fact that she doesn’t have that tenure in any meaningful series of positions, and the fact that she won’t release her papers from the eight years of being First Lady and won’t explain why she gets credit for the good stuff (in her opinion) her husband did, but shouldn’t be tarred by NAFTA (which I’m not sure was a bad idea), it seems she’s left with bitching at the debate moderators for asking her the first question too often in the debates she insisted on having.

Let’s say she beats Obama. At that point does she concede the race against Senator McCain because he obviously wins the EXPERIENCE race? Or will she then flop to say her HOPE and IDEAS for America are better than his?

As I’ve said before, sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


According to Alexa, I’m the 323,489th most popular blog (site?) in the United States based on traffic rank, whatever that is. Technorati ranks me at 147, 290, obviously a much more discerning authority.

Such stellar heights in only seventeen short months!

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stolen From An EMail From My Friend Tony

Page 123

Ron Davison (RWorld, see Recommended sidebar) has decided to play the most recent meme’ thing going around: copy the sixth, seventh and eighth lines on page 123 of the book that is closest to your left elbow, and then, though he doesn’t dictate what comes next, talk about it, I suppose.

I'll play; but, as I fired up the laptop, I'm horizontal on the couch, facing nominally south. The book closest to my left elbow is "The 47th" by Stephen Hunter, a novel about a sniper, Bobby Lee Swagger. I've not started it, and had no plan to do so soon. I read mysteries and spy stuff; but, as Big Rick will tell you, I’m a bit behind on our traded book schedule.

Had I opened this at work, the closest book to my left elbow would have been, without exacting measurements, one of a bunch of legal junk, which might have made for a more interesting response.

The truth, I'm not reading much for other than work lately. The current book that that I'm working on, slowly is "Soul on Ice" by Eldridge Cleaver from back in the Sixties, and I'm only sixty or seventy pages into it. It was maybe six inches further away, than the novel. It made a huge impression on me when I read it in '71 or '72.Here are the required lines:

"Long before, I had become a student of Norman Mailer's 'The White Negro' which seemed to me to be prophetic and penetrating of its understanding of the psychology involved in the accelerating confrontation of black and white in America. I was therefore personally insulted by Baldwin's flippant, school marmish dismissal of 'The White Negro.' Baldwin committed a literary crime by is arrogant repudiation of one of the few gravely important expressions of our time."

There's a lot of anger, and era sensitive stuff in the book, the quote being part of it.Here's seven lines from another chapter that I loved way back when and still resonate for me (even though I used them in a post not too long ago):

“Getting to know someone, entering that new world, is an ultimate, irretrievable step into the unknown. The prospect is terrifying. The stakes are high. The emotions are overwhelming. The two people are reluctant to really strip themselves naked in front of each other, because in doing so they make themselves vulnerable and give enormous power over themselves one to the other. How often they inflict pain and torment upon each other! Better to maintain shallow superficial affairs; that way the scars are not too deep. No blood is hacked from the soul.”

Cleaver, writing as an imprisoned black man talked in terms of white and black, male and female, the state versus the individual; but, if you parse him, he talked about our fears, just substitute what he was afraid of or angry about for the fear and anger we face.

And to end on a lighter note, here are the lines from page 123 of the novel:

"'A jelly belly. You can see why.'

'Yes, of course.'"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Easy Post With A Good Chance Of A Good Number Of Comments

And this one shouldn’t have a difference between male and female commenters.

And the subject is:


I read a number of “papers,” NYT, AJC, LVRJ, LATimes, Washington Post, Creative Loafing (Atlanta free weekly, “alternative”). Not all every day. I have a thing for reading restaurant reviews, though I’m not sure why. I’m not a big restaurant patron; and, when I go to a restaurant, I tend to go to the same ones. I’m a big believer in the “Cheers” rule of patronage: go where “everyone knows your name.”

That said, I’m always interested in articles, and the resultant comments, that talk about proper tipping.

As in my last post that elicited comments (blissful food), I’ll throw out some thoughts and ask you what you think. But first a story.

Three years ago, I went with about ten friends to a restaurant in December for that year’s annual meeting of the “Pampalona Blood Brotherhood.” (A group of friends that once a year have dinner together just before Christmas. That’s it, there are no other requirements for membership, no other meetings. But all of the attendees have membership cards. It’s a guy thing.)

