seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Rants

Sometimes you just gotta let loose

A Stunning Assertion

From the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States:

Since 2002, the world has seen extraordinary progress in the expansion of freedom,
democracy, and human dignity:

    The peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq have replaced tyrannies with democracies.

WOW.

A couple of elections and you got a democracy eh? Strikes me that Iran probably qualifies as having more democratic structures than Iraq. Possibly Afghanistan also.

This is simply absurd. You want to know why government has such a bad rep? Because it goes and says stupid shit like this.

You can claim that Iraq is better off now than it was in 2002. You would be wrong, but it is probably more defensible than simply throwing it in the democracy column.

The people making national security policy in the United States must love their dream world. I almost feel sick the more I think about how deluded the people are who get to make all these decisions.

Running

So Bush has finally found his veto pen. He vetoed a bill that would have allowed stem cell research when the stem cells come from embryos that would be destroyed anyway.

These embryos exist and will nearly all die - a miniscule number might be adopted. Rather than using these stem cells for research to cure disease, they will chill in the freezer or be destroyed. While the issue of stem cell research is certainly tricky from an ethics perspective, stem cells are incredibly important for future medical advances.

While my personal interest is certainly not as pressing as those suffering from fatal or crippling diseases, I would like to run again some day. My understanding is that this will only happen if we better understand stem cells so I could regrow proper cartilage in my ankle.

Fortunately, other countries are not so stupid as to allow a bunch of Christian fundamentalists decide important medical policy. These people don't even believe in evolution - the absolute foundation of all medical science today. Yet they are deciding how what we can study in the future.

Should I ever have the chance to repair my ankle, I'll gladly pay the non-U.S. based corporation that develops the procedure.

Bush's aim has been to expand U.S. empire. In the short term, he may have succeeded. Yet his policies have trashed the budget surplus, created a new unwinable war (or two, or three), increased U.S. enemies, and generally mismanaged this country while not even appeasing his base with the public executions of homosexuals. For someone who has long opposed U.S. empire, watching its rotting foundation is a bittersweet experience.

This is to say nothing of Bush's insane non-response to the emerging Lebanese-Israeli war. There is one single group who benefits from this latest bit of insanity. This group is defined by those Islamo-fascists who want to destroy Western Civilization and kill all the Jews. Everyone else loses. Every single Hezbollah fighter who dies at Israeli hands spawns tens (hundreds?) who become willing to take up arms (strap on bombs is actually more accurate) against what they perceive as the U.S.-Jewish conspiracy to destroy their communities and their faith.

Israel has been down the path of occupying Lebanon. They know it will not bring the peace it needs. Yet how can it not act? And what can the Lebanese do? These problems are not easy to solve. But we absolutely how not to solve them - and Bush's encouraging Israel to destroy Lebanon is absolutely how not to solve this conflict.

AT&T

Pick your poison. When it comes to telecommunications companies, there is no good choice. Each company is miserable in its own, unique way. Dan Gillmor offers more reasons to hate AT&T.

The upshot is that AT&T has changed its policies so its customers can expect even less privacy than previously. Now it won't be illegal for AT&T to hand over phone call logs and the sort. Awesome.

Comcast Sux

I am jumping on the anti-Comcast bandwagon. This bandwagon picked up a pair of wings with the viral video of an install guy sleeping on the home owner's couch. At any rate, I can say that both Comcast in Minnesota and in Oregon are leaving much room for future improvement.

Here in Oregon, I have Comcast cable with their HD DVR. Although I was thrilled that they installed my box the same day I called, they gave me a broken cable box. Days later, they replaced it. One week later it shut itself off while I was in Portland, missing many of the recordings I had scheduled. When I took the unit to a Comcast store, they told me that the unit was fine but it shut itself off because it was not registered to my account. Apparently the install tech guy (though awake the whole time) had failed to properly submit the paperwork.

So I took it home and waited. 20 minutes later, I called tech support and they first told me they had no record of my account under my phone number. It had been entered incorrectly by the (not sleeping) install guy. So we fixed that. Then I got a friendly tech who sent some signals to my box and got it working.

