Monday, March 27, 2006

Surveillance Convergence

Scott Baltic, the editor of Homeland Protection Professional magazine, has an editorial in the current issue [no link, paid subscription required] that discusses the convergence of public and private surveillance efforts. Baltic cites the following example of what happens when the two sectors work together in, perhaps, unanticipated ways:

Say you just put some gas into the minivan you rented, but suddenly your credit card doesn’t work. Turns out that the rental company (which was monitoring your driving) fined you three times for speeding and instantly put the fines ($450 worth) on your card, which is now over its limit.

Yes, that really happened, and according to the fine print on the rental contract (you know, that stuff none of us ever reads), it was legal.

The system that has already grown up, [Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr] said, is “very secret and hard to hold to account,” largely because it’s being driven by the information and marketing industries, which tend to be little regulated.


[O’Harrow] also noted there’s no evidence that any terrorists have been caught through increased domestic surveillance.

Baltic echoes O’Harrow’s comments about the lack of public debate on these issues.

Not that there’s been a lack of debate about surveillance: writers across the political spectrum have been going on and on about various surveillance issues (especially the brouhaha over preznit’s use of the NSA to spy on all of us). I think Baltic’s point (and O’Harrow’s, for that matter) might be that some of the more esoteric dangers may be getting lost in the bigger picture.

Baltic cites one information source that many people don’t think about – tollway passes like EZ-Pass. When I was a teenager in Connecticut in the 70’s, we had paper toll tickets we could use (at a hefty discount) on the Conn. Turnpike. Although the tickets were numbered, nobody ever tracked the purchasers, so one could pretty much travel anonymously. The state then instituted a system of toll plates for use on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways. These plates were purchased (again at a hefty discount) from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and allowed the operator to pass through the toll plazas without stopping, but all the driver’s information was on file with DMV; however, the individual toll plazas did not record each passage of a specific vehicle.

EZ-Pass, however, being computer-driven, creates a permanent record of when and where every EZ-Pass comes within range of a reader. We’ve probably all seen various episodes of “Law and Order” where detectives pull a suspect’s EZ-Pass records to prove he/she was in the area of the murder. EZ-Pass is accepted in 11 states (basically everything north and east of Virginia, plus Illinois); that means – if you have EZ-Pass – that your vehicle can be pinpointed as to date, time, and location, any time you are on a toll road in any of those states.

If this information is coupled with, say, credit or debit card records, or customer-loyalty cards from your supermarket, the resulting aggregation of data is astounding. Throw the records from your GPS or OnStar service into the mix, and give up any thoughts you might have about privacy when you travel.

Couple this with the recent disclosures about the NSA, and previous issues with the so-called “PATRIOT Act”, and it becomes obvious that not only is Big Brother here, he’s here to stay. And when you consider that Big Brother is personified by Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, et al., you should be afraid. You should be very afraid.

All these various surveillance techniques and programs are being pitched as efforts to “fight terrorism”, yet as O’Harrow points out, no terrorists have been caught as a result.

Security expert Bruce Schneier, whom I’ve quoted before, has additional commentary on surveillance issues in his Crypto-Gram newsletter.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

DOJ and NSA Strike (Out) Yet Again......

"I'm article the eighth I am, article the eighth I am, I am..."

Associated Press is reporting that NSA may have monitored otherwise-privileged calls between patients and doctors or lawyers and clients, according to the Department of Injustice. Not only that, the government is claiming there appears to be no legal barrier against using this evidence in criminal cases. This is based, of course, on the administration's claim that the warrantless spying "does not violate the Fourth Amendment".

"Although the program does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception," the department said.
The government goes on the "explain" that the same "general criteria" would apply to doctors' and lawyers' calls as to all other calls monitored under the program: there must be "reason to believe" one party is linked to al Qaeda. Trouble is the administration has been monitoring calls "related to terrorism", not just those involving al Qaeda. And since the administration has been claiming for quite a while now that anyone who doesn't support preznit supports terrorists, there's nothing to keep them from spying on "terrorists" whose only "offense" is not worshipping at the altar of preznit.

Michigan Rep. John Conyers also complains about Justice's evasiveness in answering questions from his committee. "All but two of 45 answers to the House Judiciary Democrats were vague and unresponsive."

"We assure you, however, that the department keeps the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court fully informed regarding information that is relevant to the FISA process..."

This is not all that reassuring, in that the administration has made it abundantly clear that whatever spying the NSA is doing doesn't fall under the purview of the FISA court. They haven't told the FISA judges squat about the program.

The department also avoided questions on whether the administration believes it is legal to wiretap purely domestic calls without a warrant, when al-Qaida activity is suspected. The department wouldn't say specifically that it hasn't been done.

"Interception of the content of domestic communications would present a different legal question," the department said.


Another question the bastards are ducking.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DOE Strikes (Out)

Part Seven... this is getting to be as long as the list of preznit's vocal blunders...

The Department of Energy has managed to misplace at least 18 pieces of computer equipment. That's bad enough, except these pieces came from their "Office of Intelligance" (nah, I'm not going to say it... some comments don't have to be written), and may have contained classified information. Like security procedures for nuke plants, f'rinstance.

Additionally, more than 200 pieces of "sensitive" property had not been entered into DOE's inventory, and DOE had not reported missing sensitive property to their own security department.

Can anybody in the Bush administration do anything right?!?

I didn't think so.

The NRC Strikes (Out)

Yeah, Part SIX...

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is investigating a leak of tritium that occurred at the Indian Point nuke plant in New York. Officials believe the leak originated in the spent-fuel pools.

The nuclear power industry, of course, would prefer that the investigation go away. Safety costs money, after all... and that money could be better spent in executive bonuses.

Or should that be bonii?

Want some info on tritium? Read Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears.

Here’s our Deal. Are you listening Democratic Congress People?

Pissed Off Patricia posted this open letter this morning. It's reprinted here with her kind permission.

As usual, she has hit the nail on the head.


Dear every Democratic congress person who doesn’t support Senator Feingold’s call for censure.

Why the hell not? Why are you afraid to step up?

Are you afraid it will make you look weak on defense? Forget that, because there is so much more at stake here than appearances. We’re talking about the future of our country. We’re talking about the rights that the Constitution promises the citizens of the United States. See? We don’t give a damn about how you look, we do give a damn about what soldiers have fought and died for in previous wars. They died so that we could be free and live in a democracy. Those were brave people who were willing to give their lives. Aren’t you brave enough to step up now for the same cause?

For god’s sake stand up, admit you trusted the word of the President of the United States when you voted to support the war but now you see that you were misled. Damn, how hard is that? Others have done it, why can’t you?

We aren’t buying your mantra of having to look into whether the wiretaps were legal. You know they weren’t. We know they weren’t. The president hid the program because he knew they weren’t. Are you willing to give this president who fooled you into supporting this disastrous war any and every authority he wants? Even after he has made you look foolish, you still support what he’s doing? Have you lost your mind? Don’t you see the danger here? Don’t you understand what the hell this will do for his authority?

To borrow a line from this president, when you step up, we’ll stand down. We mean it. When you step up and support Senator Feingold’s call for censure, we’ll shut up. But for now we aren’t going away. Well, if you don’t step up, we will go away from you at the voting booth. But, for now we’re going to keep on bugging you. And I don’t mean in an NSA sort of way. We adhere to the laws of our country. We respect your privacy so we’re going to talk to you in public and we’ll talk loud.