So, we went to an Atlanta steak house. It is well known and has great food and good service; and, both were in evidence the night we were there. Several of our “members” like wine. The group of ten had a bill of about $1,500. About $800 or $900 of that was wine, in the form of maybe five or six bottles. When you are out with guys you don’t parse who had what. You have a sense of what you had and you throw in. I was the collector of the throw in. Some threw more than they should have, others were a bit short. With some quiet discussion we evened it out and left about a 16% tip on the total including tax. One of the other guys had made the arrangements. As we filed out to the parking attendant, the waiter followed us out and asked what had been wrong with the service. My friend, the arranger had not been involved with the payment and asked why the waiter asked. He, in so many words said we had left a lousy tip.

There’s more to the story (including me sending an Email to the General Manager and receiving a response from him apologizing and telling me the waiter had been fired, for this incident and several others, just before Christmas).

So one of the things I’m fascinated by is what should you tip?

I don’t tip at McDonalds, Starbucks or the like. I do tip at any place that pays its servers restaurant minimum wage. At those places, I tip plus or minus whatever is a “round” 20% of the cost plus tax. At a bar, I tip more like 25%.

Is this the right thing to do? On a $10 lunch or $20 or $30 dinner, probably. But, why does the server get $6 if I have a more expensive dinner, and the poor server that waits on me with the less expensive dinner gets only $4? If I have a $5 breakfast, the server probably does as much work as either of the other two. Why am I only tipping a $1 or so?

Now it’s your turn. What’s right? Am I cheap? Or in my father’s mind years ago when I left a 20% tip for a waitress who had waited on me, my parents, my brother, sister-in- law and baby niece (who spilled her milk twice) was he right when he told me “you’re going to spoil her.”

The Time Has Come!

Last night I retired to the bedroom and clicked the remote to turn on the TV. There in all of its glory was Fox News, for about a minute. Then the “picture” became a thin line in the middle of the black screen. I did various low-tech things, to no avail. It seems the bedroom TV has finally heard my pleas and given up the ghost.

So, I’m off, with a clear conscience, to start shopping for a flat panel HD for the living room so that I can replace the now, RIP 20 incher that lies post-moribund in the bedroom with the 36 incher CRT from the living room.

So, all of your thoughts and counsel with respect to size (I’m thinking 42”), plasma v. LCD, 720 v. 1080, 1080i v. 1080p, etc., etc. will be appreciated. Also, get a stand, mount it on the wall? Ah, I’m in pre-tech, male heaven.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ethnic Politics

On the O’Reilly Factor tonight:

Kinky Friedman: “I love the Irish lad.”

O’Reilly (laughing): “There’s no apostrophe in Obama.”

Friedman: “I’ve never met him. I’ve met Hillary and McCain. I thought…”

"Open" The Box Before You Buy

I did a post last week about getting extra RAM for my computers. I’m completely pleased with the results. The office desktop now has 3 gigs of RAM and zips along nicely. The home and travel laptop now has 2 gigs and everything seems to have an extra zip in its operation.

In the midst of these changes, I mentioned them to Big Tony and said he should consider adding RAM. “Sounds good; but, I have no clue, so you have to do it.” I casually agreed to become a temporary computer tech for him.

Leaving out a lot of the middle as it is somewhat embarrassing to me – OK – it is funny: I bought two sticks of memory to add to his computer. I opened it up and it was obvious that it wasn’t going to fit in the slots provided. I took a picture of the slots with my digital camera and took it to Best Buy where I’d gotten the sticks. I explained the problem to the Geek Squad guy and showed him the picture I’d taken. “Sir, your problem isn’t the sticks, it’s those slots in the picture, those are for graphics” and something else that I forget, “the memory slots are probably just below where this photo cuts off.”

So I went back to Big Tony’s store, reopened the computer and sure enough, just below the slots that I had memorialized with the camera were slots for RAM and the sticks fit nicely.

Now, to the point of the post. Instead of the normal four slots, there were only two, one in use for a 1 gig stick of RAM. I was expecting to add two sticks to give him 3 total gigs. So, I put one of the sticks in the open slot and powered back up. Still only 1 gig showing (actually only 963, but that’s another story). Figuring that I hadn’t properly seated the stick, I took it out and re-seated it. No dice, still 1 gig showing. So I took the original stick out of it’s slot and put it in the other slot. No computer – the slot was defective.

