Monday, December 31, 2007

Jeni's Twelve Months of 2007

Jeni at Downriver Drivel posted Looking Back At 2007 today and passed its assignment on to me. The task is to post links to either the first post I’ve done each month in 2007, or to the post I like the best in each month.

I’m going to do both, and cheat while I’m at it.

Move your eyes to the right of the screen. There you will see… I had to check to make sure it is there… a sidebar titled Blog Archive. Feel free to check out the first post of each month or peruse to find the one you like the best. Or you may move on to more interesting tasks.

No tagging. Now is that no muss, no fuss posting or what? Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Life's Irritations

Being a lawyer, I am my family’s lawyer. Not very lucrative; but, that’s family.

My brother called yesterday because he was mad at Ford Motor Company. He’d bought a 1999 Explorer for his daughter. In August they’d gotten a recall notice about a switch for the cruise control. His daughter took it in, they told her it was fixed and she left. Shortly after she tried to engage the cruise control and no luck. She called and they told her they had only disconnected it and were waiting for the part. Months passed. No part. No word of when the part might arrive.

Brother being pissed, called me. I gave him a website that Ford maintains for “customer service.” He called. It turns out there are over 3 million of these switches that need to be replaced on Ford vehicles made between 1992 and 2003. They are just now gearing up to make them. They will start going to dealers early in 2008. “You’ll get a call from the dealer when ….”

Brother being pissed, calls me and wants me to file a class action suit. I told him I’d stick to construction law.

On a broader note, if you have a ’92 to’03 Ford, you might want to see if it is subject to the recall. The switches catch fire, even while the car is turned off; it might be worth disconnecting, even if yours hasn’t been recalled.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I took a shot yesterday at Mike Huckabee, running for the Republican nomination for President, who is touting the FairTax. He’s taking some Media heat for the position. Should he?

I won’t tell you that I’ve fully investigated the plan, and can assure you that it will be an improvement over our current federal income tax system. But then, I haven’t fully investigated our current income tax system, and I can assure you that it has a lot of flaws. Here’s a link to a summary and the text of the proposed statute at; and, here’s the summary from the link:

"The Act is called the “Fair Tax Act of 2007.” As of Dec. 31, 2008, it repeals all income taxes and payroll taxes, specifically:

• The individual income tax (including capital gains taxes and the alternative minimum tax)

• All individual and employer payroll taxes including Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes

• The corporate income tax

• The self-employment tax (a self-employed person pays both the individual and the employer portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes)

• The estate and gift tax

Effective January 1, 2009 it replaces the above taxes with a national retail sales tax on all goods and services sold at retail. The tax rate is set to be revenue neutral – at the level necessary to replace the revenues generated by the repealed taxes.

A 23-percent (of the tax-inclusive sales price) sales tax is imposed on all retail sales for personal consumption of new goods and services. Exports and the purchase of inputs by businesses (i.e., intermediate sales) are not taxed, nor are used goods or any savings, investment, or education tuition expenses. The sales tax must be separately stated and charged on the sales receipt. This makes it clear to the consumer exactly how much they are paying in federal taxes.

There are no exemptions under the FairTax, meaning that no lobbyist, corporation, or individual can obtain tax advantages that are not available to the general public. Also, everyone pays the same rate, but those who spend more pay more total taxes than those who spend less.

The FairTax provides every American family with a rebate of the sales tax on spending up to the federal poverty level (plus an extra amount to prevent any marriage penalty). The rebate is paid monthly in advance. It allows a family of four to spend $27,380 tax free each year. The rebate for a married couple with two children is $525 per month ($6,297 annually). Therefore, no family pays federal sales tax on essential goods and services and middle-class families are effectively exempted on a large part of their annual spending.

Funding for Social Security and Medicare benefits remains the same. The Social Security and Medicare trust funds receive the same amount of money as they do under current law. The source of the trust fund revenue is a dedicated portion of sales tax revenue instead of payroll tax revenue.