Karl Rove has his little word out now that you guys are “angry”. Rove has no idea how angry we are because you guys aren’t angrier. For heavens sake, you have every reason to be mad as hell. In fact I can give you over 2300 flagged draped coffin reasons. We are at war because someone cooked the intelligence, sexed it up, and it was force fed to you. That doesn’t make you angry?

What’s more important, your reelection or the future of our country? We know, do you? One day you will be gone from the political arena but you have a chance today to do something that will change the outlook for future generations. You can do something that will take our country back from lawlessness to a country of laws that apply to all its citizens. Don’t you owe your kids and their kids that much? Isn’t it time to be statesmen and women instead of just politicians?

So here’s our deal. You support Sen. Feingold and on election day and we’ll support you. If you don’t support him, then you might as well change your party affiliation. What you’re telling us is that you are more concerned about protecting yourself than you are about protecting the Constitution. That sure says a lot.


Many of her commenters have said they're going to print this out and mail it to their Congresscritters.

Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Times, They Are A-Changin'...

I saw on Yahoo tonight that one Florida county has dropped additional charges against former teacher Debra Lafave (charges from an earlier trial in another county resulted in a well-publicized conviction).

This is Debra Lafave:

This is how I remember my teachers:

As the Great American Philosopher Rodney Dangerfield once said, "It ain't easy bein' me."

A Public Service Announcement...

Since it’s a well-known fact that all the senior executives of all of the “Fortune 500” companies are regular readers of this blog [koff-koff-bullshit-koff], it is worthwhile pointing out the fact that due to improvements in workplace security postures, executives’ private residences are becoming more tempting targets for the bad guys.

Hence, these suggestions:

  • Get an unlisted phone number

  • Use a P.O. box (or a private mailbox service) to receive personal mail

  • Vary your routes to and from work on a daily basis

  • Install an alarm system and motion-sensor lights

  • Keep doors and windows locked at all times

  • Report suspicious persons and encourage your neighbors to do the same

  • Never admit solicitors or strangers into your home

  • Make sure your home’s floor plan is not on the Web (builder’s website, or real estate agency)

  • Develop and practice a security plan and emergency procedures with all members of the household

These steps are equally valid for single women.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled Internets.

TSA Strikes (Out) Yet Again!

Part Five of the never-ending saga of those being “driven into shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, mendacity, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration”… [™ Shrillblog]

James Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said “the current system of screening checked baggage at our two airports, which is solely and exclusively the responsibility of the federal government, is not capable of meeting the current demand, is operationally inefficient, consumes an inordinate amount of Transportation Security Administration resources and is incapable of meeting the projected demand for our airports.” [emphasis added]

Way to go, guys. Do what you gotta do to keep TSA, and by extension, DHS, the most inefficient, ineffectual agencies in the whole goddamned government, while still managing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars.

These are the people who grab grandmothers with toenail clippers in the bottom of a 40-pound carry-on, but can’t manage to locate bomb-making materials in checked baggage, because they’re too busy ripping off the traveling public.

TSA Stikes (Out) Again

Part four… this is getting to be like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe*…

I’ve written – disparagingly – about the TSA in the past. The Transportation Security Administration was formed after the 9-11 terrorist attacks to centralize airline passenger screening under Federal auspices, instead of the then-current system of having each airline contract out its screening operations.

At first, I was in favor of the concept. Having been in the security profession for 25 years, I was well-aware of the realities of airline security. With the much-publicized financial woes of many of the airlines, it was inevitable that “loss-centers” like security would be shorted in favor of federally-mandated programs like maintenance or “profit centers” like maintaining flight frequencies. For most airlines, the purchasing department, not security experts, were in charge of selecting a security contractor to provide screening services. Since the purchasing people usually had little or no knowledge of security (other than having to wear their ID badges at work), it wasn’t surprising that most bids were awarded solely on the basis of cost. The problem is that security services should not be purchased on the basis of the lowest bid: you get what you pay for. If an airline receives bids from two security contractors, one at $15.00 per man-hour and the other at $20.00, the airline would usually go for the $15-an-hour company. Usually, one-half of the per-man-hour cost is the salary for the employee, while the other half is corporate overhead (recruiting, uniforms, background checks, benefits administration, etc.) and profit. This means the winning company pays its employees about $7.50 per hour, while the losing company pays $10.00. Do you think maybe you might get a higher-caliber person for $10 than you would for $7.50?

One of the biggest problems with the contract security industry is that in order to maintain “reasonable” profits, the companies have to minimize expenses… and the expenses that tend to be minimized are salaries for the line officers, training, equipment, and benefits (corporate bigwigs, of course, get excellent salaries and bennies). This, in turn, leads to high employee turn-over. Industry figures I’ve seen indicate a 400% annual turnover in rank-and-file staff. Yes, 400% annually… that means a completely new work force every three months. Of course, it’s not quite that bad – some people leave company A to work for company B, move onto C and so on, but this constant turn-over increases the employer’s costs, which results in even less money available for salaries for the troops. The artificially-low pay scales resulted in two types of employees: part-timers (whose main loyalty, obviously, was to their full-time job, which was usually not security-related) and those who could not get better jobs (like flipping burgers at McDonalds). Either way, the public suffered, even if they didn’t realize it.

Additionally, the lack of standardized training requirements – hell, the lack of any training requirements in many states – led to tremendously unqualified people performing critical functions. Often, screeners would have – at most – an hour or two of training, with just the most basic rudiments of what they were seeing on the screen. The screeners – because of their insufficient training – often could not distinguish between objects that pose a legitimate threat and those that don’t.

That’s why I was so hopeful about TSA in the early days. A Federal takeover of screening would have relieved the airlines of one significant expense (thereby hopefully allowing them to devote that money to maintenance), while at the same time providing screeners with a living wage (originally, the annual wage for entry-level screeners was to be about $40k), and allowing realistic system-wide training standards.

Of course, as is always the case with BushCo initiatives, the idea didn’t quite work out that way. First, the feds cut the pay scales back, almost to the pittance the private-sector screeners were making (about $17K, and try living on that!). Then, the feds removed many employment safeguards, like Civil Service protections, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and so on.

As a result, we have seen several hundred TSA screeners arrested and charged with stealing from airline passengers, both in the security screening lines, and from checked baggage. We’ve seen complaints of other illegal behaviors, including alcohol and drug use at work, harassment, racial profiling, and so on. We’ve seen arrogance coupled with incompetence, and stupidity coupled with authority.

Now, the GAO – Government Accountability Office – has compiled a classified report showing that federal investigators were able to carry bomb-making materials past screeners at 21 airports. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening precautions, no one discovered the materials.

Recipes for homemade bombs are readily available on the Internet, and the ingredients are all available over the counter, so it’s not like this is some far-fetched scenario.

With the advent of hardened cockpit doors, and (admittedly) half-assed screening at check-in, experts say that explosives are now the biggest threat from terrorists targeting airliners.

But the screeners can’t spot the materials, even in extra-scrutiny situations. Yet these are the same people who can find a pair of toenail clippers in a woman’s carry-on suitcase.

Security expert Bruce Schneier, whom I’ve quoted before, points out that TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, spend most of their time “preparing for the last attack”: after 9-11, all emphasis was on aircraft security; after the Madrid and London bombings, emphasis shifted to commuter transit.