I assume it was defective when it came out of the factory; and, it wasn’t subject to QA because there was nothing in it to test. Big Tony’s bad luck, he was out of warranty. And although he’d gotten a pretty good deal on the tower, part of the reason apparently was that the manufacturer had skimped on slots – two instead of the normal four.

So the moral of the story, other than not getting me to do your computer upgrading, is to look at the specs before you buy and then testing all the components when you do buy. You are all going to do that, aren’t you? Hey, where is everyone? Hello?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prior Restraint 1, Constitution O. But In The Second Game of the Double Header, Tech 1, Judge 0.

The reported today that a U.S. District Court Judge in San Francisco ordered Dyandot, a company that registered to shut it down and “lock” the site (the later meaning not allowing the site’s owners to transfer the site to a different host).

As to the second link, the site is still there. I don’t know if the company is violating the order, or the owners have succeeded in moving their content to another host. As to the title of the post, if you don’t feel like going to the article:

“The feebleness of the action suggests that the bank, and the judge, did not understand how the domain system works or how quickly Web communities will move to counter actions they see as hostile to free speech online.

“The site itself could still be accessed at its Internet Protocol (IP) address ( — the unique number that specifies a Web site’s location on the Internet. Wikileaks also maintained “mirror sites,” which are copies of itself, usually to insure against outages and this kind of legal action. These sites were registered in countries like Belgium (, Germany (, and the Christmas Islands ( through domain registrars other that Dynadot, and so were not affected by the injunction.”

On the Constitution and law side of the equation, the Judge should say the legal equivalent of “my bad.” Courts cannot close down speech by a person or a company before the fact. That is called prior restraint and is almost always found to be unconstitutional. Here the issue is practical and legal. The Judge legally screwed up in his Order and practically “can’t” enforce it, because he doesn’t understand the technology involved.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Culinary Perfection

Subtitle: Lazy and Looking for Easy Comments

I regularly read Diners Journal a “blog” by the New York Times food critic, Frank Bruni. Last week he did an article in the paper that described his lunch at the newly reopened Second Street Deli with Ed Koch, the former Mayor of NYC, Nora Ephron, the writer and Laura Shapiro, a “culinary historian” (whom I’ve not heard of). It and several follow on posts talked about deli foods: what was good, what was bliss and what should not be tolerated. What are proper condiments, which are the great delis and what is truly kosher.

It got me to thinking about blissful food and drink. What they are must certainly be as personal as what or who is beautiful, what is transforming, what is inspiring, you get the idea.

So I throw the floor open. Tell me about blissful food and/or drink. No rules. No limits on your examples. Restaurant, home, childhood, all are fair game. What food or what drink are you thinking about right now having had the question posed to you? That’s what I’d like to hear about.

I’ll throw out two of mine.

1997 Beringer Reserve Cabernet. I’m not much of an expert on wines. I know what I like when I’ve tasted it. I can’t do the descriptive stuff like woody and fruity. The "nose" escapes me. But, the glass that I had was one of the best things that I’ve ever tasted in my life. Were I to be good at the words, there would be too many to use as the sensations kept changing, a flavor, then another, then a hint of another. Wonderful. Don’t ask what it cost. I won’t be having another glass in the near future.

Paella made by Jorge’s wife, whose name escapes me, years ago when I lived in Miami. We had an office Christmas lunch with everyone bringing a dish. Jorge brought a big pan of his wife’s paella. There are tons of recipes for it. This one had various shellfish, fish, rabbit and sausage. Then there were the wonderful herbs and spices over saffron rice. Again, not much of a description, but I can remember the exploding tastes, now decades later.

Your turn. Oh, and I have a bet with myself that this may screw up. More comments from women than from men will be forthcoming.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


That’s the inflation rate for Seiko watches over 21 years.

Back in February 1987 I bought a very plain Seiko watch. Ninety bucks. Over the years, I only had to buy four or five batteries. About a year ago, I cracked the crystal. About the same time, I replaced a battery. The technician said the stem was corroding and would at a point die.

It hadn’t yet reached the age of majority and they’re talking about death?

Last week I inadvertently put it out of its impending misery, by drowning it.

