Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Constitution - Top Secret

This is the lead from a story in today’s New York Times:

“In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.”

Although most experts believe that this activity has been driven primarily by the CIA and other spy agencies, the Times article described the general feeling among historians, that

“it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act.”

In a related story, not reported on by the major media, mounting evidence collected by this writer over the past 5+ years suggests that the White House has ordered the highest level of secrecy regarding a certain document titled the “Constitution of the United States.” It seems that provisions of this document are considered by the Bush administration to be a threat to presidential authority and national security. Despite my numerous inquiries, Bush spokespeople will neither deny nor confirm the existence of any such Constitution. I’ll keep investigating this one.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Your Senator Does Not Need a Free iPod

When I first heard about this, I thought it was a joke. Now I have confirmed that the Intellectual Property Action Committee ("IPac")is raising money to give video iPods to all members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

IPAC feels that these senators need a first-hand experience to better understand the issues of digital rights management (drm). The iPods will come pre-loaded with "examples of the cultural richness made possible by sharing and collaboration - public domain content, Creative Commons content, and audio messages about the importance of balanced copyright policy. It will be engraved with the words "listen to the people." And it will arrive at each Senator's campaign office with a letter of explanation and a list of all the people who helped pay for it."

I predict a few things will happen with these iPods:

  • Hopefully at least some of the senators will say "no thank you"
  • Many of them will be given away to children or granchildren, unopened
  • Pretty much all of the pre-loaded content will be deleted without ever being listened to - assuming the senators can figure out how

Regardless of what happens to these devices, it's absurd to think it will have any impact on the drm issue.

One interesting note: this appears to be a non-partisan issue. The list of senators for whom IPAC has purchased iPods so far is split pretty evenly between red and blue. I'm hoping that at least Barbara Boxer and John Kerry will fall into my "no thank you" category, though I doubt it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Al Qaeda HR Policies

According to a story from CNN today, West Point has released two studies regarding the organizational structure of Al Qaeda. Incredibly, this terrorist organization offers a better vacation policy than most US corporations. This is similar to other research about gangs that offer disability payments and death benefits to members and their families. Of course, Al Qaeda and the Crips do demand unquestioning loyalty from their members, who have an above-average chance of being killed under extremely violent and painful circumstances. Wait, maybe they're not that much different than some American corporations? I wasn't comforted much by the reports that the miners killed recently in Pennsylvania "didn't suffer."

Here's my favorite part of the CNN story, or read the whole thing:
Indeed, some of the documents used by researchers indicate that al Qaeda has vacation plans -- seven days every three weeks for married members, five days a month for bachelors -- and provides its members with 15 days of sick leave a year.

One document states that al Qaeda operatives must request vacation 10 weeks in advance, and another document outlines the pay scale for members: about $108 a month for married members, less if they're single and more if they have more than one wife.
This kind of plan probably wouldn't work in the US. You couldn't pay me enough to have more than one wife!

DIY - DNA

I saw this product displayed with the impulse items at the Party City check out last night. Not totally sure why, but I find the whole concept extremely disturbing. Pardon the grainy pics. It's the first time using my handy new phone/pda/camera.



From the maker:

The easy and effective way to keep your child's personal records!
The kit includes:
-One disposable camera
-One personal profile sheet
-One non-toxic ink strip for fingerprinting
-One DNA bag

The personal profile sheet enables you to record a Complete Physical Profile of your child, which includes:

-Space for a color photo
-Height, weight and date-of-birth
-Physical Characteristics (birthmarks)
-Blood Type
-Medical Information
-Medical conditions and medications
-Allergies
-Finger Prints
-Instructions for saving hair for DNA
-Dental Chart

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pottymouth

The first time I was suspended from school was in the second grade. It started when I told Mrs. Berghart that flashcards were stupid (I already knew the multiplication and division tables way beyond what we were reviewing.) She responded by slapping me in the face, which I responded to by calling her a “retard.” Not a politically correct insult, but I was seven. Although I believe this event triggered a lifelong hatred of school and difficulty dealing with authority figures, I’m still proud of myself for standing up to the man (or woman in this case) at such a young age.

Now, fast forward 30 years…

When you have children, you try to teach them right from wrong and hope that they won’t repeat your mistakes of the past. Now, I’ve been known to use a few four letter words every so often – OK quite frequently. I learned it from my dad who spent much of his life working with truck drivers. [Please don’t send me e-mail complaining that I’m making an unfair sweeping generalization about truck drivers. I’m not judging them, just stating the fact that these guys at my dad’s factory liked to swear a lot.] Despite my liberal views towards song lyrics (see American Idiot’s Guide to Parenting in this Blog), I do make a strong effort to watch my language in front of the kids.

I never thought I would ever quote Bill Cosby, but indeed “kids say the darndest things.” My daughter Becca is 18 months old and has quite a good vocabulary, though it’s sometimes hard to understand what she is saying. Occasionally she has to use a nebulizer, which is like an asthma inhaler that shoots medicine for 10 minutes at a time. We have no idea why, but Becca has named this device something that sounds remarkably like “fuck.” Every time she sees the nebulizer she points to it, and in her innocent baby voice, says “fuck…fuck…fuck…” We have no idea whether she is trying to say a different word, or where she might have heard this four letter word.

