Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Never, Ever Talk To A Reporter

I have, twice in my life.

The first time was a long time ago when I was living in Toledo, Ohio. The area had been hit with an ice/sleet/snow storm and a reporter for The Toledo Blade was doing a story about the insurance aspect of the event. At the time, I was an insurance adjuster. The receptionist put the “cold call” from the reporter through to me. We talked at some length, I was pleased with the attention.

A day or so later the story came out. I was quoted, more an inaccurate paraphrase than a quote, and a bit out of context. The story had a slant that was not at all apparent during my “chat” with the reporter. It wasn’t a disaster; but, I learned.

Still a long time ago while living in Miami and going to law school, I was called by a Miami Herald reporter. You may have heard of him, Joel Achenbach. He now writes for The Washington Post. Back then he was a “feature” reporter and did a lot of stuff for the Herald’s Sunday Magazine.

A friend had come across his radar and called me saying that Achenbach was doing an article about him and wanted to interview some of his friends. I was reluctant; but, I agreed to talk to him.

At somewhat more length than set out above, I told him about the Toledo deal and was clear that I didn’t trust reporters in general. He understood, he said. He still wanted to talk with me and asked me what I needed to make that happen. We settled on an agreement that he could only mention me and/or quote me if I agreed to what he wrote with respect to my part of the article. We talked then at some length, several times.

He called me a few weeks later and read me what he proposed would go in the piece. It was a direct quote, it fit with the context and I approved.

I got a bit of notoriety for a few days at school as people who had read the article nodded, smiled and commented.

You thought I’d never get to the point of the post, admit it.

The current issue of The New Yorker has an article by Jeffrey Toobin on the infamous, at least around these parts, Brian Nichols trial. Back in 2003, Nichols is accused of injuring a sheriff’s deputy, shooting and killing a judge and a court reporter, shooting and killing another sheriff’s deputy and a DEA agent that he happened upon and finally with kidnapping a woman who after a bit of time convinced him to give himself up.

Here in Georgia we have a death penalty statute and a “life in prison” statute for murder. The latter allows parole. We don’t have an option of “live without parole.” Well, Nichols’ crime is pretty heinous, he was charged with fifty some separate crimes and the Fulton County Prosecutor wants him to be executed.

Your or my opinion about the death penalty aside, getting to it is a very, very expensive proposition these days, given recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The Fulton County prosecutor has listed over four hundred potential witness and turned over more than 40,000 pages of documents. There are five lawyers working on the case for the County. The State’s public defender office assigned Nichols four lawyers. One of the lawyers is working for free and the top guy is working for $175 an hour. There has been loud and widespread outrage that the defense has cost the state upwards to $2 million so far, though the prosecution has probably spent about the same. Currently the case is on hold because the defender’s office is out of money and the Legislature hasn’t approved anymore. The Speaker of the House has called for the trial judge’s impeachment (judges don’t get impeached down here, they are removed only by the State Supreme Court, but why should that prevent a state official from pandering to public opinion) and the prosecutor filed a motion to force the Judge’s recusal. The Judge denied the motion and then allowed the Prosecutor to file an appeal directly to the State Supreme Court. So as I said, the case is on hold.

OK, finally the point. The New Yorker did an article about all of this and more which is currently on it’s website. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today reported that the Judge was quoted as saying something along the lines of “everyone knows he did it.” I read the New Yorker piece, there’s more of the same and worse. There’s a controversy as to whether the reporter had the Judge’s permission to quote him. The Judge said he talked to him “on background.” The reporter says no way, it was all on the record.

The end result is going to be the Judge’s removal from the case: you are allowed to think things like he said, you just can’t say them in public if you are the judge. So, we’ll spend a few more million bucks in our attempt to fry Nichols (actually lethally inject him once we get the approval on the new formula from the Supremes).

Don’t talk to reporters, never, ever.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tapping Keys

Warning, this post is a bit weird.

So here it is. There are some words that I don’t like to type. The tapping just doesn’t flow. As an example, I just logged into a blog to leave a comment and had to type my email address, dave@ratherthanworking.com to authenticate me, or whatever it does. (The address isn’t a big secret, it’s in the profile in the sidebar. If you sell it to a Nigerian or a siding contractor or a Nigerian siding contractor, I swear I will find you from the grave.)

Anyway, I don’t like doing numbers. Never liked doing the number keys. You have to reach; and, though I’ve been typing for decades now, I’m just never sure just which of those keys is the 7 or the 6 (as an example when I touch typed the 7 the first time it was a 9. The second 7 was an 8. My fingers just don’t have reach memory, or something. It is physically impossible for me to find the Del key without looking. Same with the forward and reverse bracket keys ([ and ]).

It’s worse with the symbols. Just where in hell is the $? Damn, I got it right on the first try.

So, with the URL, we have the @ problem, though I’m getting better since I type it a lot (thanks or no thanks to Blogger). Then, for no reason that I can figure out, my fingers just don’t like to type ratherthanworking.com. I always pause before the w and then before the o.