For some bizarre reason, TSA and DHS seem to be unable to think outside the box; they’ve expressed little interest in securing segments of the critical infrastructure that have not yet been attacked, but that have obvious and well-publicized security short-comings, like chemical and power plants. Nor has there been a concerted effort to prepare for a possible (or, some say, inevitable) bird flu outbreak, other than the Department of Health and Human Services advising Americans to stockpile canned tuna and powdered milk (the “duct tape and plastic sheeting” school of emergency preparedness). And of course we all know how well another DHS component, FEMA, fared in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Part of the problem with DHS is the tendency to concentrate on the “sexier” parts of their mandate, like terrorism, and neglect the more mundane aspects like disaster preparedness. It is this misplaced emphasis that eliminated FEMA as a separate Cabinet-level agency, that gutted the training and preparedness activities, and directly resulted in such fiascos as Katrina.

The same misplaced emphasis has resulted in allegedly professional screeners who needlessly risk our lives and who can’t successfully perform their job functions.


* For those who aren't familiar with the series, it is a five-volume comedic/science fiction trilogy by the late Douglas Adams.

Monday, March 20, 2006

From the "Big Brother Is Watching" Dept.

A company in Ohio,, a provider of security cameras and Internet digital video storage, has reportedly taken RFID – radio frequency identification, those little tags on CD’s and DVD’s that make us so crazy at WallyWorld – to the next level by implanting a couple of employees with the chips for the purpose of access control.

I don’t really mind micro-chipping our Labrador so we can get her back if she strays, but y’all AIN’T gonna microchip me. Especially not for work purposes. Those things are too easy to trace.

Plus, of course, I remember Michael Crichton’s novel, The Terminal Man.

HHS Strikes (Out)

Okay, here we go with Part Three. My God, will it never end?

The Department of Health and Human Services, taking a page from the DHS playbook, is advising citizens to stockpile canned tuna and powdered milk, in case of (what some experts say is an inevitable) outbreak of bird flu.

Granted, HHS has a valid point (surprising, ain’t it?) that families should be prepared for emergencies, by stockpiling at least one week’s worth of food, water, and medical, emergency and sanitary supplies. [The Red Cross has a list of recommended emergency kit contents], but still, wouldn’t it make more sense for the government to try to do something to prevent or at least mitigate the impact of an outbreak?

Course, nothing like that’s going to happen till Halliburton gets a license to manufacture TamiFlu.

Ministry of Homeland Insecurity Strikes (Out) Again

In Part Two of what seems to be becoming a seemingly endless series…

The WaPo reports that “Heckuvajob” Brownie “purposely and admittedly” avoided communicating with his boss, DHS Secretary Michael “Skeletor” Chertoff after Katrina hit NOLA. He also purposely ignored the National Response Plan – the “master plan” for disaster response.

The report of the House panel investigating the fiasco also said that Brown’s actions cost the United States “an opportunity to determine whether the NRP worked.” Of course, given the fact that the NRP was developed under preznit’s watch, it’s pretty much a given that it would have failed miserably anyway.

The report also criticized Brownie for not advising Skeletor of the steps he should take under the NRP. As a former (state) government employee, however, I can tell you that part of the report is unfair to Brown. We’ve already seen countless examples of what happens when people try to tell preznit’s butt-boys how to do their jobs. I don’t blame Brownie for keeping his mouth shut on that one.

As I said in my previous post, picking the worst agency is a real crap-shoot… but I guess DHS wins, hands down.

Dept of Injustice Strikes (Out) Again

Last week, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the Department of Injustice cannot call a handful of witnesses in the death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, because the gummint flat-out ignored her orders that the witnesses not be coached, as well as two other “major instances of misbehavior” by the prosecution.

The officials were to provide a pillar of the Injustice Department’s argument as to why Moussaoui deserved to die: that had he told investigators when he was arrested on immigration violations three weeks before the 9-11 attacks about al Qaeda’s plans to fly planes into buildings, the Federal Aviation Administration would have put in place security measures that could have prevented the attacks.

These would, presumably, be the same security measures preznit declined to put in place after the August PDB, and also the same measures that the FBI failed to take after being told of Arab flight students who didn’t want to learn landings and take-offs, only in-flight procedures.  As one novelist put it, “The first rule of aviation is to keep the number of take-offs equal to the number of landings.”  It shouldn’t take a Mensa member to maybe smell a rat when a “pilot” didn’t want to learn to land.

The surprising thing is that Judge Brinkema did not completely rule out the death penalty for Moussaoui, as some commentators thought she would.  Three major violations should have been enough to show a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct, but the judge seems to be willing to let the case continue, albeit without the “critical” FAA witnesses.  She did say, however, that the government’s case was “too riddled with errors” to proceed without some sanction against the government.

It’s getting harder and harder to decide which part of preznit’s assministration is the most corrupt and/or incompetent, but the Department of Injustice ranks right up, due in large part to Asscroft and Abu Al Gonzales.

A "Yerpan" View of Preznit

Today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune has an op-ed piece by William Pfaff that is well worth the read. It’s called “If Bush ruled the world” and has these salient comments on preznit [emphasis added]:

  • Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the Bush administration’s new National Security Strategy statement…”

  • “The statement's only visible purpose is to address a further threat to Iran, as its predecessor, in 2002, threatened Iraq. The only actual "strategy" that can be deduced from it is that the Bush administration wishes to rule the world. The document is nonsensical in content, insulting to other nations and unachievable in declared intention.”

  • The document's foreign readers will have two reactions. The first will be that it can't be serious. The second will be that it has to be taken seriously since these people have spent three ruinous years in a futile effort to control Iraq; they must be assumed capable of doing the same thing again to Iran.

  • “… the effort in Iraq has been worth it because now "tyrants know that they pursue weapons of mass destruction at their own peril." (One has also learned that those who pursue nonexistent weapons of mass destruction also do so at their peril.)”

All in all, the piece is a pretty damning indictment of preznit’s so-called “foreign policy”, especially coming from a newspaper that is widely regarded in “Yerp” as an authentic voice of America.

Full disclosure statement: I have a warm spot for the Trib, as my father worked there before the “domestic” edition folded in the newspaper strike in the 60’s. The IHT had been a joint effort of the NY Times and the Washington Post, before the Times bought out the whole thing.

The Further Adventures of Felafel-Boy

The blotchy-faced, morally-leprous, walking-talking anal wart himself, Bill O’Lielly, is at it again. You can always count on falafel-boy to be crude, tasteless, and generally an ass.

O’Lielly’s fans recall with fondness his offer to the terrorists for a free pass if they bomb San Francisco. And who could ever forget those sweet little nothings he whispered in his staffers’ ears?

According to an article in the upcoming New Yorker, the twit has continued his criminal ways:

  • He threatened a caller with “a little visit” from “Fox security”… and since when has Fox security had any jurisdiction anywhere? As a security professional, I can tell you security personnel have no more legal authority than you or I.

  • He threatened NY Times columnist Frank Rich and editor Bill Keller, saying “we’ll just have to get into their lives”.

  • He advocated the murder of LA Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley, saying “…until they grab Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off”.

His “thriller”, Those Who Trespass – described by the New Yorker as a “revenge fantasy” – steals a scene from John D. MacDonald’s “Travis McGee” novel A Tan and Sandy Silence.

God, what a retard.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The NRA and "Forced Entry" Laws

I was cruising the Internets the other evening, doing some research, when I ran across this report on the website for The Brady Center for the Prevention of Handgun Violence. I figured with a title like Forced Entry: The National Rifle Association’s Campaign To Force Businesses To Accept Guns At Work, I could probably guess the gist of the report.

I was wrong.

The report is much more sobering than the title indicates.