Well, earlier this week we received a very concerned phone call from the head teacher at Becca’s daycare. It seems they are quite concerned that she has been using the “F” word and that they are afraid the other kids might start repeating. We assured the teacher that we don’t use this word in front of her. I also explained that sometimes we call the blue tube on the front of the nebulizer mouthpiece the “elephant’s trunk.” Maybe she was trying to say trunk? That was really sort of an excuse because she really can say trunk.

Now we have a problem. There really is no effective way to modify the vocabulary of an 18 month old. But, I don’t want other parents to blame our kid for teaching everyone to talk like truck drivers. I also want to defend my record for being the youngest kid in the family to be suspended from school.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You Just Can't Make this Stuff Up

I was trying to think of something funny and clever to say about Cheney shooting his hunting buddy, Harry Whittington. But, it seems like the late night guys - Jon Stewart in particular - have beaten the topic to death (or at least pumped it full of lead.) Today Mr. Whittington suffered a heart attack. Will Cheney show any remorse if the guy dies from this? So far the VP’s camp has tried to blame Whittington for getting shot because he didn't "follow proper protocol." Will anyone investigate what really happened? When a regular citizen is involved there is usually an investigation into this sort of thing, even if it appears to be an accident. Chances of a real investigation are pretty slim in this case.

It doesn't take much effort to find fault and poke fun at this administration. The way they operate is like a caricature of itself. Too bad the cynic in me still feels that no matter what these guys do, the Democrats will find a way to blow the mid-term elections and 2008. This is one time when I hope to be wrong.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

American Idiot's Guide to Parenting

My five year old son, Max has excellent taste in music. I attribute this to two factors:
  1. When Pamela was seven months pregnant, we went to a Barenaked Ladies concert. From birth, Max has reacted positively anytime he hears BNL. For the last few months his favorite CD has been the BNL live holiday concert that I (legally) downloaded from the band's web site.
  2. We try to expose our kids to "real" music and not just kids stuff (no Raffi in our collection)

The other day while riding in the car, Max wasn't really enjoying The Essential Johnny Cash that I was playing. I suppose The Man in Black is an acquired taste. So, I asked what he would like to hear. He responded, "how about some Green Day?" I'm so proud!

Too bad the new Bullet in a Bible CD has one of these annoying Tipper Gore labels on the front.

I certainly abhor the fact that someone (not sure who, actually) is deciding what music is appropriate for my children. Although some parents might not want there children hearing some of the 4-letter words favored by Green Day, I prefer to make this decision on my own. My rule of thumb was to skip any songs that say "fuck" more than 2-3 times. Probably not the same standard followed by the people that put the little b&w warning label on the front.

This did, however, give me an idea for a new sort of warning label. I can think of some music, web sites, and a particular TV network (rhymes with box) that should carry this label.

If you are looking for some kid-friendly music that doesn’t suck, here’s a few of our favorites:

And, if you’re in the market for a video, your can’t miss with ElmoPalooza. I know this seems like commercialism that doesn't fit with my music choices above. But, when Jon Stewart teams up with the Muppets, how can that be bad?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Right to lifence plate

So, there I was. Minding my own business. Driving down I-95 through Westport having a perfectly fine day. As I approach the slow moving vehicle ahead of me, I catch a glimpse of the license plate.
What's the deal with that? I almost rear-ended the woman. Not so much as a political statement, but in my horror I forgot all about driving. These plates have been around for a while, somehow I just hadn't noticed. And, I must have missed Bill O'Reilley's feature story.

Some quick research revealed that fund-adoption.org has sponsored these plates in NY, NJ, and CT. Mississippi seems to be next on their list. They've done much of this work with funding from various anti-abortion groups and (I believe, but can't prove) the Catholic church. Certainly I'm a strong supporter of adoption. But, this specialty plate is merely a mechanism for the right to have the state DMVs do their fundraising work.

Now, here's where it really raises my level of pissedoffedness (if that's not a word yet, I'm sure Steven Colbert can work on it for me.) In NY and NJ, fund-adoption.org faced numerous legal challenges and even had to sue Gov. Pataki before they were able to get their opinion stamped on a license plate. This is in ironic contrast to my wonderfully blue home state of Connecticut, where it seems they faced nary a challenge. Thank you Ex-Governer and convicted felon Rowland.

Given the legal decisions to date, it seems unlikely that production of these offensive license plates can be stopped. So, I'll try Plan B (pun intended). I searched the Connecticut DMV site and can't seem to find information on how to propose a new plate design. Nonetheless, I am officially starting my campaign to create a Pro-Choice license plate. Please contact me to add your name to the list of supporters. Suggestions for a graphic are welcome as well.

Hello World

Well, after resisting for a very long time, I've decided to start my own blog. I can't make any promises about how often I'll post, or if I'll have anything interesting to say. But, I will do my very best. Thanks for visiting.