Also, “the” bugs me. If I’m zooming along it often becomes t-e-h, which Word will not allow me to type without the dashes: one of the good things among the very many bad things about the newer versions of Word.

And I hate word verification on Blogger. Some are OK. I look and I can sometimes actually differentiate between the u and the v and the w. But Blogger has a mean streak. Its I’s and J’s and L’s, especially when next to each other, are indistinct. Bastards.

Well, that’s it. I just wanted to tell you that. There are other examples that aren’t coming to mind just now. Maybe I’ll add a comment or two.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Buttocks Bollox

I’m conflicted over this one. I don’t know just what time NYPD Blue airs, but I gather from the article below that it is before 10:00 p.m. Nudity is fine with me, given the right place. I don’t though think that includes network television. That said, government bureaucrats are weenies (can I get fined for that word?). Bare buttocks in and of themselves are “patently offensive?” Yes, I’ve seen a few that are. Then the sexual and excretory stuff, give me a break. Common sense is not a bumper crop these days. Keep the nudity where it belongs, don’t be stupid about categories. Anyway, here’s what irked me:

“The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $1.4 million fine against 52 ABC Television Network stations over a 2003 broadcast of cop drama NYPD Blue.

“The fine is for a scene where a boy surprises a woman as she prepares to take a shower. The scene depicted ‘multiple, close-up views’ of the woman's ‘nude buttocks’ according to an agency order issued late Friday.

“ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co. The fines were issued against 52 stations either owned by or affiliated with the network.

“FCC's definition of indecent content requires that the broadcast ‘depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities’ in a ‘patently offensive way’ and is aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“The agency said the show was indecent because ‘it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs — specifically an adult woman's buttocks.’

“The agency rejected the network's argument that ‘the buttocks are not a sexual organ.’”

Associated Press.

A Sporting Proposition

For some, not all, this is the season of doldrums for sports. Steroid controversy seems to be in hiatus. Yes, there’s the prospect of a couple of new great commercials in return for watching four hours of usually not too great football coming up a week from tomorrow. Pro basketball players are jetting around the country playing the last five minutes of each game. The NHL is putting on its all-star weekend here in Atlanta. It’s televised on the Versus cable channel. I believe I’ve made my point.

Having turned my attention yesterday to national economic policy, I find my head still pondering the dismal science.

Though there are no quadrillions involved, there are plenty of millionaires and a few billionaires available for examination in professional sports. First, let me say that I do not begrudge any of their riches, I just have difficulty understanding them. Take baseball. The minimum salary in 2008 will be $390,000.00. The average MLB salary in 2007 was $2,824,751.00. Yes, you have the years spent in the minors riding on buses and making peanuts - a thousand to a couple of thousand a month. But,, you also have players like Kevin Brown, a pitcher who in 1998 signed for seven years for a cool $105 million, becoming one of the first of the huge money players. He went 86 and 45. Good, but not superstar stats. Over his nineteen year career he has a .594 winning percentage.

A player like Brown would argue that years of playing well for not much money because of the restrictive collective bargaining agreement with its lockstep maximum salaries justifies the windfall at the end of his career. A team owner would say the lockstep system is needed so that the big packages can be afforded for the relatively small number of “superstars.”

I say that the “system” is the problem. Baseball and other professional sports would benefit from scrapping it and replacing it with the model used by most businesses: perform well and be paid well. Do poorly and you are shown the door. If multi-year contracts were banned along with the salary maximums for younger players, the bargaining power would be relatively equal. Player A has a great year and can command immediately, not five years down the road, a big yearly salary. Owner B can pay market price or risk losing A to a competitor. The next year A falls off in his performance and knows that his market value is not as great, as does B. The market price falls. The same pool of money is chasing the same pool of talent; but, the money is more “efficiently” spent on the talent.

How do you factor in the relatively short career span of players and the risks of injury? The same way that business does (or in some cases, should). Pensions and insurance, though here the greater market model is not perfect. Should a player who can’t get a job five years into his career at age 25 to 30 have been paid enough so as not to have to work again? I don’t think so, he can enter that greater market and sell another skill. But, should a player who suffers a catastrophic injury be thrown out with the trash? No. There insurance and pension funds should be available.

Enough contemplation – there’s hockey to be watched, except DirecTv doesn’t carry Versus.

Friday, January 25, 2008

An Unqualified Opinion UPDATED

I am not an economist. (The Update is at the end.)

(To prove that point, back before I went to law school, I was considering continuing to work full time and take night classes. Since it had been a while since I’d been in school I took two graduate level classes while working to see how it would pan out. One was microeconomics. The instructor was on the adjunct staff. He was a full time economist for a regional bank. He took a mathematical approach to the subject, which left me in the dark. I’d regularly ask something along the lines of “could you use words to explain that?” I ended up with an A. On the graded bluebook he wrote a note saying he’d enjoyed having me in the class as “I knew if you understood something, everyone did.” I was a teaching tool.)