The report details the (unfortunately successful) effort by the NRA – the organization that supports hunting squirrels with a 50-caliber machine gun and arming Vice Presidents – to push a bill through the Oklahoma state legislature that makes it a crime – a crime, with prison and fines and everything – for:

[…] anyone—“person, property owner, tenant, employer, or business entity”—to bar any person, except a convicted felon, from bringing a gun onto any property in Oklahoma that is “set aside for any motor vehicle.” [Citations omitted]

As the legal beagles say, let’s examine the “elements” of this law:

  • person, property owner, tenant, employer, or business entity: this pretty much covers anyone who might be in control of any real estate

  • to bar any person, except a convicted felon: this would mean that disgruntled ex-employees, abusive spouses, angry customers or neighbors, whackos, weirdos, drunks, junkies, psychopaths, etc., as long as they have not been convicted of a felony

  • from bringing a gun onto any property: this means your home, store, business, playground, church, bar, hospital, nuclear plant, courthouse, prison (!), day care center, etc.

  • set aside for any motor vehicle: basically, anyplace with a driveway or parking lot… or anywhere an ATV, snowmobile, or off-road vehicle could get to.


In addition to making violators subject to criminal penalties, the NRA-backed forced-entry statute provides individuals with a right of action to sue persons,
property owners, tenants, employers or businesses to force them to accept guns into any place set aside for motor vehicles and collect court costs and attorneys fees if they prevail. [Citations omitted]

In other words, if you tell some yahoo he can’t bring his gun onto your private property, YOU go to jail, YOU get fined, YOU get sued, YOU have to pay HIS legal expenses.

Notice there is no requirement that the person have a Carry Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit. The only restriction is that he not be a convicted felon.

Notice, also, there is no restriction on the number or type(s) of guns the yahoo can bring onto your private property: assault weapons, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns… anything the mope wants to bring with him.

The only requirement is that the weapon(s) be locked in a motor vehicle.

The Brady Center refers to this travesty as a “Forced Entry” law.

The NRA “rationalizes” this by saying people would be better able to protect themselves if they had ready access to firearms. I fail to see how having a .45 locked outside in your car is going to protect you from some whacko roaming around inside with a 12-guage.

Obviously, the NRA isn’t content with “just” having guns in the parking areas. No, this is just the first step toward their eventual goal: extending the “forced entry” law(s) to allow guns inside all buildings.

Of course, a number of companies – including ConocoPhillips and Securitas Security Services (which provides armed security guards) – and other organizations filed suit to block the law. Some of the organizations are ASIS International (the American Society for Industrial Security) and the Society of Human Resource Management. In retaliation, the NRA has launched a boycott of these companies and organizations.

Aside from the obvious safety and security concerns, there are many other factors to be taken into consideration.

  • The Oklahoma law may violate the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution: “No person shall […] be deprived of life, limb, or property, without due process of law[…]”. A reasonable argument could be made that the law deprives the property owner of his ownership rights, by requiring the owner to admit persons he would otherwise bar from his premises.

  • The Fourteenth Amendment’s “due process” clauses may also be violated: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In effect, the property owner is deprived of equal protection of the law.

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) obligates “each employer [to] furnish to each of his employees … a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Certainly getting shot would qualify as “serious physical harm”.

  • Employers have a generally-recognized right to set basic work rules and regulations. The Oklahoma law appears to be in conflict with this right.

These “forced entry” laws put employers in the untenable position of having to provide a safe workplace, while being legally banned from prohibiting guns in the workplace.

It’s no secret that incidents of workplace violence are increasing. Logic would dictate that workplace homicides – the vast majority of which are committed with guns – could be reduced by widening the prohibition of guns in the workplace and by tightening the requirements for buying and carrying them.

But the nutcases at the NRA don’t agree. They want every drunk, mouth-breathin’, Bible-thumpin’, hooker-humpin’, sister-marryin’, rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup neocon wingnut to carry his piece wherever he goes.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Various News Notes From the Past Week

In no particular order, here are some odds and ends (and my commentary on them) from the Internets.

  • Gas stations are using zip codes to help reduce credit card fraud. The theory is that the customer provides his or her zip code when making a purchase; if it matches the bank records, the customer is good to go. If the zip codes don't match, well, the sale isn't authorized.
This is actually a pretty good idea... if it is implimented properly. The trouble will be getting the oil companies to reprogram their systems to ask for zip codes. Anything that reduces credit/debit card fraud is helpful

  • Cops are starting to recover more hotel key-cards... with customer's bank data encoded in the magnetic stripe. Thieves retrieve the cards after their discarded by hotels (since they're single-use). The bad guys then encode bank data (which they buy or acquire elsewhere) onto the cards. The key-cards are then used in fraudulent sales transactions at places like gas stations (where the clerks don't actually handle the cards).
One more reason to watch your personal information. And maybe to hang onto your hotel key-card. Note that the card, as issued by the hotel, does NOT include any of your personal information. The cards are re-encoded by the criminals.

  • The idiots at DHS gave the town of Dillingham, Alaska (population 2459), $202,000 to buy 80 surveillance cameras. The police chief said the cameras could stop terrorism in southwest Alaska.
That's one camera for every thirty residents. To show what a tempting target Dillingham would be, here's a map showing Dillingham, and its relation to strategic national assets. Would Senator Ted ("Multi-Million Dollar Bridge to Nowhere") Stevens have had anything to do with this?

  • US oil supplies jump to seven-year high, according to a Reuters headline.
Umm, weren't the oil companies citing declining supplies as justification for boosting the prices over $3.00 a gallon recently?

Shout-out to the Red Cross

According to Site Meter, I've been getting a lot of hits today from various Red Cross units around the country.

Welcome, folks!

I'm proud and honored to have been a volunteer first aid/CPR instructor for various chapters going back to 1990.

Kick back, grab a coffee and enjoy your visit.

I tend to write a lot about the Red Cross, so feel free to drop by any time, day or night. Like you, I'm always open.

Lions and Tigers and Bears... So To Speak.

Well, things have settled down a bit. Sorta. According to the National Weather Service, the area where I live (about an hour from Detroit) is looking at high wind advisories till midnight or so, and a tornado watch for the next couple of hours.

Fortunately, the only tornadoes I've ever dealt with "up close and personal" are the ones in "Wizard of Oz" and "Twister". But, like everyone else, I have seen the havoc they wreak, brought to us in living color by the TV news crews. I think that's an aspect of Mother Nature I would rather not experience.

Hurricanes -- which I did have to deal with as a cop on the East Coast -- are bad enough. And with hurricanes, you generally have sufficient notice to batten down the hatches. This was especially true in Connecticut -- we had at least 4-5 days notice, while the storm was forming down off Florida then moving up the coast.

I've seen pictures of the "Great Hurricane" of 1938.. pretty savage devastation, let me tell you. There was also one that hit Hartford in (I think) 1956 that was pretty damned vicious. I ran across a magazine special on that one. It had a picture of the house we bought in 1974... 20 years earlier, it had had some beautiful elms and maples in front, all of which were taken down by the storm. That was some impressive picture -- you could barely see our house behind all these toppled majestic trees. Hartford was clobbered, but the worst damage appeared (from the magazine, at least) to be in Rhode Island, especially Westerly (which is a city, not a general region).

This special also had a section on response to the disaster. Telephone crews from around the country (this was long before the Feds broke up the old AT&T into separate regional companies)were shown working to restore telephone service in the devastated areas. Power crews from around the country were also brought in, as were countless Red Cross nurses.