States can elect to collect the federal sales tax on behalf of the federal government in exchange for a fee of one-quarter of one percent of gross collections. Retail businesses collecting the tax also get the same administrative fee.

Strong taxpayer rights provisions are incorporated into the Act. The burden of persuasion in disputes is on the government. A strong, independent problem resolution office is created. Taxpayers are entitled to professional fees in disputes unless the government establishes that its position was substantially justified."

One of the big promo points for the FairTax is that it would do away with the need for the IRS. Get rid of the IRS and its bureaucracy and you do away with a lot of anguish. More importantly, you do away with thousands of pages of tax code that are the bane of individual and corporate taxpayers (the summary and statute linked above total only 36 pages). The need for an entire industry of tax planners and return preparers is gone.

And what does that do? The Tax Foundation says that the cost of compliance with the tax code in 2008 will be about $325 billion which is about 23% of the revenue projected to be collected by the IRS.

For me the most attractive aspect of the FairTax is that it is transparent. Right now I don’t know how much of my $1.00 Double Cheeseburger from McDonalds is a pass on of embedded taxes. But let’s add up the taxpayers involved:

- Me of course. I’ve had to earn more than a dollar to spend that dollar for the burger.

- McDonalds pays federal income taxes and includes them in the cost of the burger.

- Its suppliers pay and add what they pay onto the prices they charge, and their suppliers and their suppliers.

- What all of the above pay into FICA for their employees.

(The only figure I could find for the average percent of tax paid on income by corporations was an article in The New York Times that pegged it at 20% in 1997. I couldn’t find a total embedded tax percentage.) The FairTax also does away with the fiction that corporations "pay" taxes. They merely remit taxes that you and I pay.

One final point, related to that 20%: the U.S. trade deficit. For a U.S. company, whether it sells its goods or services here or abroad, U.S. taxes must be paid. Not so for most companies in other countries. Their tax structures do not apply to exports. A 2004 article in Tax Notes estimated that this disparate treatment gave foreign companies an 18% price advantage. A 2006 article by an MIT economics professor estimated that this costs the U.S. $100 billion a year in exports. Take it a step further. Many of our major trading partners impose value added taxes on their corporations. Like here now, each level of production pays a tax on the "added value" (here on the income derived) at each level. If we didn't tax income, at any level of production, might that not lead to less out sourcing by our companies and some "in sourcing" by companies now subject to VAT, with increased capital investment and jobs here? Link to Source.

So, should I be more approving of Huckabee?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Year (Almost) Without A Santa Claus

"Some gifts from Kris Kringle are better kept wrapped.

A man in a Santa hat was arrested Sunday night for investigation of drunken driving after he was spotted outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood wearing a wig, a red lace camisole and a purple G-string, police said.

'We are pretty sure this is not the Santa Claus,' Deputy Chief Ken Garner said.

The suspect was booked into jail after his blood-alcohol level measured just above the state's legal limit of .08, police said. He was later released on $5,000 bail.

The man, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 280 pounds, also wore black leg warmers and black shoes. His car was towed to an impound yard, police said."

From the Associated Press. Update from RTW News Service:

Mrs. Claus is not responding to persistent calls and Emails from this reporter. An unnamed elf, not authorized to speak for North Pole authorities, said "he usually waits till the day after to pull something like this; we know that and plan for the fallout. That's why it never makes the news. This year, I don't know. Stress I guess. Replacing all those Chinese toys. How were we supposed to know, Mattel didn't. We had some high level talks with the LA police and they agreed to put out the story that it wasn't 'THE' Santa Claus. He's OK. We've checked, the sleigh is empty. Rudolf says it was a push, but he guided the way and the other reindeer were a big help. I just got back from the gingerbread house. Mrs. C is beside herself. She keeps muttering about never going to Key West again. This is all on background right? Hey, where you going?"

Christ in Christmas and Politics

The Pope, in his Christmas day homily, said,

“On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East – especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten. May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today’s world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ – true God and true Man – responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him ‘a shining light’ brightens the horizon of humanity; in him ‘a holy day’ dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!”