So anyway, I’m not an economist. I can handle supply and demand, elasticity and that kind of stuff. The macro stuff is beyond me. That said, this new bipartisan economic stimulus bill doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

From the Washington Post:

“Under the deal, nearly everyone who earned a paycheck in 2007 would receive at least $300 from the Internal Revenue Service -- $103 billion in total. Most people would receive rebates of $600 each, or $1,200 per couple. Families with children would receive an additional payment of $300 per child. Workers who earned at least $3,000 last year -- but not enough to pay income taxes -- would be eligible for $300.

“Overall, 117 million families would receive rebate checks, including 35 million with earnings too low to have qualified under an earlier Bush proposal that limited checks to income tax payers. Rebates would be limited, however, to single taxpayers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 -- up to $150,000 for couples. Above that, the benefit would phase out until hitting zero for individuals with adjusted income of about $87,000, $174,000 for couples.

“The money would be borrowed and would increase the federal deficit.”

The plan would also allow some accelerated depreciation to businesses and allow expensing rather than depreciation over time on some purchases by businesses.

First, and I hate calling $150 billion not much money, but it is in relative terms. Total personal income in the U.S. is in the neighborhood of just under $7,000,000,000,000,000. (From a chart at the Census Bureau website. Just under $28,000 a year for people over fifteen in 2006: there were about 223,000,000 million of such people. I don't think, but I don't know, that this includes corporation income.) That is whatever the word after trillion is. OK, I looked it up, $7 quadrillion. Now, not every penny of the money made is spent, and I can’t find a source for the money spent each year; but, let’s assume only $1 quadrillion is spent. $150 billion is only .00015 of a quadrillion dollars. And, we aren't including foreign spending. How much of an economic stimulus is that? (Don’t attack my math, it may be wrong; but, whatever the right numbers are, the package is a very, very, very small part of the total money spent in the country in a year).

Second, a lot of the rebates won’t be spent. If you are making in the top range of say $100,000 to $174,000, you aren’t going to go out and spend an extra few hundred to few thousand dollars just because you got a rebate. You’ll spend what you planned on spending. The rebates at this level are not an economic stimulus.

Third, this is borrowed money. To do not much, other than to serve as campaign fodder for the pols, we’ll add to the deficit.

Remember, I told you so; and I got an A a long time ago.

Daniel Shorr on NPR this morning likened the economic impact of the rebates to a cookie. You tell your friend you have cancer. He says "that's terrible, here, have a cookie, you'll feel better."

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Memoriam: Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette died yesterday at a month short of 71.

She was most famously Bob Newhart’s wife in “The Bob Newhart Show.”

To my mind her greatest contribution to television entertainment was in Newhart’s next series, “Newhart.” You remember, Tom Poston, Mary Fran, Larry, Darryl and Darryl. She did a short guest spot on the last show.

From Wikipedia:

The series boasts one of the most memorable series finales in television history, entitled "The Last Newhart." The entire town is purchased by a visiting Japanese tycoon, who plans to turn the hamlet into a huge golf course and recreation resort. The lone hold-outs are Dick and Joanna, who keep their property thanks largely to Dick's refusal to play along with what he views as the latest demented whim of the townspeople. Everyone else takes their huge payoffs, says their final good-byes, and leave Dick and Joanna to run the Stratford Inn.

Flash forward five years. Dick continues to grimly run the Stratford, while golf balls constantly pelt the walls. Joanna dresses like a geisha, and the Japanese replacements for George and Stephanie are even less helpful than the originals.

The ex-townfolk — richer and odder than before — unexpectedly pay the Loudons a visit. Michael and Stephanie's daughter has grown up to be a tiny clone of her mother. George has opened a new theme park dedicated to handymen. Larry, Darryl and Darryl have all married gabby, talkative women (one of whom is played by a then-unknown Lisa Kudrow). When their wives will not shut up, the Darryls yell out in unison, "QUIET!" Aside from Larry, who had always commented on how talkative they were, this moment is the only time on the show that anyone has ever heard them say a word. Everyone is stunned (the studio audience gasped in shock before erupting in a loud ovation).

Things quickly become chaotic, with the visitors cheerfully deciding on an extended stay at the inn. Dick vents his frustration at how unmanageable and stupid everything has become, but nobody is interested in Dick's opinion, so he announces that he is finally fed up and is leaving for good. As he storms out the door, Dick turns around and says, "You're all CRAZY!" Just then, he is struck by a wayward golf ball and collapses, unconscious. The screen goes black.

Then a light is turned on, and viewers see Newhart in bed, saying "Honey, you won't believe the dream I just had." Another light comes on, revealing not Dick Loudon's wife Joanna, but Bob Hartley's wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). The bedroom is a recreation from The Bob Newhart Show, and – in a parody of a 1980s television vogue – the entire Newhart series is revealed to have been a dream in the mind of Newhart's 1970s character. Bob tells Emily that in the dream, he lived in a weird Vermont town surrounded by strange people: a snobbish maid and her alliterative husband, a dense handyman, and three eccentric woodsmen, two of whom were mute.

