November 24, 2010

Jennifer Epstein of Politico reports that in an an interview with human events, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana wants to make Congress part-time.

“We used to pay farmers not to grow crops, let’s pay congressmen to stay out of Washington, D.C.,” Jindal said in an interview with Human Events. “Mark Twain said that our liberty, our wallets were safest when the legislature’s not in session.”

He is on the right track. In my post of October 18, I listed a number of changes that could make government work better. Governor Jindal’s suggestions parallel mine, to some extent.

I’m happy to know that there are those in politics who recognize that a real fix for government may have to involve more drastic changes than simple Congressional rules changes.

Hurrah for those political leaders who, like Governor Jindal, push for real changes to protect our liberties!



November 22, 2010

This tweet, from The Economist, “Long Life Spam: The Changing Landscape of Online Fraud” (Nov. 18, 2010), got me thinking about the chances we take when we surf the web with abandon:

Spammers also have become more sophisticated about exploiting trust. In few places is it granted more readily than on social-networking sites. Twitter, a forum for short, telegram-like messages, estimates that only 1% of its traffic is spam. But researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana show that 8% of links published were shady, with most of them leading to scams and the rest to Trojans. Links in Twitter messages, they found, are over 20 times more likely to get clicked than those in e-mail spam.

Facebook apparently is not immune to online fraud either. Some “friends,” may be anything but, even if we share mutual friends. There is so much interesting information on the web that the temptation is to wildly click from link to link to dine on the smörgåsbord. I suppose we do so at our peril. Thankfully, because I am a techno-idiot, my security software helps to protect me, but clicking on links still is quite risky. Just recently I clicked on a link in a website I trusted and found myself at a site advertising sex paraphenalia–not what I expected. (An aside: I don’t know what some of that stuff is used for.)

But such is the attraction to cyber-travel that I’m sure one day I will click on something and see my monitor begin to melt, and hear the death-rattle of my CPU.


November 19, 2010

TSA says that the folks who read the full-nekkid-body scanners are in separate rooms so nobody else can see the nekkid pictures of the people being scanned, and that the scanner readers can’t see the nekkid people’s heads, and that the nekkid pictures are deleted after people go through the scanners.

Well, pardon me if I think that’s bullshit. How do we know TSA is telling the truth? Because it tells us it is? They need to let me in a nekkid-scanner room so I can see for myself (and if I get a little peek at a nekkid woman, well, no biggie—just think of me as another TSA voyeur). And do you really think that the TSA folks aren’t going to keep just a few of those nekkid pictures? Ha. They’re probably on YouTube right now.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano suggests—and I’m paraphrasing—that we not get our knickers (the ones TSA can see through) in a twist; if we don’t want anyone to see us nekkid, then we have the option of a letting TSA employees feel us up instead (and from the way I heard a TSA groper describe in advance the groping procedure, some folks are gonna get a little charge out of that). Or we can drive, take a Greyhound or AMTRAK.

Homeland Security argues that violating the rights and sensibilities of Americans is necessary to protect us all from potential terrorist-engineered air disasters, never mind that air travel is always risky, even without terrorist activity. And what about terrorists getting on buses and trains? In the future will TSA make us go through nekkid scanners and submit to body pat-downs to get on a bus or train? And maybe terrorists will resort to hijacking cars, too. How can the administration keep us safe from that? Will we have to drive our vehicles through TSA full-nekkid-auto scanners, or have TSA auto-gropers crawl through our cars before we can leave the driveway?

Will Homeland Security put scanner and groper stations on each city block to prevent terrorists from walking down our streets? Will it put scanner and groper stations at the entrances to buildings? Where will this all stop? Ultimately, will Homeland Security make us walk around nekkid so we can’t hide anything?

Will Americans just forfeit their rights and liberties and submit to humiliation at the hands and scanners of TSA agents in the hope of uncertain protection against attacks by inept would-be terrorists? It is important to note that terrorist attacks have been foiled more by the terrorists themselves than by our security measures.

But I think I know how to get the administration to rethink the nekkid-scanner/government-groper policy. We just need to point out that they’ll be violating the rights, sensibilities and religious beliefs of potential terrorists by looking at them nekkid or subjecting them to full-body feel-ups, and I’m sure the administration will change the policy. After all, the administration has demonstrated more concern about the rights of non-citizens and alleged terrorists than those of air-traveling American citizens.


November 16, 2010

Last night I was complaining to no one in particular–only my black Labrador Retrievers Smut and Mischief were with me–about how miserable I felt because of a nasty cold.

Smut, attired in his favorite silk smoking jacket and fez, was sitting in an armchair quietly listening. Finally, tired, no doubt, of my complaining, he leaned back, took a couple of puffs on his cigar, and said, “Well, if you had listened to me yesterday, you could have short-circuited your cold, and you wouldn’t be sitting here all miserable and out-of-sorts.”