Mike Huckabee, earlier in the week ran a “Christmas ad” in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, saying,

"Are you about worn out by all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? Well, I don't blame you. At this time of year sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ and being with our family and friends."

"And I hope that you and your friends will have a magnificent Christmas season. And on behalf of all of us, God Bless and Merry Christmas. I'm Mike Huckabee and I approved this message,"

In a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post, Tracy Leverton said,

“I've had it with the fuss over whether to say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas.’ For 30 years, my mother phoned me every Dec. 25 at 7 a.m. to say ‘Merry Christmas!’ I'd reply, ‘Mom, we're Jewish,’ to which she would say, ‘I know, but I love the holidays. And what's wrong with peace on Earth and goodwill toward men?’ Mom is gone, but her words seem more meaningful than ever.”

So, the Pope injects religion into world crises, Huckabee blesses us and invites us to reflect on the original focus of the holiday, and we learn that a nice Jewish lady used to tell her daughter that there’s more to the Christian holiday than its genesis.

The Pope won’t get any flak for his comments. Huckabee has gotten a lot of flak. The letter to the editor is sweet. Of the three, the Pope’s remarks are the most strident for Christian involvement in public events. “ He is venerated and Huckabee is castigated.

Why? Maybe because we think such comments are a part of the Pope’s “job;” and, many of us don’t think a “Christ-centric” approach to public policy is a good idea, me among them. I’m very distrustful of “Christ on their sleeve” Christians injecting their religion into what I think are secular matters. Or, maybe we think that the Pope’s attempted involvement is ineffectual (though were he to be effective, would world peace be a bad result?), and worry that Huckabee has an agenda that would run counter to how we see American political life.

With or without the help of the God of your or my choice, I hope our world slows down its hell-bent rush towards more and more conflict and resultant death and degradation in 2008. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Eight by Eight

This American Life,, is a show on National Public Radio, heard here in Atlanta on Sunday at 6:00 p..m.

I just listened to a piece about people that die alone. The main piece was about a woman in Los Angeles that died. Some, not too close, relatives were found.

But at the end there was a small story about the thousand or so people who die each year in Los Angeles County with no assets and no family. They are cremated. Their remains are kept for four years. On December 6 of this year, those that died in 2003 were taken from their boxes and put into an eight by eight foot grave next door to those that had died in 2002, next to those that died in 2001,….

In a way, maybe it’s good that their remains are commingled; but, couldn’t Los Angeles County spring for enough room a year to give each of them the space for their own small urn?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Supervision Is Over Worked

"State auditors found that [Georgia] Tech employees responsible for reviewing card use were overseeing too many cardholders, In one case, a p-card coordinator oversaw purchases for 116 cards.

"Tech has overhauled its policy, including reducing the number of cards any one supervisor must monitor. And, instead of assuming charges are legitimate until there's reason to suspect otherwise, cardholders may now be required to demonstrate their purchases are work-related."

From an article on

We have a scandal here in Georgia, with a capital S. It seems pretty much everyone that works for the state has a "p-card," a debit card that they are to use to buy things that are job related.

The Atlanta Journal=Constitution has run a few exposes over the second half of this year indicating that payment of an employee's debt to a debt collecter, massages, vacation travel and so on have been charged to the cards. A few have resigned, some have been fired, more maybe in the firing line.

But the quote above, from the current article, floors me. Who among you couldn't look at charges on a hundred credit cards once a month in say, what two hours? What kind of business or government assumes a payment is OK without support? "Maybe" Tech employeees will be required to prove they aren't stealing?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are Porches and Front Doors the Equivalent of the Appendix?

I was stuck in traffic coming back from lunch today on a main road that has houses along it. All of them were of an era, Seventies Ranch, with a “built-in” carport without a garage door and a long but narrow inset front porch. Say twenty feet by three.

The genesis for this post came when I saw one of them that had a planter squarely in front of the front door.

All of them had some type of porch furniture on them, ranging from the ubiquitous white pvc chairs and side table to a swing to a wrought iron bench. I got a dollar that says no one has ever sat on any of the furniture I saw.