I’m not real competent in the morning. On Tuesday, I turned on the shower and stepped in. With my watch on my wrist. Only for a second. I toweled it off. There was water inside the crystal but it was ticking.

On Wednesday it was still ticking, but with little beads of water under the crystal. Mid-afternoon it ticked its last. The date and time of death were February 13, 2008, at 3:15 p.m., EST. Even in the end it gave me accuracy.

I didn’t take a lot of time to grieve. Thursday I bought pretty much the same watch. Two hundred bucks. It doesn’t have any scratches. We’ll see if it lasts long enough to gain some character.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Vista Goes Better With ...

Three gigs of RAM. Yes it does, yes it does.

I can be a bit penurious, depending on the circumstances. I drive a very reasonably priced car that has most everything I want/need that came in "tax, tag and title" as we say here in the South, in the teens (in the event you’re interested, it’s a Hyundai Tucson). The car before it lasted eleven years. My friends just shake their heads.

In my spendthrift defense, I can blow money on golf or a weekend trip and think nothing of it as it was something I wanted.

These two sides of my nature sometimes cause internal conflict. “I spent what on that? How *%^&*$) stupid am I?” Or to the point of the post, “Why in the world didn’t I spend the money to do it right?”

I bought two computers last year, a laptop for home and the road and a desktop for the office. Being my analytical self, I bought what I thought I needed and a bit more given that I keep things until they die.

(An aside that I’ve mentioned before: I dearly want my bedroom TV to expire so that I can rationalize buying an HD flat screen for the living room and put the 36 inch LCD in the bedroom. Sucker will not give up the ghost.)

Back to current programming. So when I bought the two computers they came with Vista. I don’t do a lot of heavy bit crunching. Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PowerPoint, IE7 (one to two or three windows), a couple PDF files, all at the same time as the day progresses). You get my point, they can be a drag on RAM when coupled with Vista’s hoggish nature. But I bought both with a gig of RAM. Things work, but can tend to lag.

Last night I surfed around to see if the lagging could be addressed by tweaking things in the computers. I ran some diagnostics and found no solution other than more RAM.

So I went to Best Buy today and the stars were with me (I know, I could have done better on line, but when I want something, I don’t want to wait, usually) they had a sale going on RAM. I got two – one gig sticks for just over fifty bucks. An hour and a half later (I’m a bit tentative when it comes to pulling things electric and electronic apart) they were resident and operative. VROOM! Happy, happy, happy.

So, I just explored the innards of my laptop and found that it only has two slots and will only take a total of two gigs of RAM. I want VROOM and am worried I won’t get the full experience with what the machine will take.

Anyone want two sticks of 512?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Please Help Me, I Agree With Hillary Clinton

The Media is predicting that Clinton and Obama will run out of primaries before either can get to the magic number of delegates for nomination – 2,025. Various counts have Obama ahead by about a hundred delegates, a number expected to hold through the convention.

That raises two thorny issues for Democrats. One, should Michigan and Florida delegates be seated at the convention (the Party said it wouldn’t seat them as punishment for holding their primaries earlier than the dates chosen by the Party); and, two, how should the 796 “Super Delegates” make their decision as to whom to vote for.

Clinton beat “Uncommitted” 55% to 40% in Michigan. Obama wasn’t on the ballot. In Florida, she beat Obama 49% to 33%. Her camp argues that the delegations should be seated so as to not “disenfranchise” voters in two big states (with lots of delegates). She would of course then pick up most of the delegates. Obama says wait a minute, I played by the rules. Lots of people sat home because they were told their votes wouldn’t count. You seat the delegates and those people are disenfranchised.

And you guys think lawyers are sleazy. Oh, wait they’re both lawyers.

I’ve got to go with Clinton on this one, but I don’t like it and I could just as easily go the other way. Those that voted and didn’t vote in both states took their chances on whether their votes would be counted. In Florida, Obama will lose by 16%. But in Michigan, he will probably pick up most of the 40% uncommitted delegates – who is going to vote uncommitted other than someone that can’t stand Hillary? They’re probably in his camp. Thus he loses by 15%. Delegates are “awarded” proportionately so it isn’t that big a loss to him. It’s a question of who the Democrats screw, those that voted or those that didn’t. To my mind the tie goes to those that made the effort.

(Maybe Clinton and Obama should get rid of the disenfranchisement issue and push to seat the delegates but with no requirement that they vote for a candidate. That would make them quasi Super Delegates that takes us to the next issue.)