When he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blonde in the dream, an annoyed Emily tells Bob to go back to sleep and flicks off the light on her side of the bedroom. Reviving a technique from The Bob Newhart Show, in which one of the Hartleys incredulously flicks back on a bedside light and restarts the conversation, Emily turns her light back on and inquires, "What do you mean, 'beautiful blonde?!' Bob tells her to go back to sleep, commenting, "You should wear more sweaters," something Joanna was noted for. The scene ends to the strains of the old Bob Newhart Show theme song (although this was removed for syndicated reruns).After the credits, at the point when the cat in the MTM logo normally meows, the typically understated Newhart "meow" voiceover is replaced by the two Darryls shouting "QUIET!"

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Well the Blizzard of ’08 appears to have passed. Here inside the Perimeter (I-285) we got maybe a bit over an inch of snow – the grass is covered, that’s it. The next issue is whether the streets will stay wet as the temperature drops so there’s ice over night. If that happens, it won’t be a nice Sunday.

As to the “Blizzard,” you people up north, don’t laugh. OK, laugh. Channel 2 “Action News” had commercial-free coverage of the stormette by its “Extreme Weather Team” this afternoon. There were two anchors, two weather guys and six or seven field reporters. The latter all were staked out next to roads, bundled up in parkas, wool caps and scarves. It was 32 degrees at the time. The recently late Sir Edmund Hillary was not as warmly dressed when he ascended Everest. They pointed out the snow flakes falling, slush, actual snow accumulation, icicles on the bumper of their SUV and other wonders. One filmed a guy using an ice scraper to get enough snow off the hood of his car to make a snowball.

We make the most of winter here when we get it. This morning's AJC had instructions for making a snowman.

Predictably, the Kroger was jammed this afternoon. The eight buck a bundle pallet of firewood (“genuine hardwood”) was going fast.

I am comfy. The crock pot is simmering chili and the aroma is just getting going. LoneStar Radio is coming over the speakers. (If you like Rock, Blues, Texas Country, try it. Hardly ever a bad song and almost no commercials. Google KZPS-FM. It’s based in Dallas. Pretty much the only Clear Channel station I’ve heard that I like.)

Only one down note: Netflix did not deliver the next DVD today. I’m stuck with what’s on TiVo, a Netflix streaming moving (often a crap shoot) or as a last resort, live TV.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A 2008 Lynching

A few weeks ago a sports anchor on the Golf Channel, talking about the PGA Tour’s golfers being for the most part far back of Tiger Woods on the talent and win scoreboard, said that young players on the tour should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley." Beyond the incorrect verb, it was stupid repartee. The anchor is a woman named Kelli Tilgham. I’ve seen her a couple of times and have not been impressed with her skills at her job.

All she needed to do to correct the problem was come back from a commercial break and say that the lynching thing was a stupid thing to say. “What I should have said is that Tiger is so good, that the only way the rest of the players are going to win more than every now and again is to mug him in an alley, a back alley or on a deserted street.”

She didn’t do that and didn’t apologize until some time later. The Golf Channel expressed regret.

Of course, Al Sharpton weighed in and demanded that she be fired (Woods’ spokesman had already said that Tiger was a friend of hers and that he didn’t think she had any “ill-intent… the matter was closed”).

From a CNN.com piece:

“But Sharpton says it is the word -- not the person or their history -- that matters. In a Wednesday interview, he compared Tilghman's statement to calling for a woman to be raped or for a Jewish-American to be sent to a gas chamber.

“‘Lynching is not murder in general. It is not assault in general. It is a specific racial term that this woman should be held accountable for,’ the reverend said. ‘What she said is racist. Whether she's a racist -- whether she runs around at night making racist statements -- is immaterial.’

“Sharpton said he wants Tilghman fired, period. And if the Golf Channel doesn't comply, the network can expect to see Sharpton and his National Action Network supporters picketing its Orlando, Florida, headquarters.”

“Tilghman's comment may have been a mistake, Sharpton said, but he feels it was evident of a deep-seated and well-cloaked racism.”

The Reverand Sharpton you might note didn’t draw a similar conclusion after his fellow Reverend’s “hymie-town” faux paux.

"I don't know why that would pop into her mind, but it popped out of her mouth, and she should be held accountable," the reverend said.

So, the Golf Channel announced that Tilgham was suspended for two weeks. "’There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this,’ the network said in a statement. ‘While we believe that Kelly's choice of words were inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate.’"

Then to continue the comedy, Golfweek, one of the two major golf magazines put a picture of a noose on it’s cover and did an article about the controversy. The Commissioner of the PGA, Tim Finchem, weighed in:

"Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate and she obviously regrets her choice of words. But we consider Golfweek's imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible. It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

Put differently, “Damn, this mess was covered over, they took the wind out of Sharpton’s sails with the suspension, the damn magazine decides that the whole thing is newsworthy and stirs things up again.”