Doing a definitions search on Google gave me variations on the meaning of porch that can be summarized as a covered entry to a building that can be within the boundary of the main wall or extending beyond it.

A show of hands – who of you sits on your front porch? Who enters or leaves your abode by the front door, if there’s an attached garage or carport or side door next to the driveway?

I think for most of us the front door and its porch have gone the way of the appendix some of us have had removed, with no adverse result.

If you had a twenty by three or foor foot concrete covered porch, would you trade it right now for the same space in your living room? I would.

There’s something of a movement in city design to return us to the sidewalk and the street. All apartments and condos just have to have a three by six foot protuberance from their wall, or taking away from living space, that’s bounded by wrought iron or wood and holds dead plants, a satellite dish and the aforesaid pvc furniture. I’d trade it for space that would be used.

Now don’t get me wrong. If I lived on a nice piece of land with a house set back from the road, I’d have a wrap around porch, say ten or twelve feet deep with columns and ceiling fans and real live furniture on it and a front door right in the middle facing the road. Maybe some screens, maybe not. The driveway would lead to that door. Or even better, the porch shown above. That set up would be used as opposed to what most of us have and don’t use. Come sit awhile, care for some tea?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not Even A Penny For Your Thoughts

I’ve done a few posts about copying CD’s, DVD’s and software. For the most part, I’ve opposed its morality and legality on the premise that the creator is due his, her or its profit. I’ve concluded that the current controversy will be solved when law (predicated on not easily copied media like books) catches up with new technology. I may be wrong.

The Generational Divide In Copyright Morality is a post by David Pogue at Take a minute to read it.

Now, given his experience, how do creators get paid for what they create?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Best and Worst Christmas Present, Depending on Your Perspective

More years ago than I’m willing to count, my youngest niece was a month and a half short of a year old at Christmas. My brother lived in Metro Atlanta at the time and we had a protocol of me going to his place on Christmas Eve, staying the night for the great unveiling the next morning and then me fleeing the family life the next afternoon.

You may recall the little stuffed toys that were popular then. The first of them was a Santa with a battery and whatever device made a sound buried in Santa’s innards. If you tapped him on the head the device said “Ho, ho, ho.”

I walked into the kitchen from the garage and she was toddling around, just kind of walking, not able to pass a sobriety field test. She smiled. I smiled. I sat down on the floor. She flopped down on the floor. I put the Santa in front of her and tapped its head.

She looked at it with suspicion. I did it again. Same look. but with her face indicating that she was thinking about it. I mimed that she should tap it on the head. She was having nothing of it.

I tapped and she became comfortable with the alien, smaller than her. that faced her on the floor. She got the idea that tapping resulted in ho hoing. A bit of miming more and she tapped. Nothing happened, as her tap was a bit too tentative. A bit more instruction and her tap induced a ho, ho, ho. She started with a smile which progressed to a giggle which ended in as much of a belly laugh as a yet to be one year old child can produce, midway through which she fell over backwards, still laughing.

We continued with this while my brother, my sister-in-law and my, even then sophisticated, other niece, all of seven or eight. looked on with growing annoyance.

Then the batteries wore out. Smiles, chuckles and laughs ended, tears began. Batteries bought for some of the next morning’s wonders were put into service.

She took her afternoon nap. “Don’t ever do that again,” I was told. Over the next couple of days, I’m told they went through a few more batteries. Cheap to my mind for such pleasure; but, then I wasn’t there for all of the fun.

Christmas Trinkets

I mentioned in a post on Sunday that I’d come across some baby MagLite flashlights that fit in your pocket. The whole thing is about .4” in circumference and maybe 3.5” long. It runs on one AAA battery. I bought a few to give to friends and one for myself.

Last night, I stopped at the neighborhood bar. The bartender each year gives some of us customers scratch off lottery tickets as a present. She handed me mine with a quarter with which to scratch. I couldn’t see the results so I pulled out my new little toy. She oohed and ahhed about how cute it is.