For two weeks.

Now when I watch stuff, it pauses and jerks suddenly. Sometimes it just stops and gives me an error code. So I called those friendly tech folks. Apparently I have a defective unit. Again. Not to worry, this happens alot. It happened to my tech a couple of times, but now his unit works well (on one of its two tuners). The problem is the Motorola devices. Motorola is no longer making Comcast devices because they are stupid. Now Panasonic will be making the units, but those won't be rolled out for many months. Woot.

As if it isn't enough that Comcast cannot fulfill its duties as a cable provider, when I called their tech line most recently, I had a to wait past a commercial for some upcoming pay-per-view bullshit before they would give me the menu. Forcing me to listen to commercials while waiting for an operator is in bad taste. Forcing me to listen to commercials before allowing me to get in line to wait for an operator is just infuriating.

I'm really glad that deregulation brought me the ability to choose a different provider. Oh wait - that was fantasy land. This is the real world, where nearly all markets are dominated by one or (if you are super lucky) two! choices.

In the meantime, I have to find a time to return this unit to get it swapped with a (working?) unit. I don't want to do this in the middle of World Cup games, so it will have to be at a convenient time.

Meanwhile, back in good ole' Minnesotah, Comcast is possibly worse. I don't think they can blame contractors for their problems there.

Walchka and I have decided to cancel our home phone. Due to our cell phones and the fact we rarely use the phone, we have been paying for it for no reason. So I called Comcast (also our cable and internet provider) to cancel the phone. The lady was quite nice. She even confirmed (twice I think) that we wanted to cancel the phone while keeping the internet and the cable. I believe she did this in order to make sure Comcast didn't do something silly, like cancel all our services when we would still like to have cable and internet.

Comcast did something silly. They cancelled everything apparently. Way to go. The moral of the story is to go with DirecTV and Tivo. Don't mess with Comcast if you can avoid it.

MLK's Heritage

Some things make me want to grab a baseball bat and wreak some vigilante justice. Consider this item from Mother Jones article called "Intellectual Property Run Amok."

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’s estate charges academic authors $50 for each sentence of the “I Have a Dream” speech that they reprint.

This strikes me as a horrible blow against MLK's legacy. I'm not sure how they justify it, but I would like to hear their argument. Even if that money goes to a good cause, I am horrified that his great speeches and papers are not in the public domain.

Homeland Security

9-11 was no wake up call. Post 9-11 security dollars are little more than pork to our short-sighted Congresspeople who care nothing for the future. Their collective attitude can properly be summed up by Mad's famous line, "What, me worry?"

So when the next "natural" disaster strikes or terrorists achieve some sort of attack on us and our first responders are woefully inadequate and are still unable to communicate with each other, we should not be surprised. In fact, we should just go about our business and note our collective decision not to prepare.

"Homeland Security on the Range" by JoAnn Wypijewski details many of the ways our Homeland Security tax dollars have been used to make sure we aren't caught unaware again.

While preventing terrorism is quite difficult and likely to fall short of a 100% effectiveness rate, preparing the aftermath is quite easy. We have no excuse to be unprepared. Put simply, responding to terror attacks is little different from responding to any sort of disaster. Given the reality of global climate change, we know that we must be increasingly prepared to quickly respond to disasters that involve massive losses of life and property. But we don't. Instead, the U.S. government must literally be having contests to see how much money it can spend o the most useless projects. And citizens do not care.

SUVs

I just added a new rant about politics and SUV tax breaks to Energista!. In it, I take Mark Kennedy and other dissemblers to task over the current almost-debate on whether the U.S. should continue tax policies that encourage SUV purchases.

Pre 9-11 Thinking

Everytime I hear something about pre 9-11 thinking from this administration, I become a little bit more angry. Terrorism was not invented on 9-11. Nor was 9-11 the first time the United States had to deal with terrorism.