I know I talk about the Red Cross a lot, and if you're one of those who feel it is a worthless group, or if you think you'll never need them, feel free to skip the rest of this article. If, however, you accept the fact that old Mother Nature can get mightily pissed at times, or if you realize that some drunken idiot may T-bone your car sometime, you may want to finish reading this.

Remember that in many areas, the Red Cross provides the majority of blood bank services. If you get T-boned, chances are you'll need blood (or blood products). If you have friends or relatives in the Armed Forces, it's the Red Cross who can relay emergency mesages to and from your loved ones overseas. And if you get injured at work, and someone provides first aid, chances are that person learned how from the Red Cross.

And if you get hit by a tornado or hurricane, it'll be the Red Cross that shows up to provide food and shelter.

Of course, the red Cross is there in non-disaster situations too, like house fires. They have this tendency to show up and help get people squared away and back on their feet. Don't believe me? Check the newspapers for the next couple of weeks. I bet you'll see at least one story with a line like "the families displaced by the fire were provided emergency housing by the Red Cross". Or maybe you'll see "The Red Cross opened emergency shelters to assist families displaced by the tornado".

When the poo-poo hits the fan, the Red Cross will be there.

The Red Cross is completely volunteer-supported. They get no government funding (unlike Halliburton).

So if you get a chance, drop them a buck or two. Or give blood. Or -- best of all -- volunteer. There is always a need for people, not just after disasters like Katrina or 9-11. Call your local chapter or hop onto

It's always nice thinking that your donation has made someone's life a little happier. Or a little longer.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Snoopy Only Has a DOG House...

But I have a whole house.
A new way out? The escapee thinks he has found a new way to break free until he realized he was about 15 feet off the ground and left his cape in his other collar. He then thought he would attempt to enlist the aid of his friend
Angus (618 and I refere to him as Romeo and our Emily as Juliet as they so enamoured with one another)

618 Rants arrived home with them greeting him over our back door, hollered in the house for me to get out here now.These guys scard the crap out of us, but I couldn't resist grabbing the camara, we talked them back in the house but the super beagle wandered back out. We waited out side to keep them from jumping, then their mom and dad came home and brought them down stairs . All is well that ends well, and the lovepups are off to play.

Crunchin' th' Numbers

Attaturk at Rising Hegemon wants to hit 10,000,000 visitors by March 18. They're at 1.2 million today.

Hell, I'll be thrilled when I break a thousand.

Just for the hell of it, I looked at the stats from SiteMeter for some of my "competition":

Blog . . . . . . . .Avg Hits/Day . . . . Total
Atrios . . . . . . . 125,000 . . . . . . . 94,590,499
Daily Kos . . . . 601,189 . . . . . . . 319,684,223
TBogg . . . . . . . 12,006 . . . . . . . . 6,369,222

Me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 535


Though I suppose they all started small too.

Missing Person Found

No, not any of the hostages in Iraq.

One of my favorite writers, Pissed-off Patricia, formerly of BlondeSense, now has her own place, Morning Martini.

I missed her writing when she left BlondeSense. Now that I know where she is, I'll be stopping by daily for a coffee (or three).

Mission Accomplished?

I wrote a post back on January 15, quoting security expert Bruce Schneier’s reactions to the NSA spy program. (Schneier is against it, on Constitutional grounds).

Now, as we all know, preznit has pretty much flat-out admitted the program is illegal. And guess what? He doesn’t care. His sycophantic butt-buddies don’t care, either. They’re willing to give up their – and our – freedoms so that preznit can continue to protect us from terrists… just like he protected us after the August 2001 PDB (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”), just like he protected us from Katrina.

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast excerpts an article from Editor and Publisher on new attempts to deal with this mess… by making it illegal to reveal preznit’s wrongdoing (as if the boy’s ever done right?):

The draft would add to the criminal penalties for anyone who “intentionally discloses information identifying or describing” the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program or any other eavesdropping program conducted under a 1978 surveillance law.

Jill’s comment:

So this is how Republicans, even so-called “moderates” like Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel are going to deal with George W. Bush’s crimes – not just make them legal, but make anyone who dares to question the policy a criminal.

Remember how Bush used to say “They hate our freedom”? Well, we no longer have it. The terrorists have won after all. Nineteen guys with boxcutters have succeeded in turning America into a dictatorship, unaccountable to the people, unaccountable to anyone.

Mission accomplished.

I don’t think that was Bush’s goal. I say this mostly because I don’t think Bush is capable of having goals. To me, this plot to turn the US into a Fundamentalist Redneck Fourth Reich (“FR2”) bears the unmistakable stench of those two evil pricks Cheney and Rove (assisted by the lesser pricks Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, and prickette Rice).

Face it: Bush is incapable of independent thought. He’s shown that, any time he and his handler-weasels can’t control 100% of whatever environment preznit is in. He’s nothing more than Charlie McCarthy to Rove’s Edgar Bergen [if anybody is feeling like sending me an early Christm—err, holiday present, PhotoShop Rove and Bush’s faces onto a picture of Bergen and McCarthy…].

Laurence W. Britt has an article posted at Secular Humanism entitled “Fascism Anyone?” which has been excerpted, quoted, and otherwise used by just about every thinking person. The article compares the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet and identifies 14 characteristics common to those fascist regimes. Project for the Old American Century takes it one step further , by applying the points Britt identified to preznit and his cohorts. The correlation is terrifying.

Perhaps just coincidentally, a few weeks ago, one of the major bloggers (Drum, Aravosis, Marshall, Kos, or Atrios) unearthed a proposed Constitutional amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment , which limits any person to two terms as President (which was passed as a result of FDR being elected to a fourth term). The proposed amendment was dated February 17, 2005. The sponsor of the bill, Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer, says:

“The time has come to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, and not because of partisan politics. While I am not a supporter of the current President, I feel there are good public policy reasons for a repeal of this amendment. Under the Constitution as altered by the 22nd Amendment, this must be President George W. Bush’s last term even if the American people should want him to continue in office. This is an undemocratic result. [Emphasis added]

This proposed amendment, coupled with the GOP’s known track record of tampering with any election it can get its grubby hands on (here, here, here) would be too much of a temptation for Cheney and Rove.

Hoyer says that, under his proposal, Bush would not be eligible to run for a third term. That’s not much comfort. I can see Cheney and Rove “advising” Bush to cancel the 2008 elections – in the interests of “national security”, of course – and keeping preznit in place till the amendment passes, at which point they’re golden.

So, welcome, America, to the Fundamentalist Redneck Fourth Reich.

What does this mean for you as a citizen?

It means that we can kiss our individual freedoms goodbye:

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Religion: as long as you’re a fundamentalist Christian, you’re all set. Otherwise…
Speech: Cindy Sheehan
Press: DeWine’s bill (cited at the top of this article)
Assembly: preznit’s “free speech zones

Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
PATRIOT Act, National Security Letters, NSA, ad nauseam.

Fifth Amendment: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment by a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Gitmo, Abu Graib, “Extraordinary Rendition”, etc.

Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informedof the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Gitmo, Abu Graib, “Extraordinary Rendition”, etc.

Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Gitmo, Abu Graib, “Extraordinary Rendition”, etc.

Some other things going away:

Abortion: South Dakota has already passed a bill making virtually all abortions illegal; Mississippi and other states are considering similar laws.

Contraception: several writers have pointed out the “logic” of using the reversal of Roe v. Wade as the springboard for overturning the earlier – and much more pivotal – Griswold v. Connecticut.

Right to Vote: one of the Bubba Congresscritters has proposed “re-visiting” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (sorry, I couldn’t find the link, but I’m pretty sure Kos, Atrios, Drum, or Marshall have it)

Is the situation hopeless, then?