So, this morning on the way to work, I made my way towards Radio Shack with the intent to buy a few more for gifts, including her’s. Wal-Mart is right across the parking lot from Radio Shack, so I thought I’d see if I could find the thing there.

Yes I could, to the tune of $2.00 less each; and, instead of having to buy a AAA battery for each, Wal-Mart’s version came with one as part of the package. So, Wal-Mart saved me a total of 38% on my new purchases.

Wal-Mart may subsidize its operations by using public money for its employees’ health care, but it’s hard to resist its pricing.

As usual, I didn’t winning anything on my scratch off ticket.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Organized Juice Threatens To Boycott Georgia

"Almost every state knows, and has known for years, that wrestling is entertainment and not a sport. It's like Ice Capades." That's by the lawyer for the WWE (the big guys that roll around the ring and hit each other with chairs) in reaction to Georgia's consideration of subjecting its "entertainers" to drug tests if they want to entertain in this state. If Georgia does, the WWE won't come here anymore he threatened.

From a March 2004 USA TODAY article:

"Since 1997, about 1,000 wrestlers 45 and younger have worked on pro wrestling circuits worldwide, wrestling officials estimate.

"USA TODAY's examination of medical documents, autopsies and police reports, along with interviews with family members and news accounts, shows that at least 65 wrestlers died in that time, 25 from heart attacks or other coronary problems — an extraordinarily high rate for people that young, medical officials say. Many had enlarged hearts.


"In five of the 25 deaths, medical examiners concluded that steroids might have played a role. Excessive steroid use can lead to an enlarged heart. In 12 others, examiners in medical reports cited evidence of use of painkillers, cocaine and other drugs."

Then there was local WWE wrestler Chris Benoit who killed his wife and child and then himself earlier this year.

Yep just like the Ice Capades. Barry Bonds is looking better everyday.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Totally Wasted Day, Part Two

The second part of the day was more active.

1. Go to Radio Shack to get an audio out extension cable for the laptop so I can get better speaker separation. It works just fine, at a dollar a foot!

2. While there find a deal on little baby MagLite flashlights. I'm happy and couple of friends (not you Rick, I already have yours) will be come Christmas, they fit in your pocket and throw a good light.

3. Stop at the office, check mail from yesterday. Pick up the latest movie from Netflix.

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels. Onion, cream cheese, tomato, onion, capers and Nova.

5. Meet friends, have a couple of beers and watch about half of the Falcons being decimated by Tampa Bay.

6. Install extension cable.

7. Watch Syriana, George Clooney's oil conspiracy movie from a couple of years ago. Not recommended.

8. Type this.

As to Pos's question in a comment to the earlier post, 91.9 is owned and operated by Clark Atlanta University, one of Atlanta's several black universities. It plays about every kind of jazz there is. Though this morning it was mostly gospel, it being Sunday and this being the South. The only kind of jazz I don't like is when it gets too atonal. I want some melody. All the players you mention are great; but, I'm not enough of an aficionado to know who I'm listening to unless I'm told. I'm more of a blues fan; but, there too, I just listen, for the most part not knowing who's doing what.

Rather than a third post today, here's the plan for the evening:

1. Dinner: sauteed tilapia, rice with some green beans, butter and soy mixed in. If I'm adventurous when I get off the couch, cherry pie - but I'll have to pull it out of the freezer, pre-heat the oven and all that.

2. Washer/dryer operation.

3. Probably some streaming movie from Netflix.

Oh, and it's finally cold here as cold here goes. The furnace has already come on and it may hit the high twenties over night. I hope your evening is at least as productive as I plan mine to be.

A Totally Wasted Day

So far anyway. And, so far, quite enjoyable.

I've accomplished:

1. Ablutions.

2. Tuning to 91.9 (jazz).

3. Making and drinking coffee.

4. Reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution, without the benefit of the last three sections which were missing, though I don't usually read them anyway (Travel, Style and something else I don't remember.

5. Enjoying an article in the AJC about Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and victim of Michael Vick, that was really well written.