Oh, the PGA has a decade or so long contract for televising golf on the Golf Channel. It has no similar arrangement with Golfweek.

Next, Golfweek fires the editor responsible for the cover: "We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country," Turnstile Publishing Co. president William J. Kupper Jr. said. "We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic."

Put differently, “Shit, Finchem’s after us, Sharpton isn’t far behind, we’ve off’d the guy that we chose as the scapegoat. Leave us alone, please?”

Finchem on the firing? He did not intend his comments as a “call to action.”

Stupid comment, serial stupid responses. It amazes me that the Rev. Sharpton has so much power over Media and Corporate America.

A Child's View Of Value Analysis

Hedy (see Recommended Sidebar) had a post today listing cheap fun things to do. One was buy the candy you loved as a kid. Her choice was Whoppers.

She brought back a memory from long ago. Though I didn't know it at the time, I grew up upper class poor. I have two brothers. Both of my parents worked full time jobs. We always had plenty of food and clean clothes; but, discretionary spending was something that rarely happened.

Back then in the Detroit area every kid wore clothes from Sears or hand-me-downs (J.C. Penney was considered upscale. Hudson's was for the well-to-do East and North siders). As the eldest, I got the better end of the bargain than my brothers as they got my out-grown clothes.

One of the family's forms of "cheap entertainment" was a Friday or Saturday night trip to Sears. Most trips consisted of just wandering through the departments, tools (Craftsman), housewares (Kenmore) and maybe a peek at toys. On occasion, something would be bought.

Along the main aisle (this was long before store merchandisers discovered that making aisles an obstacle course increased sales) about in the center of the store was the candy and nut counter. Pick your poison, and Sears had it. Under angled glass, at the perfect height for a seven year old to be face level with the loose goods on display. The nut section had lights in the case to warm them, wafting the smell through the store.

Not every time, but often enough, my middle brother and I (Tim was a baby in these years) were allowed to choose a quarter pound of anything. I don't know that I actually remember the first time this happened; but, I can imagine that I was overwhelmed with the prospect. Choose? Make a decision among all this?

Over time, the choices narrowed to Whoppers or cashews. But then the ultimate choice was sooo difficult. On the scale of exotic, cashews won. They won on flavor, though Whoppers were just behind. I almost always chose Whoppers. Why, a quarter pound is a quarter pound isn't it? In my young eyes, Whoppers won out because, having less mass (?) than cashews, there were more in the little bag. A quarter pound bag of Whoppers was bigger than a quarter pound bag of cashews. It took longer to consume. More pleasure for the money.

Though I'm not much for sweets or snacks as an adult, would my choice be the same today? I think not. I'd go for the flavor and buy more to make up for the the mass problem. Discretionary income has taken some of the adventure from my life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Bible As A Model For The Constitution

I looked at Living Next Door to Alice and RWorld a bit earlier. (See Recommended Sidebar) The latter referred to the former's quote of Mike Huckabee suggesting that we amend the Constitution to be more in line with the Bible.

I then did a bit of online research. I can’t find a video or a transcript of the entire Huckabee speech last night but here is what he had to say about it last night on Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: All right, Governor, you made a statement at a rally in Michigan within the last 24 hours. You said, "I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution." You said, "I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it'd be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do."

That makes people a little worried. It sounds like you're looking to have a theocratic state when you make statements like that...

HUCKABEE: Oh, no, Alan.

COLMES: ... going to make change in Constitution...

HUCKABEE: Not at all.

COLMES: ... in keeping with your view of God.

HUCKABEE: On two things. The context is two things, human life amendment, which I support
and which has been in the Republican platform since 1980. And by the way, Fred Thompson doesn't support it, nor does John McCain. And yet it's part of our platform. And it's a very important part of our platform to say that human life is something we're going to stand for. And the second thing is traditional marriage.

So those are the two areas which I'm talking about. I'm not suggesting that we rewrite the Constitution to reflect tithing or Sunday school attendance. I want to make that very clear.

COLMES: Fred Thompson was on the show just a few moments ago...

HUCKABEE: Alan. I think maybe you should obey those things.

COLMES: Well, thank you for the suggestion.

The YouTube clip that is everywhere has no such context in it; but, I don’t know what came before or after the infamous quote. That said, I don’t want a president that wants an amendment that takes a side in the abortion debate or “constitutionalizes” a view of marriage.

Got to watch those people from Arkansas, whichever side of the issues they’re on.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Iraq May Not Love Us; But....

Just Read This! What were you planning for your kid, your grandkid, your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife who happens to be in the military to be doing over the span of the next decade? None of those matter to you? Had any plans for your tax dollars over the same period of time? Go read, I have nothing further to say.

Well yes I do actually.