We simply have to elect someone better.

This cannot be a third-party candidate; with a few exceptions, they do not have the resources to battle the current two-party structure. This means NO NADER. Nader has pissed off too many people to have even the remotest chance at winning.

We must force the Democratic Party to nominate someone who can win. This means NO HILLARY, for the same reason Nader isn’t acceptable. NO KENNEDY, NO GORE, ditto.

We must nominate and elect someone who can provide a clear, logical, and concise alternative to the Republicans. Therefore, NO KERRY.

We must elect someone who is not a “Republican-lite”… NO LIEBERMAN.

I’m not sure who this leaves. Obama? I haven’t been too impressed with his performance since he hit DC. Murtha? Too old, and probably too smart to run. Bill Clinton? Give me a break… do we want to go through that again?

All I know is we have to find somebody.

UPDATE: Fixed the broken links (I hope), and corrected an unintentional Spoonerism (as opposed to an intentional one, I suppose) with Steny Hoyer's name.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Should the Women Be Charged?

Via Digby and The Talent Show... At Center Network has a video* of anti-abortion protesters being asked their feelings on women who have illegal abortions.

The video brings up an interesting point, one I haven't seen discussed elsewhere: if abortions are illegal, what should the penalty be for the woman? All of the restrictions I've seen subject the physician to sanctions of one sort or another, but nobody mentions the woman.

As I've mentioned, I spent many years as a police officer, so here's my take. And read the whole thing before you start screaming, please... you'll see my logic at the end.

Scenario 1

A woman wishes to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, so she enlists the assistance of her local MD. Since most insurance plans don't cover abortion in the first place, and certainly would not cover an illegal procedure, the woman pays the doctor to perform the abortion. Following the logic of the right-to-life crowd, a human life is terminated in the process.

Scenario 2

A woman wishes to terminate an unwanted marriage, so she enlists the assistance of her local gangbanger. The woman pays the gangbanger to kill her husband, which results in the termination of a human life.

Since the current crop of laws really do not take into consideration the motive for seeking an abortion -- mother's health, incest, rape, convenience, whatever -- the motive here is unimportant. Using the same logic, it is unimportant to worry about the motive in the marital case, whether it be infidelity, insurance, abuse, or boredom. In both cases, the woman pays another person to end a life.

There should be no question in anybody's mind that in Scenario 2, both the hitman and the woman are guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They both receive hefty prison sentences (in some cases, death sentences). I don't think anybody would argue the logic of charging both participants in this case. The hitman obviously is guilty, in that he whacked the husband, while the woman is obviously guilty of arranging the hit (in other words, conspiring with and paying the hitman; it is a settled legal principle that all conspirators are equally guilty of any criminal acts conducted in the furtherance of the conspiracy).

How does this differ from Scenario 1? In both cases, two people conspire to end a human life. In both cases, a payment is made for services rendered. In both cases, a human life is terminated. (Remember, for the purposes of this discussion, we are ignoring the woman's motivation, because the law ignores it.)

For the life of me, I cannot see any difference.

Yet in the AT Center video, the anti-abortion protesters, for the most part, don't believe the woman should face any legal consequences (most say the woman will have to face God, or live with the consequences of her actions, which is, to me, legitimate). These are the same people, however, who are in favor of charging the physician with murder. Unless it could be proven that a doctor was performing unwanted -- as opposed to illegal -- abortions, both parties logically must be charged with murder and conspiracy. Doing otherwise would be akin to charging the hitman in Scenario 2, and giving the woman a free ride. Consenting to -- or actively seeking out and participating in -- an illegal activity is conspiracy. And a conspiracy that results in the termination of a human life exposes both conspirators to murder charges.

Since the law in South Dakota (and many of the other laws under consideration in other states) would effectively make all abortions illegal, any woman who seeks out or consents to an abortion must be equally guilty in the eyes of the law.

But the protesters in the video don't see it that way. Most say the woman should not face legal consequences. Several say it would depend on the circumstances, or the woman's motivation. Only one says that prison time -- even a life sentence -- might be appropriate, "based on the circumstances".


The whole point behind the South Dakota law is that circumstances don't matter.

If you have or perform an abortion, you are violating the law.


Since the women in the video do not feel the woman should be subject to legal sanctions, they are, in effect, saying that the woman is not committing a criminal act. If having an abortion is not a criminal act, why is performing an abortion a criminal act? Selling drugs is a criminal act, but so is buying drugs. Engaging in prostitution is a criminal act, but so is soliticing prostitution.
Bribe receiving by a public official is a criminal act, but so is bribing a public official. For the life of me, I cannot see any difference.

Since these protesters are at least implying the woman is not committing a criminal act by having an abortion, where is the justification for imposing criminal sanctions on the doctor for performing the abortion?

The answer, I think, is this: having an abortion is not illegal, performing an abortion is. Sounds hypocritical, right? Not necessarily. If providing an abortion is illegal, but having one is not, it gives the anti-abortion crowd a little loophole for when Buffy gets pregnant. See this post from the Rude Pundit as to why having a loophole is so important (Warning: VERY strong language). But it still allows the fundamentalists to force their beliefs down everyone elses' throats.

They want to have their cake and eat it too.

The only other option I can think of it that "women can't be trusted to control their own emotions/desires/passions/bodies", and that we men must take care of the "little ladies". Could this be it?

One thing I've noticed over the years (although it is not evident in the At Center video) is that the most vociferous anti-abortion activists are men. This has always irked me. It is not the men who endure the stresses of pregnancy (other than finding "their supply" cut off for a few months); it is not the men who are stuck with the vast majority of child-rearing duties (especially since most of the men seem to be Southern hillbillies who wouldn't condescend to doing "woman's work"). But it is the man who gets to make these decisions?

I think -- and this is just my opinion -- that these hysterical anti-abortion men are afraid of letting women make their own decisions. Why? Because if a woman can decide for herself whether or not to have an abortion, she may start deciding other things on her own... like whether she wants to stay with Bubba after he whacked her around last week. Or whether it's fair for her to be working two or three jobs while Bubba spends his time drinking, hunting, and bass-fishing with the boys.

What American society needs to realize is that having an abortion is like getting a tattoo: it is the decision of the person (in this case, the woman) affected, and of her doctor. It is not, and should not, be a decision made by anyone else, even a father. It is a decision that, once made, cannot be reversed. It is a decision that leaves its mark on a woman for the remainder of her life.

But it is not, and should not, be a crime.

I'm not sure where I stand on abortion. On the one hand, a girlfriend long ago had an abortion. Not because her life was at risk, or even her health, but because she was not ready for the commitment a child would require. She would have been unable to finish college, or pursue a meaningful career. Could that baby have been the next Sophocles or Schweitzer? I don't know. The baby could have grown up to cure cancer, or discern the secrets of the cosmos. We discussed it, and I made my feelings known, but ultimately, it was her decision, and hers alone. I believe she made the decision that was right for her, at that time (and yes, I agreed, and supported her throughout).

On the other hand, several years later, another girlfriend became pregnant, and her personal beliefs prohibited abortion. Again, we discussed all the various options; she decided to have the baby. Our son -- who is going on 12 -- is a bright, wonderful boy. He consistently aces math and science tests ... without studying. I could smack him, if I weren't so damned proud of him. His mother and I married, and although the marriage didn't last, we will have a life-long bond. This woman made the decision that was right for her, at that time (and again, I agreed and supported her, and continue to do so to this day).