Back a few decades, the Democrats nominated their candidate based on the numbers. You get x% of the vote in a state, you get x% of the delegates. Then the party leaders decided that that system was, well, too democratic; and, more importantly, it had selected George McGovern and Jimmy Carter who weren’t among the leaders’ anointed choices. So they kept the basic system, but added to the delegates by giving guaranteed seats to people like former and current presidents, governors, congressmen and senators, in other words, themselves. There are, as noted above, 796 of them.

The issue? Just how are they supposed to decide who to vote for at the convention?

Obama says they should follow the lead established by the primary voters in their state. If Obama won the primary, they should vote for him, otherwise “the people” would be yet again disenfranchised. This of course results in Obama probably winning the nomination has he has won and probably will win most of the primaries and caucuses.

Clinton says wait a minute, they should vote their conscience: “’Super delegates are by design supposed to exercise independent judgment, that is the way the system works,’ …. ‘If Sen. Obama and his campaign continue to push this position which is really contrary to what the definition of a super delegate has historically been then I look forward to receiving the support of Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry.’” (They endorsed Obama; but, Clinton won the primary in Mass.) Clinton is also ahead about a hundred pledges of SD votes.

I hate it, but Clinton has the better argument. For better or worse, the Dems decided not to let the “little people” decide a close race. If, as Obama argues, they should follow the lead of the little people, why have Super Delegates in the first place?

I really kind of like the irony here. The Democratic Party, the party of “The People,” may well chose its candidate in a smoke filled room after lots of wheeling and dealing. What was that word all of the candidates are throwing around? Change! We are seeing a change back to the old power broker way of doing things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saudi Arabia, Valentines Day and Waffle House

I’m not following the logic of Saudi Arabia’s ban on all things Valentine this year.

I did a bit of intensive Google research and found out that “Valentine” is one or more of a number of Christian martyrs/saints back when. As they say, “who knew?”

Apparently the Saudi religious police knew:

“One member of the religious police, who gave his name only as Abdurrahman, checked out shops lining Prince Sultan Street in Olaya district for anything smacking of Valentine's Day. None was evident.

“’The West exports to us habits and feasts which contradict sharia (Islamic law) and wants us to imitate them. We want to make sure that sharia is implemented. We punish anyone who commits or abets a violation,’ he said.

“Saudi Arabia declared the feast named after the Christian patron saint of love a ‘pagan Christian holiday’ through a fatwa (religious edict) issued seven years ago by its grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh.”


Can pagan modify the noun Christian? And “patron saint of love?” Seems a bit risqué for Catholics but apparently they’re a bit more so than I thought. From

"The Patron Saint of Lovers is St. Dwynwen. Most of us are more familiar with another patron saint of Love, St. Valentine. But there is more than one patron saint for lovers, as for other things. St. Dwynwen is lesser known. She was a beautiful Welsh girl whose heart was set on becoming a nun, even though it meant sacrificing her love for a young man who was also deeply in love with her. St. Dwynwen prayed that her lover be free of his heartache for her, and that all lovers should find happiness.

"Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness. -Saint Dwynwen."

And for a bit more VD history from click to here. It seems the Catholics got the idea from the Romans.

Based on my extensive research, Valentines Day appears to be a religious mutt; but, I don’t want to offend anyone.

As a fully secular postscript to the post and to make the title of the post make some sense, the Waffle House in Johns Creek, Georgia (North Metro Atlanta) is taking reservations for dinner tomorrow night 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. They are going to put white table clothes on the Formica tables and turn the lights down a bit.

“House rep Pat Warner told Buzz on Tuesday. ‘This year, we thought we might offer our customers a few romantic additions at the Johns Creek Waffle House to help folks celebrate.’

“As for the obvious, Warner added: ‘I'm sure there are going to be those guys who wake up on Feb. 14 and have yet to make plans. Hopefully, we can help out those guys who don't have immediate access to a calendar.’

“But bear in mind, it's still a Waffle House, traditionally beehives of, er, activity, what with the shouting of orders and what-not.

‘Our staff will still be operating the same way, but maybe in a lighter tone,’ Warner said.”