If you haven't read the article, the Iraq Minister of something or other says they need US troops for internal security until 2012 and for external security until 2018. The surge certainly seems to be..., just what is it doing? We started this stupidity, are we obligated to see it through? Should we bail out and let them fight among themselves and with their neighbors? Hey George, yeah George, you, any thoughts? Oh, sorry, I know your busy working on your legacy. John? John? Mitt? Barach? Mike? Hilary? I know, you are either in favor of leaving as soon as possible or staying as long as is necessary, I read that Sunday in the New York Times. Could we have a bit in the way of details? Oh, yeah, that might alienate a voter or two. How silly of me.

A Windows Wonder

Vista that is, don’t know if this wonder exists with XP.

I got home a bit early and fired up the laptop to do a bit of surfing. I did. I hung on a website and held down control/alt/delete to bring up Task Manager (a minor annoyance, in XP you went straight to Task Manager, in Vista it is part of a menu, one more click), expecting to find that Internet Explore was "not responding." I either held the keys too long or did something else; but, the end result was that my laptop, sitting on my lap as I was laying on the couch, changed to portrait view rather than landscape. I shut the thing down and restarted.

Ever try typing on a keyboard with the screen tilted ninety degrees to the left? I did. It was now the default view. The closest thing I can think of to the disorientation that results is to imagine driving down the road and be magically popped into a car with the steering wheel on the right and your car also on the “wrong” side of the road. Vista wasn’t moving so I recovered.

One good thing about Vista is that its Search function is much better than XP, better as in each screen has a search window and they are fast. I typed in several alternatives and finally scored with “screen orientation.” That brought up a dialogue box that was currently set at portrait, which I had somehow ordered. I reset a bunch of stuff to landscape, it demurred, saying I could only set one primary setting to landscape. I gave in and did that. Everything is back to normal. That’s it. If anyone knows what I did wrong and is bored enough to comment, your thoughts are welcome.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scooped By The New York Times

I’d been thinking about doing a post about the absence of presidential candidate debate about Iraq. Back on New Years Day I did a post, “2008,” that listed “hopes” for the year. The first was “[t]hat President Bush is right about what we are doing in the Middle East, because like it or not, we are stuck doing it for the near and mid term future.” Well, that’s as far as I got. I don’t have to worry about it now as Noah Feldman wrote an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine that says what I was thinking:

“What if the United States were at war during a presidential election — and none of the candidates wanted to talk about it? Iraq has become the great disappearing issue of the early primary season, and if nothing fundamental changes on the ground there — a probable result of current policy — the war may disappear even more completely in the new year.

“The reasons for Iraq’s political eclipse begin with the unfortunate fact that candidates strive to create feel-good associations, and the war is a certain downer….
“[E]lections demand that candidates differentiate themselves, yet various plausible front-runners’ positions on Iraq are not all that far apart. There are subtle differences regarding the completeness and timing of withdrawal…. But basically, the leading doves say they want to leave, but not too fast; while the hawks claim they want to stay, but not too long. One little-noticed consequence of the war’s unpopularity is that, for the first time since the end of the cold war, we are experiencing something that looks very like an unacknowledged consensus between the two parties on the most important question of foreign policy facing the United States.

“But the appearance of agreement is built on the absence of disagreement, nothing more…. The pseudo-consensus of 'leave as soon as we are able, stay as long as we must' rests not on a strategy but on its very opposite: a dodge. At this point, none of the candidates have given detailed, substantive answers to the looming, decisive questions about Iraq that will face the next president the moment he or she takes office."

So, a war that costs billions of dollars and thousands of lives meanders along, stumping the candidates that want to lead us. President Bush didn’t and doesn’t know what to do. Neither does the next President, whomever he or she is.

Friday, January 11, 2008


There are people that have a certain mindset. They are called various things. Sociopath, psychopath, amoral, narcissist. There are degrees of the mindset of course. Without respect for the cause of the mindset, they have a common trait. To their mind, they are bulletproof.

I’ve spent too much of my life worrying about the consequences of my actions. If I say or do this, what will be said or done?

Bulletproof people don’t fear the consequences of their action for the most part. They need, they want, they’re mad, they act to scratch their mind’s itch. They don’t think about or worry about the consequences to others. They can’t fathom others telling them what they must do.

They are the Ted Bundy’s, the Charlie Manson’s.

And the man that caused me to post, the not yet, but maybe about to be punished, O.J. He’s about to have his bail revoked for having violated his bail by trying to contact a co-defendant.

The Judge at his bail hearing went out of his way to make clear that Simpson couldn’t go anywhere near a person connected with the case. So what did O.J. do? He left a co-defendant a threatening voicemail. Bulletproof. Judge said what? “Mother*)^I($ ain’t tellin’ me what to do.” A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. My bet is that the Judge will be telling him what he’s going to be doing 24 hours a day until the trial starts.