6. Reading The New York Times. Check out an opinion piece on the controversy over the Second Amendment. An interesting take on it. Oh, and an article on the Administration's push to give phone companies immunity from suits for participating in the NSA's various wiretapping programs.

7. Reading Living Next Door to Alice (see sidebar) among other blogs. Stolen from Thomas: "Bush: We don't torture. Pelosi: Then let's make it a law! Bush:"

8. Casting about for something to write a post about, failing and writing this instead.

It's 11:30 a.m. Eight accomplished action items for a wasted day that's only a third gone. A great start.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Honor Is In Decline

I’ve heard that sports are a metaphor for life, or something like that.

I’m going to assume it’s true. Given its truth, we are in a world of hurt.

I’m not going to recall all of the “non-sports” sports news of the past few years. You’ve got your Sosas, McGwires and Bonds’s. Your Pacmans and Vicks. Former Senator Mitchell is supposed to name fifty players who used steroids in his report on the issued to be announced tomorrow. There’s an element of dishonor in all of their stories.

The latest media storm in sports is the wholesale rash of dishonoring of contracts by sports coaches. The villain of our story today is one Bobby Petrino, until yesterday the coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He came aboard the first of this year and didn’t get what he expected. First there was the Michael Vick debacle. Then he found out that millionaire NFL players are not as tractable as college kids. Then he had a rash of injuries.

To back track, he signed a five year, 24.5 million dollar contract with the team. Note the word “year.” He lasted 13 games out of the 16 game season. I can handle quitting, even without finishing the initial year. What I have difficulty with is lying.

As the story is unfolding, the team had heard rumors that he was considering going back to the ranks of college coaches. Arthur Blank, the owner, of Home Depot fame, talked to him several times over the weekend; and, he also fielded calls from Jerry Jones (a multi-millionaire football team owner and University of Arkansas alumni) asking if he minded Arkansas talking to Petrino about its head coach opening. Blank and the Atlanta GM said no they didn't want Arkansas talking to Petrino, several times.

Petrino and Blank met on Monday afternoon, and Blank asked Petrino, point blank what he should tell the media about whether he was staying or leaving (the Falcons were about to be trounced on Monday Night Football). Petrino held out his hand to Blank and said “tell them I’m your head coach.” Blank did so when interviewed that night.

Last night at about 5:30 p.m., Petrino resigned in Flowery Branch, Georgia, north of Atlanta where the Falcons practice. At 10:30 p.m., he was in Fayetteville, Arkansas at a press conference where he was announced as the new Arkansas football coach.

The Athletic Director of Arkansas in a news article today, said he first heard that Petrino might resign on Tuesday morning and “jumped on it.” He got on a plane to Atlanta and did the deal that day, he said.

There’s a bunch of other unsavory details. But the moral of the story is a lot of people have no sense of honor these days. Two of them are hanging out at the University of Arkansas, molding its “student athletes” as fine young people.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dear Virginia, Post 9-11 Version

Virginia is the famous little girl that wrote to an editor of The New York Sun in 1897 asking if there was a Santa Claus. You can find the letter and his published response here.

There’s also a tradition of the USPS in New York, Operation Santa Claus, copied in other cities, that gives letters that kids write to the jolly man to people that want to fulfill the kids’ wishes.

All things must pass, I guess. You can’t send a holiday wish to an unidentified soldier, sailor or marine. The envelope may contain anthrax or another toxin. It might have an anti-military message. There aren’t enough people to screen the mail so they are returned to sender or destroyed. Here’s the story on

I guess I understand; but, if the USPS can figure out a way to run it’s operation, can’t the Pentagon figure out a way to send well wishes to the people that could use the morale boost?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bye Bye WiFI?

The House of Representatives, in its rush to get home for the holidays, passed a bill that requires any provider of wireless service, i.e., a coffee shop, book store, airport, you (if you have a wireless router), upon learning “about the transmission or storage of information about an illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline" and (b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves. (Note that some reporting requirements already apply to Internet access providers under current law.)

“The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. It also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in unlawfully ‘lascivious’ poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a ‘drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting.’”