Now there’s the way to celebrate the holiday. “Two eggs over medium. Bacon crisp. Wheat with apple butter and hash browns, scattered, covered and smothered.” If you haven’t won her heart yet, this special meal is sure to do the trick. Dammit, it's scattered smothered and covered; but, I'm to lazy to go back and fix the link.

To all of my non-Saudi female readers, all of you to my knowledge, Happy Valentines Day! See you at the Waffle House.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Here, here, and most scary, here you’ll find some news pieces on torture, or the lack thereof, in the eyes of our government.

It seems that the Administration, the new Attorney General and a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America have developed a moving definition of what constitutes torture. The hell with the Administration and as it turns out the new “independent” AG. But, when a Justice of the Supreme Court says what Antonin Scalia said in a BBC interview, all may be lost when it comes to our country’s commitment to law as a means to do justice.

First some baby criminal law (I got a C+ in Substantive Criminal Law, my worst grade, so beware of my opinions). Laws have “elements,” especially criminal statutes. Statutes that are vague or ambiguous, that don’t put you on notice of what you can’t do tend to be found to be unconstitutional.

If you read the articles, what “is” torture in the view of the Administration, AG and Scalia is now situational. From the Slate article:

“[T]orture will not be measured by any objective standard of conduct but will turn on ‘the circumstances’ surrounding them … or the value ‘of the information you might get’ …. It will be a secret decision, made using shifting, subjective standards, for which neither the torturers nor the legal decision-makers will ever be held to account.”

And here’s Scalia in an interview with the BBC:

“’I suppose it's the same thing about so-called torture. Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the constitution?’ he asked.

"’It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that. And once you acknowledge that, we're into a different game.

"’How close does the threat have to be? And how severe can the infliction of pain be?’”

So we have a sliding scale. Big consequences, easy going rules on beating up the suspect.

So you are before Scalia, as your judge, accused of torture. “Nino, listen it was like those spy novels, we were sure the perp knew where the bomb was stashed. I had no choice but to slap him around a bit. He’s still here, sitting over there. He was out of the hospital in ten days, two weeks max, good as new. Too bad the bomb wasn’t where he told us it was.”

“You say the bomb wasn’t there? But, you had a good faith belief that he knew where it was didn’t you?”

“Sure Nino, sure. You know we don’t just go around roughing people up for no good reason.”

“I find the Defendant not guilty under the rules of the new “game.”

Sometimes You Just Have To Shake Your Head

I came across something that just doesn’t seem to make sense to me today.

A client is a secured creditor of a debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation rather than reorganization). In looking at the court documents, it appears the guy’s wife had some sort of injury/illness that has resulted in about $5,000 in medical bills. They owe a bit more than triple that on two vehicles. Their assets exceed their liabilities by about $11,000. Their net income (after taxes) is about $40,000 a year. They are about $5 a month “positive” in cash flow (income over expenses).

They are spending $130 a month on charitable contributions, $100 on personal grooming, $175 for home and cell phones and $78 for satellite TV.

The law firm that is handling the bankruptcy for them is one of the TV advertisers in the area (“Bankruptcy is still an option"). As part of the process, they had to take an internet bankruptcy “credit counseling” course.

Now, I know nothing about bankruptcy (other than “automatic stay” which screws my clients); but, somewhere in this mess shouldn’t someone raise their hand and say “hey, cut the money to charity, the fancy phone service and satellite and you’ve got another three or four hundred a month to pay your debts faster, what the hell are you doing filing for bankruptcy?”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Great, Feel Good, Dumb Movie:

Danny Deckchair. 2003. Made in Australia. Joe six-pack finds his muse.

How Many Twenty-three Year Olds Would You Trust Your Privacy To?

I’ll start by saying that I am not at all sure what Facebook and MySpace are. I know from occasional articles I’ve skimmed, that they are social networks; but, I’m also not sure what a social network is, other than “aggregating” (how’s that for a trendy word) Big Rick, Big Tony and a few other friends and labeling them as my social network. So is a social network a group of cyber-friends? And there’s another word, friend. It has become a verb. Do you ask someone to “friend” you on FB or MS? Both?

I guess I’m not going to catch the wave on this phenomena.

An interim story that I will connect a bit later: last week I went into a story to return something that I’d paid cash for a few hours earlier, it had a defective component. The cashier took the product and the receipt and punched a bunch of keys.

“Your telephone number please?”