Headline of the Day

From today's NYTimes.com comes this headline:

Northern Rock Sells Some Assets


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ma Bell's Kids Raise Their Hackles

Remember back over the past couple of years when the phone carriers rolled over for the NSA, CIA, FBI and assorted alphabet agencies to tap phone and internet? Well, here's how to stop illegal evesdropping in its tracks:


Sorry, I'm to lazy to do a cool hyperlink, but go there, it's worth the trip.

A New York Kind of Thing

These guys should not be sent to the slammer. They should become urban heroes, comedy division.

If you are too lazy to click to the AP story, until earlier this week there were three buddies. One died. Depending on who you believe, either before or after his passing, his two friends wheeled him, in an office chair, down to the local check cashing place to assist him in cashing his social security check (or to steal the money from a corpse). A detective happened to see the procession of friends while in a restaurant across the street and went over to inquire. According to Detective Rapp in the AP article: “He ordered the men to back away from the victim. They feigned surprise when paramedics declared him dead, Rapp said. ‘When they said, 'Your friend is dead,' they said, 'Oh my God, he's gone?'"

I’m with the guys on this one, who’s to say he wasn’t a bit under the weather and needed a ride down to the store to cash his check, tragically expiring on the way. There are some messy details about he was naked when he allegedly died before the trip and his friends partially dressed him before ensconcing him in the rolling chair. Oh, and the fact that his sister worked at the check cashing place and recognized his apparent pallor (NYTimes.com). Oh, and his two buddies have rap sheets going back to the Sixties.

Finally, did you know one of the charges was under an ordinance “'cadavers: duty of burial,' ...described as a failure to 'to decently bury or incinerate within a reasonable time after death, the body of the deceased person.'” My thought is that he might have enjoyed the last ride with it's drama down the street in Hell's Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Curtains or Sidewings?

A bit of live blogging. I'm watching Fox News while surfing and cooking. New Hampshire polling places, at least as pictured on Fox , have curtains with patriotic motifs. Here in Georgia we only have little wings on the baby computer touch screen thing that is suspect these days.

So as to keep my vote constitutionally secret, I guess I have to avoid tall people voting next to me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Computer Privacy and Legal Maneuvering

Adam Liptak has an interesting article in The New York Times. There are a couple of cases wending their way through the appellate courts that deal with the government’s ability to search hard drives on computers at borders.

The question seems to boil down to what is a computer like? Lawyers always draw analogies. If a situation is like “A,” we’ll use the rule we’ve developed for A. If it is more like “B,” then we’ll use that rule. So, everyone agrees that customs agents can open your suitcase and rummage through it. Is a computer just a fancy container for information, the information being analogous to clothes that can be pawed with impunity? Or is the computer more like a storage annex for our brain? The Fifth Amendment protects us against demands that we speak to incriminate ourselves. The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches.

The question, in the context of a search at a border, doesn’t give a true picture of all the competing issues because of the government’s “interest” in national security. Take the same questions and ask them in the context of a traffic stop when you are accused of speeding. Yes, the officer can ask if you were speeding and how much you’ve had to drink; but, you don’t have to answer. Can the officer look anywhere in the car that you can reach so as to not be surprised by the gun you are hiding? Sure. Is the suitcase on the back seat fair game? Probably. How about in the trunk? For the most part, no (there are a few exceptions that can be big enough to drive a truck through, primarily “search incident to arrest”). How about your paper notebook sitting on the passenger seat in which you wrote a detailed account of the past four hours of drinking at the local bar – Situation “C?” Can the officer shake it and riffle the pages to make sure you aren’t hiding a knife? Yep. Can he read through it and find out about the past four hours? Probably not. There, the officer has to have “probable cause” to believe that you’ve done something illegal, and a judge has to agree, before the reading commences.

So, back to the laptop, outside of the border context. Isn’t it just an electronic notebook, hence one of its names? I think it probably is. To be safe, you might want to get a copy of Pretty Good Privacy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Day of ...

non-golf. This week has been cold here in the mid-South. Early morning temperatures have dipped as low as fifteen in the Metro Atlanta area. We started moving back up yesterday when the high was in the Forties.

Right now it is fifty-five.

I had a tee time this morning at 11:20 a.m. I got to the course at about 10:30 a.m., at which time I was told that there was not a “frost delay” but a frozen green delay. Maybe they would open the course at noonish. I hit a bucket of balls, after which I was mildly warm under a thick shirt and a wind jacket. No start. So I hung out and talked to other demented people that planned to play golf.

The guys that were in my foursome were there; and, they are more demented than I am. At about 12:15 p.m. I gave it up and went to the store for some needed shopping. I’m now home and am ignoring some needed cleaning. My friends are probably finishing up their round.

The low tonight is only supposed to dip to forty. My bet is that there won’t be any freeze or frost and I will be quite happy at 11:10 a.m. tomorrow.

On an unrelated note, “Live Free and Die Hard,” starring the aging Bruce Willis, is a stupid but engaging movie. Give it a shot. If you aren’t into shoot ‘em ups, try ”Rabbit-proof Fence” from Australia.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Random Iowa and New Hampshire Thoughts

I’d love to have heard what Senator Clinton had to say privately about the results.