They penalty for non-compliance is a $300,000.00 fine.

Not to get all legal on you; but, there’s a concept in legal review of laws suspected of infringing on constitutional rights, like those found in the First Amendment, called “over breadth” where the law is more expansive than it needs to be to protect a legitimate government interest such as suppression of child porn. Since ISP’s already have to make such reports is it necessary to create another cyber nanny in the form of Starbucks employees? Then too, there’s the practical matter of who in hell would download porn in a coffee shop?

The $300K fine brings up the concept of chilling effect. When under review for constitutionality, a law restricting speech is in trouble if it “chills” speech or creates a prior restraint. Starbucks writing a few big checks might create a chill on its WiFi service. The hell with figuring out what lasciviousness is and then putting the definition and what to do about it into the barista training program.

Who’s bill was this? Nick Lampson (D. Texas). Who are the only representatives to vote against it? Ron Paul (R. and part-time L. of Texas and Paul Broun (R. Georgia). The vote was 409 to 2.

So, next time you see some porn on the laptop near you, make sure you let the barista, book clerk or skycap know. It’s your civic duty according to an aide to Rep. Lampson, “all of us, have a civic and moral obligation to report these criminal acts that exploit and traumatize children.” Yep, and now we will have a legal duty if the Senate and the President sign on to this.

It’s funny, I just did a post about my conflict about de-criminalizing drugs and prostitution; now, I’m opposed to a law that could maybe cut down on child porn. Just no consistancy in me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

An Attempt At a Positive Gun Post

The New York Times had an article today about the accuracy, or its lack, of police shooting. The New York City police when shooting at people that are within six feet of them hit the person with a bullet 43% of the time. That isn't killing them. It's getting a bullet into their body. If they are more than seventy-five feet away, they hit them 7% of the time. Overall? 2006, just over 28%. 2005, just over 17%.

Damn. I thought I was going to write a positive piece about guns.

If people trained to shoot in stressful situations can't hit their target with any degree of accuracy, what does that say about the need for firearms for defense by the rest of us?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

For Your Political Thought

John Stossel interviews Ron Paul on drugs and prostitution:

I've always been conflicted about these issues. It's the collateral damage, so to speak, that gives me pause on legalizing either.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another Gun Screed

“Robert Hawkins, the 19-year-old shooter who killed eight people at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska – and then (thankfully) killed himself – is being described this morning as mentally unstable. His landlord says he was recently fired from his job at McDonalds. He left a suicide note saying that he was going to be famous.

“The anti-gun people are almost certainly going to jump on this as an example of why we need more gun control. What these anti-Second Amendment types will never be able to explain to you is how they propose to get the guns out of the hands of criminals and people like Robert Hawkins.

“The truth is that there was really no way to keep a gun out of the hands of this nut job. The only real hope those people had when Hawkins walked into the mall was that there would be someone else there with a gun capable of stopping him. That would have been a security guard or a private citizen with a concealed weapons permit and his gun.”

That’s a quote from today’s Nealz Nuze found at

I’m not “anti-Second Amendment“ but, I can tell you how to keep guns out of the hands of nut jobs. Don’t sell them. Buy them back. Make gun manufacturers absolutely liable for injury and death caused by their products, in other words, make them charge for the true economic costs of their products, or quit making them. Won’t stop the next nut job or criminal or their successors for a while, but over time, it will be harder and harder to get a gun to whack people in a mall, on a college campus, in a liquor store, or merely store in a closet for your son or daughter to find and play with. Fewer to be available in a moment of anger directed at your spouse, loved one or neighbor. Going Postal will then mean you pulled out a steak knife.

Second Amendment aside, there is no reason we have to as a society allow a lethal modality to exist when it is not needed. Treat guns like gas is about to be treated. Up the price to pay for all the costs. If you factor the true costs in, most people won’t buy them. As the supply dries up, fewer nut jobs have access to them.

OK, I’m repeating myself. Sorry. Deep breathes.