“I have to enter it to authorize your refund,” she said as she swung the monitor towards me to “prove” the necessity by showing me the place where it would appear on the screen when I gave it to her.

“No you don’t.”

“I have to have it to ‘authenticate’ that you are entitled to a refund.”

“How does giving you my phone number establish that I’m entitled to a refund.”

I got a mildly disgusted look and a rolling of the eyes. I should add that it was slow at the store and another employee was standing there and what turned out to be a higher level employee was standing nearby.

Other employee, with a bit of sneer, said, “no phone number, no refund.”

“Want to bet?” I said in my “big boy” lawyer voice.

Higher level guy: “put the store phone number in,” which she did.

“Your name?”

“You have got to be kidding me, I won’t give you my phone number and you think I’m going to let you plug my name into the computer?”

Before she could roll her eyes, the higher level guy said “put my name in.” As she did it, I said “don’t take it personally, I just don’t give out personal information if it isn’t necessary.” I got my cash refund along with a look of utter distain.

As I left, I smiled at other employee and said “no refund?”

So, with this background in mind, it is unlikely that I would ever join/register/sign-up, or whatever you do at FB or MS.

But, were I to give Facebook my information, guess what? They have it forever under their Terms and Conditions. Even if you terminate your arrangement and “delete” your information, they keep it. A spokesperson explained that this was a “feature,” that allowed you to re-up and have all of your info there, just as you left it, albeit a feature that they didn’t tell you about.

Last Fall, Facebook started another “feature” called Beacon. It had forty some partners that reported Facebook’s members’ activity at their sites back to Facebook. Facebook then published the member’s activity to his/her “friends” and aggregated (there’s that cool word again) all of the info generated to create targeted advertising. “Dave just bought the entire catalogue of Vivid Video!” Dave would then presumably get targeted ads for other porn collections based on his personal preferences and angry Emails from his sister-in-laws complaining that their daughters, his nieces, were his Facebook “friends.”

The catch was that this sharing among Facebook and its business friends was an opt-out system that users weren’t told about and proved difficult to undo. It was only changed to an opt-in system after a lot of public criticism. And, given Facebook’s “feature” of keeping information even if it is deleted, Dave’s porno odyssey will remain on the servers forever.

The moral of the story is that whatever you tell people in person or on the web is out there for everyone to see, quite permanently in the case of cyber-sharing. When the rules for this information are being made by big companies that have no interest in your privacy concerns and are run by kids with a different mindset about what is and isn’t private, you might want to think several times before you give them access to you.

Oh, the title of the post: The founder of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg. He's 23. The two distainful employees at the store are about the same age.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The End of the Start of "Instant"

Polaroid announced that it will stop making film for its iconic cameras at the end of the year: the ones that took and showed you a picture “instantly.”

I’m frankly amazed they are still making film. I didn’t know that they’d stopped making the cameras only a year ago; and, did you know their first “instant” camera came out in 1948?

The last fact is the one that really strikes me. We live in an instant world. Polaroid cameras and film were one of the precursors of what we now take for granted, coming just before the fifties when words like "fast," "quick," "jiffy," and others like them took over advertising and consumer products.

Interestingly, one of the antecedents of the computer, and now digital, age, the semiconductor/transistor, was invented at about the same time at Bell Laboratories.

"Instant cameras" are now digital cameras, enabled by a "chip," the ancestor of the transistor. Two contemporaneous inventions wend their ways for a bit more than fifty years and one is replaced by the other in a way that could never have been thought of at the start. Sounds like a segment in the old Connections TV series.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

And In Local Political News

From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, reporting on our current session of the Georgia Legislature:

“Medicine men and crackpot healers would not be able to work for hospice care centers, under a bill introduced in the Georgia House.

House Bill 1096, written by state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), would create a specific definition for the word "clergy," so that fringe holy men would not be able to join "hospice care teams."

The definition reads: "an individual representative of a specific spiritual belief who has documentation of ordination or commission by a recognized faith group and who has completed four years of study and received a Bachelor of Ministry degree at a college accredited by the Commission on Colleges."

It probably would rule out druids.”

And it would probably violate the First Amendment; but, what the heck: This is Georgia.