The simple fact is that President Clinton had made dealing with Osama a priority even if his administration made little progress. Whatever Clinton had done, the facts clearly show that Bush had done less before 9-11. If you doubt me, read the 9-11 report. Cheney was supposed to head up some anti-terror task force, but he was too busy appeasing energy lobbyists to even convene the anti-terror group ONCE. Despite warnings from Richard Clark.

In the end, it would appear that the only people that had a 9-11 mentality were the Bush Administration. More proof of this came from the text of Condoleeza Rice's speech which she was set to deliver on Sept 11, 2001 before Johns Hopkins University.

NSC officials said the speech was meant to be a broad look at the administration's efforts to fight terrorism. In it, Rice argued that the United States should build a missile defense system.

I've been listening to Al Franken's The Truth (with Jokes) on CD and he talks about this. Basically, she was going to lay out the security challenges for the United States and she was not going to mention Islamic terrorism. For those who say we didn't know, at that time, the threat from Islamic terrorists, try looking at the advice that Clinton Administration officials tried to give the incoming Bush Administration. Bush chose to ignore Islamic terrorism. Well, backburner it anyway. Perhaps he was waiting until his 10th month in office to spring into action on the issue.

The reason I bring this up is that the Administration continues to be in a pre 9-11 mindset! While Bush's Department of Homeland Security has decided that NY has little worth protecting against terrorism, Bush has found billions for the totally failed and useless missile defense program. Congress is totally complicit in this absurdity - wasting money on a stupid program that will never protect anyone when it could be better used in programs such as first reponders and disaster preparedness.

And when we get hit again, the government will act as though there was nothing it could have done to have been better prepared. And citizens will continue to do nothing to force accountability, choosing instead to allow the government to spy on us to greater and greater extents. Awesome.

Is This War?

daddYman sent me a piece today on HuffPo which posits, "Only cowards think we are at war." This is a salient piece that rightly puts islamofascist groups where they belong - as a nuisance and not a horrible threat.

But America is not under attack by an enemy force of any significance. We got sucker punched by 19 maniacs with box cutters. Republicans want us to run scared because of that for the rest of our lives. But the thing about a sucker punch is that you can't protect yourself against it. Any idiot can take the breath out of you, no matter how tough you are. But only cowards -- actually I think "scaredy cat" is more appropriate here -- live their lives worrying about such things. Of course you've got to do your best to stay alert -- in this context that means port, air and many other types of security. But freaking out and becoming paranoid leaves you more vulnerable, not more protected.

This guy does give Americans too much credit though. While the myth of America suggests that we are rugged individualists who love taking on challenges - it is a myth. Most people will respond in predictable ways when fed a steady diet of propaganda. Duh. It is effective. Nothing new here.

Most people believe we are at war because they are afraid of being attacked by terrorists and the Bush/Rumsfeld team is waging a war of attrition against U.S. troops by sending them on missions inspired by the book of Job (for my regular readers, that is a biblical reference).

We are not at war. We should not give up a civil liberties. But guess what? We should give them up any other time either. We should not have surrendered them to Clinton when the Dems wanted to pass anti-terror and anti-crime bills. We should not surrender them now.

This is not a matter of Dem V Repub (lol - DVR!) but rather a matter of whether citizens are going to safeguard their rights against the government. The myth of America is that citizens should have power of government. We don't. Most don't want the responsibility so long as they can watch compelling TV instead. I wonder how many deaths from Katrina, Iraq, and other "accidents" from supposedly regulated industries it will take before citizens stand up and demand accountable governance. Many, many more.

Vote D if you want to. Yeah, they appear to be less corrupt this year. Don't expect any big changes though. You are playing at the fringes.

Best of

City Pages published their annual "Best of the Twin Cities" article this week. I definitely take issue with several awards - but the interesting controversy has come from the Best Cheap Thrill category which is Crystal Meth. Apparently, this was supposed to be a joke.

I read it after I was told it was supposed to be funny. It was rather unclear that this was farcical - the only reason I would thought it was farcical came not from anything within it but the knowledge within my head that no one would honestly write this. Guh.

So they took a lot of heat over it. Hey guys, you aren't The Onion. Keep that in mind. If you want to do that kind of humor, subcontract it out to the people who know.

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