Expertise Needed

Some of you regular readers are internet savvy. Pos.

I have two computers and two Email addresses/domains both serviced by the same company. I've set up the service to send Email sent to either of my addresses, business and personal to both addresses. But, they go to whichever computer is turned on. I know there is a way to have an Email sent to either address delivered to both computers; but, damned if I know what it is. How do I get the server to send the two copies of the Emails I get at the work domain to both the home computer and the work computer? Put differently, hold one of the copies until I turn on the work computer.

I fear that made not enough sense; but, humor me, please.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hot Dogs: New York

My post on Detroit Coneys drew a few comments. As I said in a comment about ketchup, those of you that indulge in such heresy have other qualities. I know, I’ve read you.

On to New York.

On the very night that I wrote of the wonders of Coneys, I was concocting ersatz Sabrett’s onion sauce: but, I get ahead of myself.

If you’ve been to the City (NYC) or Miami (and I assume a few other places) you haven’t lived unless you’ve had a dirty water street cart dog. Sounds appetizing doesn’t it? “Dirty water” refers to the hot water bath the cart vendor keeps the dogs in. Sabrett brand for the most part. Almost always with skins, or natural casings, rather than skinless.

(Did you know that skinless hot dogs start out with skins? They do. “’Skinless’ hot dogs also must use a casing in the cooking process when the product is manufactured, but here the casing is usually a long tube of thin cooking plastic that is completely removed after cooking and before packaging. Skinless hot dogs vary in the texture of the product surface but have a softer ‘bite’ than natural casing hot dogs. Skinless hot dogs are more uniform in shape and size than natural casing hot dogs and less expensive to produce.” Wikipedia, of course)

Other acceptable NYC dogs are kosher (Hebrew National and Empire National both made with beef and no natural casing) and kosher-style, beef but with a casing.

Back to dirty water dogs. Almost all, according to the link to the authoritive NYT are made by Marathon Enterprises (parent of Sabrett) in East Rutherford, NJ. Here Hakim makes the classic, the aforesaid onion sauce and a bit of mustard. Other acceptable condiments include saurkraut, chili sauce and chopped onion.

Oh, the onion sauce. You are now priviledged to read the very first Rather Than Working recipe, stolen from online of course. This is not fully realized Sabrett’s onion sauce; but, it’s pretty damn close:

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin and chopped
Water to cover
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vinegar

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

Sauté the onion in the oil for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft, but not brown.

Add the water, tomato paste, corn syrup, cornstarch, salt, and red pepper flakes, and stir together.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the vinegar and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened.

Makes about 1 cup.

Watch the Hakim video for serving style and enjoy. NO KETCHUP!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Try These Blogs

I haven't done a newly recommended post in a long time. So, here it is.

There's Never A Line For The Men's Room

It usually has short and pithy posts. Sometimes just a picture with a point. Wry humor.

The Exception

Washington, D.C. area woman with a rising career and a daughter. Some nice writing.

In It But Not Of It

Written by a non-practicing lawyer. He and a friend wrote a blog when they were in law school. He's been on his own for the past year. Not someone you'd want working for you; but, his posts about his exploits working for his now past-employer are cynical, but funny.

If I Had A Million Dollars

Written by Molly Gras. Her husband, Pos writes a blog too, Niagaran Pebbles, see sidebar. Her downfall, she has a life, job and family and doesn't post as often as she should.

So, what are you waiting for? Go.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

More Due Process, Guantanimo Style

The New York Times reports that Witness names are to be withheld from detainees. The military judge for the next scheduled trial has ruled that the lawyers for the detainee may not tell the detainee, or anyone else, who the witnesses are.

Thus the lawyer can’t ask his client while getting ready for the trial, “so what do you know about 'A,' he’s on the government’s witness list.” When I’ve asked that question of clients in civil litigation, I’ve learned things like “A” wasn’t even there. “Check out the list of employees at the time, A was working on another project.”

The rationale is that hiding the identity protects the witness from intimidation and retaliation. It probably does do that; but, it also prevents the defendant from effectively defending himself.