Is abortion wrong? I don't know. I do know, however, that it is a very tough decision, probably the hardest decision a woman will ever have to make. It is a decision that should be made after discussion with the father (assuming the sex act was consensual). The father should be allowed his input, but the decision is the woman's alone. The father must support the woman regardless of the decision, both financially and -- more importantly -- morally and emotionally.

*The video requires RealPlayer, which has a free player available. If you haven't already installed it, I would recommend having it as the default player only for Real Network's proprietary formats; use Windows Media Player for everything else. And for God sake, don't choose the auto install -- it sets Real as the default player for everything and is a bitch to reset.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Beyond Belief... Even for Republicans

This is truly disgusting.

Liddy Dole, wife of former Presidential candidate Bob Dole, sent out a survey/fundraising document that looks enough like an official government document to be potentially confusing to the elderly or otherwise politically inexperienced. The form claims a response is "mandatory", implying sanctions if the form is not completed and returned. It also has three return options:

  • Complete the survey and donate to the Republicans
  • Not complete the survey, but contribute to the Republicans
  • Not complete the survey, not donate to the Republicans, but enclose an $11.00 fee for "tabulating and redistributing" the survey.
Link vis Kos.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I Know What I Forgot!

Last Friday, the lovely-yet-talented Mrs 618 and I were watching our great nephew Hunter (okay, he's reasonably cool, but I don't know about great). We were watching Sesame Street, and lo and behold, the Lauratron 2006 was reading to the kids. It was some book about monsters who all said "Wubba, wubba, woo".

All I could think was, "Dubya, Dubya... who?"

The Escapee

Well everyone, I thought I would show all of you the Christmas escapee.
This is our neighbor Toby. He has proven to be quite the little escape artist. Tonight he pulled off his greatest coup: he not only made it up the block to the grocery store, but he was found roaming the aisles sniffing out all the goodies. I think he should have been named Snoopy, not Toby. He is definitely the stereotypical beagle.

From the "My Bad" Department...

This was supposed to have gone up on February 27th... but I just found it in Blogger... as a draft. When I get as many hits as Kos, Atrios, TBogg, or the General , I'll get a "real" domain of my own. That's the only way the lovely-yet-talented Mrs 618 will let me spend the money.

I have been remiss about posting recently, but I have a couple of excuses (a little trick I picked up from the Bushies, making sure everything is always somebody else’s fault).

First, I’ve been working my butt off. Aha, I hear you say, how is that someone else’s fault? Easy. Dear Leader’s Glorious Economic Miracle® -- which means that wages have actually decreased for most people – coupled with the fact that the lovely yet talented Mrs. 618 has been unable to find meaningful employment (because out-sourcing to India is “good for the economy”), means that I have to work more hours to keep a roof over our heads and/or food on the table. So it’s Preznit’s fault.

Second, we sorta-kinda lost the DSL for a few days. Some silly disagreement about how binding billing dates are with the phone company (MSSBC/ATT/BellSouth/Verizon, this week). As to why the payment was delayed, see above. Again, Preznit’s fault.

Third, the Olympics. Neither the lovely yet talented Mrs. 618 nor I give a rat’s ass about curling, speed skating, or even [heretical gasp] slalom skiing. Therefore, we watched movies… Backdraft, The Three Musketeers (the Sheen/Sutherland/Pratt/O’Donnell rendition), Bodyguard, etc. Because these are all good movies – in their own way – I got distracted watching them and wasn’t able to post. I needed – really needed – the escape from what Dear Leader has done to the world. So, again, Preznit’s fault.

Oh, yeah, fourth. I’ve been teaching first aid classes for the Red Cross. Say what you will about the fumbles in their responses to 9-11, Katrina, and Rita – and they did drop the ball once or twice – I still think the Red Cross is one of the best organizations going. First aid/CPR classes, lifesaving classes for your kid’s swimming instructors, blood bank operations, disaster response (and remember, they were there in NOLA, but FEMA wouldn’t let them in), and services to the Armed Forces… you just can’t beat the Red Cross when it comes to helping out when the shit hits the fan. The Salvation Army does an excellent job too, of course, but they’re a little too religious for me.

Anyway, on to the good part: making fun of the mouth-breathin’, Bible-thumpin’, hooker-humpin’, sister-marryin’, rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup neocon wingnut crowd.

• The South Dakota legislature passed a bill effectively banning all abortions (the only exception is to safe the life of the mother). Dear Leader’s mindless little pseudo-Christian drones are thrilled because, after all, banning abortions will eliminate unwanted pregnancies by eliminating pre-marital or recreational sex. They seem to feel it will also eliminate rape, incest, and the rest of the pastimes enjoyed by the likes of Little Ricky “Man on Dog” Santorum, “Felafel” Bill O’Rielly (the terrorist sympathizer), and the rest. There’s no indication if the new law will eliminate Veeps shooting hunting companions.

• Preznit, after whuppin’ us all into a God-fearing, hysterical hatred of all things “Moozlim”, has decided to sell control of twenty-one American ports to… wait for it… the United ARAB Emirates. Yup, boys and girls, after spending the last five years telling us how evil the “towel-heads” are, he’s giving them our ports. Part of the sale, by the way, allows port operators – like the UAE – full access to DHS and Coast Guard security operational plans… which will make it real frickin easy for them to – maybe – help al Qaeda smuggle in terrorists or a dirty bomb. Face it, if you have the enemy’s plan book sitting right in front of you, it’s easy enough to find loopholes. Even Frist, Santorum, and Delay are pissed about Preznit’s latest “enrich our buddies and screw the rest” move.

• There are a bunch of states considering bans on adoptions by same-sex couples. I guess the mouth-breathers figure that having a mom and dad will give the kids a better chance in life. This is despite the fact that there are thousands of kids (in the US alone) waiting for adoption. Of course, having both a mom and dad has worked for the mouth-breathers… they’re the ones who keep molesting their own kids. Maybe they just want to keep the supply up. Not that mouth-breathers adopt, mind you, they just breed early and often (and they don’t bother going outside the immediate family, either).

On a more serious note, Tristero at Digby writes about safe and legal medical care issues involved with the SD abortion ban (emphasis added):

I haven't addressed the right to safe and legal medical care very much in the past. The reason is that it is self-evident that all citizens have a right to such care, even if they are poor. Therefore, what's there to argue over? The fury over the use of coat hangers has always puzzled me. Yes, honest people can come to radically different conclusions as to whether their pregnancy should or should not be terminated. But an American government clearly has no right to impose a conclusion. Therefore the politicization of the abortion issue has always struck me as a thinly disguised war against providing safe health care to the poor, especially women, rather than anything that engages a genuine moral issue which, in abortion's case, is a private one.

I have to agree. This is just one more attempt to maintain the stranglehold of the "haves" over the "have-nots".

MORE Goddamned Lunacy from Preznit...

Preznit doing his best to support outsourcing... since it's "good for the economy"......

  • The U.S. Forest Service is studying how to contract out more than two-thirds of its total workforce by 2009, according to agency planning documents released recently by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the national association of workers in natural resources agencies.
Sure, why the hell not? Everything else is being outsourced, so why not pay Halliburton to fly forest firefighters from Bangalore to Los Angeles County? Halliburton's done such a wonderful frickin job so far, right?

  • In addition to Bush administration plans to sell off 300,000 acres of Forest Service land included in the fiscal 2007 budget proposal to Congress....
Just think, someday we can drive our kids past the chained, barred, gated entrance to Exxon/Mobil State Profit Park, or the Grand Canyon Toxic Waste Environmental Enhancement Zone, or the Arctic Oil Field Refuge...