“What did you say to me yesterday?” I asked. “I don’t remember.”

“That’s another thing,” Smut replied, after taking a small sip of his favorite whisky. “You just don’t listen to me. How often you ignore me when I un-assertively suggest that we go for a walk. Walking is good for you, by the way.”

“Yes, but what did you say yesterday?” I asked again. I was quite short with him, I’m afraid.

“No need to get upset,” he said calmly, putting his cigar on the edge of the ashtray and leaning forward a little. “I advised you to step out back and eat some grass. That’s what I do when I feel bad, you know. It works very well.” He sat back, crossed his legs, picked up his whisky and smiled at me.

“That doesn’t work for humans,” I said, laughing at him.

Smut puffed on his cigar again and, raising an eyebrow, asked, “How do you know? Have you ever done it?”

“Of course not,” I replied derisively, sniffing and coughing.

Exhaling a cloud of smoke, he said with a distinctively superior air, “There you are, then. Don’t look down your nose at me.”


November 16, 2010

In a White House ceremony today President Obama presented a Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. While lauding Sgt. Giunta, the president said, “Now, I’m going off script for a moment,” at which point the sphincters of a dozen White House advisors and handlers no doubt (and perhaps audibly) tightened, and their hearts collectively jumped within their chests. We offer prayers for their quick recovery.


November 3, 2010

Did you know that Pfizer forces pills down people’s throats, Smith & Wesson shoots people and General Dynamics wages war? Yep. Some regulation-loving, responsibility averse do-gooders allege that drug manufacturers are responsible for people’s addictions, firearms manufacturers are responsible for gun deaths and weapons manufacturers are responsible for wars. Law suits filed against companies like the ones mentioned have resulted in large awards for plaintiffs. Reference what happened to tobacco companies.

Do these people realize how stupid that is? Doesn’t someone have to pull a trigger? Doesn’t someone have to put the pills in his mouth and swallow? Doesn’t someone have to push a button to fire a missile? Could hot smoke from burning vegetation drawn deeply into your lungs possibly be harmful?

Today I caught the last few minutes of the Diane Rhem Show on NPR. The topic was “DNA Sequencing & Personal Genomics (http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-11-03/dna-sequencing-personal-genomics ).” I didn’t hear the introduction of the guests, so I don’t know which one commented—I’m paraphrasing here—that driving home past 10 fast-food restaurants also put him at risk for obesity.

Now, I suppose that the comment was intended to discount to some extent the role of genetics in obesity, but it sounded as if the speaker were assigning some of the blame for obesity to fast-food restaurants. Indeed, some have alleged that MacDonald’s is a major cause of Americans’ obesity.

That is just anti-capitalist shite. If people didn’t want to buy Big Mac’s, there would be no MacDonalds. “Yes, your honor, I was driving home, minding my own business when Bojangles placed a tractor beam on my vehicle, pulled me in, restrained me, and forced me under threat of anorexia to gnaw all the meat off a fried-chicken leg.” “Well, yes, Judge, I admit, it was pretty tasty.”

Fast-food restaurants (and candy manufacturers, soft-drink companies and—yum!—Krispy Kreme) are not villains—they’re legal businesses that provide what people want, and people want them to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

If you’re overweight and have a grudge against MacDonalds and other fast-food purveyors, don’t eat biggie-sized double quarter pounders! Don’t buy a dozen Krispy Kremes and eat them all! Use your will power and exercise some self-restraint, and take some responsibility for your own actions.

Writing this post has made me pretty hungry. Excuse me please, while I get a cup of coffee and just a half-dozen Krispy Kremes.


November 3, 2010

The outcome of the mid-term election, in which the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, and the Democrats retained control of the Senate, means that Congress will not be able to conduct meaningful business for the next two years. Thank God!

Whenever there is gridlock in Congress, the American people are well-served. Last night I switched television channels frequently to see how the news media treated this emerging change in government. For the most part, the pundits agreed with my conclusion that little would be accomplished in Congress for the next two years, but most did not think that was a good thing. Comments like, “the American people want the government to take care of the business of the people,” made me wince. That is why we are IN such a sorry mess: Congress has been conducting business, spending more money, expanding its power over the American people, and generally fucking up everything they address.

As for the message the people sent in the vote last night, it was not that they like Republicans; rather, it was that they want jobs and they don’t want government-run health care. Republicans are reading into the result that people want limited federal intrusion into their lives, so that’s now the party mantra–not that they believe it or will practice it, given their track record. But in the event, they’re wrong; Americans will accept big government if they have jobs and can live fairly well economically. Does anyone think that the Republicans would have won last night if the state of the economy had been good?

So, given that Americans are not as discriminating about the size and power of the federal government as Republicans think, and are not as accepting of socialist health care and higher taxes as the Democrats think, the best we Libertarians can hope for is that Americans keep voting for split government so that neither party gets total control and gets what they want. That’s a sorry state of affairs, but we’ll take it for now.