We also have a proposed "Human Life Amendment" to the Georgia Constitution that would define life as beginning a fertilization. It's sponsor writes "[t]he Human Life Amendment, in and of itself, does not specifically criminalize any act. Its enactment would not automatically overturn Roe v. Wade. It would, however, proclaim the dignity of all human beings within the confines of our state constitution. The amendment could provide a platform for future legislative, executive or judicial action on behalf of innocent persons." Presumably, the author has not heard of the concept of federal pre-emption.

In the meantime, North Georgia faces a record drought and our Governor has just issued an executive order saying that you can fill your swimming pool (or businesses can, I'm not sure which, whichever, is I'm sure very important). Also in the meantime, bridges and sewers are falling apart around Metro Atlanta, North Georgia's only Level One Trauma hospital, Grady could go under and the Legislature points the finger accusingly at Metro Atlanta politicians as being the author of their own fate and undeserving of state funds, though the rest of the state uses the bridges and the hospital (and on an occasion, a sewer or two).

Ah, the Legislative silly season is in full swing here in Georgia. The only saving grace, the Legislature only gets forty days. Even with clock tricks, it will be over in a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm Not Sure About The Audacity of Hope, But...

I voted for him. I’m not happy about it. The second choice was McCain; but, I just couldn’t get past the anti-choice thing and the Iraq thing.

If the vote in November is Obama and McCain, I’ll have to rethink the personal liberty issue and the war thing. Probably, I’ll throw away my vote and do the Libertarian thing. I hate doing that.

In the interim, audacity, I like the word. The promise, not the change.

So here’s my questions:

Senator Obama, just how do we pay for what you want to do? I’d love for your hope to reach fruition, I’m just not seeing it happening.

And back to the international issues, tell me more. Just what do you see as our role in the world?

Finally, if the audacity thing is just that, a thing, what do you really hope to do? I really don’t expect a blueprint, just a glimmer. What can we do about our problems? Don’t talk at me now. Be practical. There are people dying here in America and around the world. How many can we save? How would you propose to do it? Our economy is, just what is it? Don’t talk to me about universal health care. It isn’t going to happen. What about trade? Any real plans for reversing our economic down turn?

In short, are you just a pretty face that has attracted my momentary attention? Or, is there something there that I can sign on to in November?

I hate the fact that that I am a liberal, commie, pinko as my friends label me, with a dash of reality. Give me just a pinch or a modicum of reality and I'm there. Barry, I'm waiting.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday Quandary

Georgia votes with the masses tomorrow; but, I haven’t decided whether to participate. More accurately put, I have decided, probably; but, I’m not happy about it.

First, the logistics. Georgia holds an open primary. I can decide whether I wanted to muck in the Dem or GOP race.

Second, the dilemma. I don’t want to see any of the candidates as the next President. I’ve got major objections to all of them.

Finally, the quandary. How to I decide who I dislike the most and then cast a vote for their opponent?

McCain is anti-choice (or pro-life depending on your slant). He is old, not a knock out blow (I hope), but a factor. His maverick persona, though it fits right in in the Senate, may not be the best for leadership.

Romney would be Everymans’ President. What do you want me to espouse? Fill in the blank. I am for/against gay marriage/civil unions. I support/oppose government provided health insurance. Which Mitt would move into the White House? For sure, the one who is anti-choice, anti-immigration and pro-business (though the last isn’t all bad, sorry Thomas).

Obama wants to spend us into an earthly paradise where everyone has enough and everyone cherishes our collective diversity (a purposeful choice of adjective).

Clinton wants what she wants and beware those that stand in her way. Issue by issue there’s not too much difference between her and Obama. Her approach to getting there would be less congenial and more “take this. It’s good for you because I say so. Don’t look in the closets, politics is like sausage making, you don’t want to look to closely.” And she is dishonest.

None of them have a clue as to what to do about international issues, most pressing those simmering and exploding in the middle east. Though, I have a sense that Obama sees the traditional U.S. super power role as unsustainable and might bring a fresh perspective.

Huckabee. Paul. Gravel. Non-factors at this point.

So, from reading what I just wrote, it appears I dislike Romney and Clinton more than I dislike McCain and Obama.

But who’s the worst? I’ll ponder that overnight.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I have it. Low level, but there just the same. I can physically get up, go to work... and sit there starring at the wall. Started late Tuesday and it's hanging on longer than I've experienced in years.

Enjoy the weekend, I may, or may not.