  • ...the agency also is seeking to privatize environmental, law enforcement, firefighting, engineering, and research positions.
Let's see. Wanna bet Halliburton gets these contracts too?

  • In fiscal 2007, approximately half of the agency's law enforcement agents and rangers, 600 positions, the jobs of all of its geologists, 500 jobs, and 1,100 biologists who prepare environmental studies on the impacts of timber sales, oil and gas leasing, and other actions on national forest lands may be put out to bid.
All going to Halliburton.

God help us all.

Forward into the Past, Part Whatever

Now that abortion is virtually illegal in South Dakota (and ain't no way the current SCOTUS is gonna overturn the new law, not with Roberts and Alito), those mouth-breathin', Bible-thumpin', hooker-humpin', sister-marryin', rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup neocon wingnuts in Missouri -- the "Don't Show ME" state -- are pushing a (non-binding, thank God) bill that would designate Christianity as the official religion in Missouri. The Intelligent Design crowd (there's an oxymoron!) are still trying to cloak their creationist crap as science, not religion (and crying religious discrimination when they lose). Preznit, Dumsfeld, and the rest of the DC MO-rons are still claiming (a) no civil war, (b) impending victory, and (c) everything's hunky-dory in Iraq. Cheney's been inviting Democrats and moderate Republicans (another oxymoron) togo hunting with him.


Forward into the past. Yup. Stay the course and bring 'em on.

Anntichrist Hits the Nail on the Head

Anntichrist S. Coulter has the following posted at BlondeSense. It is reprinted below with her permission. Annti emphasized, moreover, that her permission encompassed the following:

Sure, Andrew, go ahead, but I only ask two other things: 1. NO TYPOS (and I want all of the cussing included, so no editing goes with no typos), and 2. Link back to BlondeSense, k?
As far as typo's go, this was copied and pasted directly from BlondeSense, so any typos were in the original. Cussing is included, of course - I've never been shy with my own language, so why change hers? Especially since toning down the language would dilute or destroy the sense of her message. I did have to re-create the links (thank you, blogspot); I am pretty sure I got them all. Also, I did the best I could to re-create the colors used in her post.

My commentary is at the end.

Anntichrist's post:

Nice fuckin' priorities, Southeastern.

I've been following this case of a student teacher at Southeastern Louisiana University: The woman in question was denied her education degree because she objected to the preaching & praying that was foisted upon her by the teacher in charge of her student-teaching assignment. Cynthia Thompson had the ACLU file a suit on her behalf against SLU and the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, as she was not allowed to graduate or complete her student-teaching requirements because she complained to the school board and SLU about being insulted and offended by her "mentor teacher's" in-class prayers, requiring students to bring bibles to school, etc.

Thompson objected to Pamela Sullivan, a fourth-grade teacher at D.C. Reeves Elementary in Ponchatoula (also the home of Hosanna Church, where they molested children and killed animals in bizarre cult rituals) constantly shoving christianity down the children's throats and down Thompson's throat. The University, after Thompson registered complaints about Sullivan's constant pressure and proselytizing, kicked Thompson out of the teaching program two weeks before graduation. When Thompson originally went to file the complaint, a staff member of the University grabbed her hand and prayed for "divine intervention."

The University is also threatening Thompson with complete expulsion if she won't hand over her 75-cent notebook journal that she kept during her student-teaching assignment. Not only is she expected to join-up and shut up with the cult activities on campus and off, but she is also being denied even the privacy of HER OWN FUCKING THOUGHTS.

See? It's not just me. Anybody who doesn't do the lock-step christian goosestep in Louisiana schools is not only screwed out of a job and/or career, they're also ostracized and prevented from ever teaching AGAIN, at least in that particular parish.

I just wish that Katrina had skipped St. Bernard & Orleans Parishes and headed straight up the Tickfaw River to Tangipahoa. Well, not entirely --- 'cause then we wouldn't have strawberry season, and I'd have to kill somebody if I didn't get my Ponchatoula/Tickfaw strawberries every year. But it would definitely be a good thing if most of those churches were wiped off of the planet by a force of nature. Maybe they'd finally take a hint from the universe, who knows...

And this is hardly an isolated incident with the Tangipahoa Parish School Board. The Louisiana ACLU has had to file FOUR lawsuits against these nutbags, including one where they have repeatedly flauted court orders to stop praying during public school board meetings, complete with bible-banging picketers outside the school board offices at every meeting. These people aren't just batshit crazy, they're PROUD OF IT. The arrogance of psychotic christians in this country is a little too much sugar for a fucking nickel. They really do think that they OWN this country, and that THEIR CULT not only enables them, but EMPOWERS THEM to OVERRIDE THE FUCKING U.S. CONSTITUTION AND EVERY AMENDMENT THEREOF.

Does it take a huge logical leap to understand how the more-arrogant-than-fuck Cheney minions are fucking-over our entire country with nary a FLINCH of guilt or even acknowledgement of their CRIMES?!?! It's the same smug, Jerry-Springer-guest, idiotic IGNORANCE of what the laws in this country REALLY ARE, that these bible-banging mouth-breathers think that they can use as "common law."

Guess what, folks? The United States Of America doesn't have an official religion. The FIRST FUCKING AMENDMENT TO OUR CONSTITUTION FORBIDS IT. So no, you're not allowed or enabled to use your middle-management municipal pencil-pusher job to proselytize to the unwashed masses. You cannot make christianity a JOB REQUIREMENT for any PUBLICLY-PAID POSITION.

GET A FUCKING CLUE, ALREADY, YOU ASSHOLES. Municipal and state jobs do NOT exist so that you can use your position to SHOVE JEEBUS DOWN THE THROATS OF THOSE WHOM YOU ARE PAID TO SERVE.

I agree with Anntichrist that way too many of these lunatics are proud of their lunacy. It is, unfortunately, a lunacy that sees to be spreading: evangelizing at the Air Force Academy, Pat Robertson calling for the assasination of Hugo Chavez, the comments about killing Islamic leaders and coverting their people -- forcibly, presumably -- to Christianity, and all the other crap.

These people are blind to something any thinking person can see: they have perverted Christianity to their own deviant ends (something I wrote about earlier). In fact, the current crop of "Christian" extremists has much more in common with the Taliban and other fundamentalists "Islamofascists" than they do with real Americans. These are the people who are doing their damnedest to drag us -- (formerly) the greatest nation on Earth -- into their ideal society: a 13th century theocracy.

These people need to go away. Now.

UPDATE: I should have pointed out originally that BlondeSense has been on my bloroll ever since I figured out how to make the damn thing work.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Forward into the Past

Well, now Mississippi, well-known bastion of thoughtful, insightful people is considering a ban on virtually all abortions. Like the recent bill in South Dakota, the Mississippi bill would allow abortions only to save the mother's life. Governor Haley "Bubba" Barbour said, "Why in hey-ell should I care 'bout them Nigras and demmy-crats? They ain't God-fearin', Christians like us, so Cheney 'em. An' hell, if wunna mah daughters gets knocked up, we'll just fly her butt upta Mass for a trip to th' clinic."

In other words, the mouth-breathin', Bible-thumpin', hooker-humpin', sister-marryin', rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup neocon wingnuts are doing their very best to drag the entire damn country back to the 9th century.

Bet NARAL and Planned Parenthood are real glad they supported Chaffee and Lieberman... both of whom voted to confirm Alito.