How come ABC won’t let Ron Paul participate in the debate on Saturday? He didn’t get ten percent of the vote in one caucus and he’s an also-ran?

Is there any difference between Clinton and Obama other than color, sex, age and detestability factor? I just read that since Obama has been in the Senate, out of something like seventy votes, they have differed once. (An aside, he’s been there for a while now, only seventy votes? Maybe that’s a good thing.) Both want to spend other people’s money on other people. Most of what they promise, or hope for, in Obama’s case, isn’t going to happen. Neither has any real executive or international experience.

Is there any real difference between Romney/McCain/Giuliani and on the other hand, Huckabee? Yes, I think. The first three, McCain less than the other two, pander to whomever they think will get them ahead. Huckabee, like him or not, appears to believe what he says. As to all four so as to give equal short shrift, none has any real international experience (I don’t think being a Senator is great foreign affairs preparation, though McCain would have the edge). Executive background, I guess goes to Romney and Giuliani (but NYC and Mass are not exactly the federal government.) All of them talk a good game of not spending other peoples’ money. Bush did too. Still believe them?

My prediction for NH: Obama continues to do well but Clinton narrows the gap. Edwards falls back. Huckabee shifts to promoting the FairTax and soft peddles the religion thing giving him some decent support in quite independent, anti- government, anti-tax NH. McCain gets a bit of a boost from the same independent thinkers and Romney and Guiliani bring up the rear, but not too far back. Ron Paul could be a bit of a spoiler for McCain or Huckabee, siphoning the live free or die (or is it the don't tread on me) vote. This sets up a crap shoot for whatever Super Tuesday is called now.

No guarantees. No money back on bets made using this very well researched and thought out analysis (start to finish, just under twenty minutes).

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Commonality of C.S. Lewis, Eldridge Cleaver and Us?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable… If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken- it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from love is Hell.”

C.S. Lewis as quoted by Thomas at Living Next Door To Alice

“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.”

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice.

One fear. Two completely different lives. Same advice.

So should we follow the advice of these two distinctly different minds? Be unafraid of hurt so as to gain what may well be transient pleasure

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

GPS In An Insular Life

I got a portable GPS thingy for Christmas.

- It’s pretty accurate. I’ve set a course and purposely gotten off the expressway before it told me to do so. Within a hundred feet or so, the voice said “recalculating route” followed by “travel 1.2 miles” on the access road I’d exited on to the next exit, which is where it planned me to exit the expressway. Except, I always get off at that exit because there is a short cut that avoids two major intersections. When I turned onto the short cut it said “recalculating route” (I think with some annoyance) and gave me new, and accurate, directions coming from the back way.

- Its database is at least a year old because the Captain D’s in my neighborhood which is a “Point of Interest” is now a used car lot, and has been for about a year.

- It has an annoying feature that wants me to mark every “speed camera” I come across. It’s made by Mio, which I think is a British company. I gather they must use more cameras than lasers there, though “marking” the location of speed traps for either involves the same process. I’ve not marked any because I don’t speed (note that speed is a relative term, if you drive 55 mph on an Atlanta expressway you will die or cause others to die); and, even if I did, the Metro Atlanta police departments don’t much care, except at places that I already know about; and, again, I’m not “speeding” anyway.

- Though it uses GPS, it gives locations as latitude and longitude. I thought GPS numbering was different?

- I don’t need a GPS because I almost never go anywhere I’ve not been to before.

- But, it’s kind of fun if I leave it on, the little screen shows me where I am if by chance I don’t want to look out the windshield.

So much for the less quantity, more quality semi-pledge in the previous post.


No resolutions, but some hopes:

That President Bush is right about what we are doing in the Middle East, because like it or not, we are stuck doing it for the near and mid term future.

That Britney, Lindsay, Paris, Nicole, Jamie, et al. don’t continue on their path to becoming Anna Nicole.

That Paul Johnson (new Georgia Tech coach) can coach in the big time.

That Arthur Blank (Home Depot retiree and owner of the Atlanta Falcons) develops mind reading abilities so as to have no further Vick, Petrino, Parcells imbroglios.

That Led Zepplin does a few more concerts, maybe one down here.

That college sports return to being college sports (I know, never was, never will be).

That the exit from Iraq (whenever it is discovered) is not found to lead into Iran.

That Hilary Clinton is not nominated, and if nominated, is not elected (I’m not thrilled with any of her opponents, but I flat don’t like her and don’t trust her).

That the Federal Government give up its fascination with ethanol as it makes no economic or energy conservation sense.

That government, at all levels, end its fascination with legislating and regulating morality.

That, in ascending order of probability: I get an eagle, a hole in one or shoot a par round of golf.

That I write maybe a bit less in 2008 (323 posts in '07), but perhaps a bit better.