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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Thursday, December 04, 2003

posted by Jazz at 12/04/2003 10:11:00 AM

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Call Me Bubba

There's nothing of serious import here, but it struck an funny note with me.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/12/01/offbeat.name.bubba.ap/index.html

This guy legally changed his name to Bubba Bubba Bubba.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

posted by Jazz at 12/03/2003 01:18:00 PM

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The Straight Dope on Sneezing

I couldn't make this up if I tried. This is a report I dug up from Netscape Health News.


God bless you! Whether it's pollen or a spring cold, there's a whole lot of sneezing going on.

What makes us sneeze?
In addition to being a symptom of an underlying condition, such as allergies and colds, we sneeze when something irritates the membrane of the nose. Here are some of the reasons we sneeze, according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine and Discovery.com:

  • Foreign object in the nose, including particles of pepper, smoke, irritating chemical fumes, or gases
  • Withdrawal from opiate drugs
  • Stepping outdoors into bright sunlight, which even has a scientific name: Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome
  • Tweezing your eyebrows
  • Combing your hair
  • Rubbing the inner corner of your eye
  • Eating too much


Why you sneeze the way you do
It's in your genes, reports Discovery.com. Whether you sneeze once, twice, or thrice, you're genetically programmed this way so don't even think about trying to change it. "In my family it's three sneezes," says sneeze expert Roberta Pagon, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, "but someone else's family had eight." She said one of her sneezing subjects always sneezed 43 times when first exposed to bright sunlight.

How many times do YOU sneeze? Find your special sneezing pattern in this poem and see what you get for it:

-One for sorrow
-Two for joy
-Three for a letter
-Four for a boy.
-Five for silver
-Six for gold
-Seven for a secret, never to be told.

Why we say "God bless you" after someone else sneezes
The pope said so. That is, Pope Gregory the Great, who lived from 540 to 604 AD, said so. He happened to ascend to the Papacy just as the Bubonic plague took hold. Saying "God bless you" after someone sneezed was literally that--a blessing. Straightdope.com reports that when people sneezed, they were immediately blessed with a "God bless you" as a prayer to prevent them from getting the plague.

Sneezing superstitions (and none is true):

* Sneezing expels the soul.
* Your heart stops.
* Your eyes will pop out if you keep them open while you sneeze.
* Sneezing before breakfast is a sign you'll get exciting news before the end of the day.


By the way, I've read an entirely different background on why people say "God bless you" when you sneeze. Nothing to do with Gregory or the black plague. It was related to an ancient tradition of thinking that sneezine knocked invisible little devils off your shoulders.

Best of luck surviving the holiday shopping season.

Jazz

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

posted by Jazz at 12/02/2003 02:51:00 PM

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Touch Screen Voting Machines

We have had the technology now for a number of years which will allow people to vote in political elections safely. By 'safely' I simply mean that the interface could be clear and concise, leaving no doubt to the voter who they were choosing, and the machine could easily leave a trail, both paper and "soft copy" of the votes it recorded to allow auditing. IBM has had this technology since the mid nineties and has sold online rail ticket sales systems in Europe which could perform this function with only slight modifications.

In this article, Paul Krugman (with the New York Times) gives a rather chilling look at the choices we have made for the purchase of touch screen voting machines. The ones currently in use through a number of states (produced by Diebold) provide no paper trail, nor any method of monitoring performance or verifying vote totals and records.

This doesn't just raise questions of accuracy. It opens the door to potential fraud and abuse.

To quote Paul's article, "Georgia � where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections � relies exclusively on Diebold machines. To be clear, though there were many anomalies in that 2002 vote, there is no evidence that the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly. You see, Diebold machines leave no paper trail.

Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who has introduced a bill requiring that digital voting machines leave a paper trail and that their software be available for public inspection, is occasionally told that systems lacking these safeguards haven't caused problems. "How do you know?" he asks.

What we do know about Diebold does not inspire confidence. The details are technical, but they add up to a picture of a company that was, at the very least, extremely sloppy about security, and may have been trying to cover up product defects."


This is also a company that has flushed millions of dollars into the GOP for some time now, and who's CEO recently stated, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Yes, well he is most certainly within his rights to work for the party of his choice, but the phrase "deliver its electoral votes" is enough to give me some chills.

They, of course, claim that their system is as secure as a bird in its nest. However, a recent report on these machines and the software they run was not quite so glowing. Dr. Aviel D. Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins who wrote his Ph.D on computer cryptography, considers this system a disaster waiting to happen.

I'm not sure how much cash we've flushed into the pockets of yet another of Bush's cronies on this one. One thing I am certain of, though, is that if the President was looking for a good place to have friends in the next election, the guy making the voting machines is certainly a good place to start.

Monday, December 01, 2003

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:39:00 AM

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You Can Stop Working on the Gay Marriage Debate

It took a while, lots of reading, and both of my remaining brain cells in full overdrive, but I am ready to announce my plan to resolve this entirely. Please let your various governmental representatives know about this plan a.s.a.p. so it can be implemented at all levels.

Background Information:

First of all, the whole thing should have been a non-issue, but we messed it up. And this isn't recent news. We started messing it up back in Europe many centuries ago, and our US forefathers brought a lot of their baggage along with them when they settled these lands. More trash has been added on here in the years following.

Marriage started out as a strictly "club oriented" institution. It had no legal status or impact on anything whatsoever, and any "club" (i.e. religious body) could perform it for whomever they liked and refuse such services to whomever they liked. If we'd left things just that way, we'd have no problem today.

However, starting way back in the bad old days, we abandoned any concept of "separation of church and state" when it came to marriage. We not only paid homage to marriage as a legally binding institution, but we starting adding all sorts of laws and perks, etc. to cover it. None of them were needed and all are going to wind up doing more harm than good.
Giving tax breaks to people based solely on some state of union blessed by a religious organizations was a stupid idea. But now, the whole concept of marriage has become so deeply embedded in our legal system that we are able to disenfranchise all sorts of people who don't fit into the "normal acceptable" categories, because the "clubs" controlling
the marriage ceremonies don't want them. Sadly, this has the secondary effect of cutting them out of the benefits from the legal system and government that they might otherwise enjoy.

The Solution:

Step one. We need to completely redefine the terms "marriage" and "civil union." Marriages should only be performed by churches. Anybody can qualify to be in some sort of church. As I recall, I'm still an ordained minister in the California Church of the Howling Pines dating back to the seventies. (I sent in five bucks and a matchbook cover.) No matter who you are, what color you are, what religious choice, what sexual orientation, you can find somebody to marry you. Just look around. The government shouldn't be able to tell any church who they can or can't or should or shouldn't marry. Leave it up to the churches to decide who can get married and who can't. And who can be a church, for that matter. If you can't find one you care for to marry you and your partner, start one of your own. While we're at it, let's start taxing the churches too.

Civil unions should only be performed by authorized legal officials. (e.g. judge, justice of the peace, etc.) They should have the effect of legally recording your publicly declared your intention to live with the other person as your partner of choice. There should be absolutely no restrictions on who can enter into a civil union aside from being of the minimum age and mental competency to give legal consent. These will vary on a state to state basis, and that's fine.

Anyone who wishes may apply for and receive a civil union at the same time as they are married, or skip either of them as they choose.

Step Two. Remove any and all reference to marriage from all laws in the country. Remove all benefits of every kind associated with marriage in any way. Inform all other business entities, schools, you name it, that they will not have rules regulating anything referring to marriage. The term will be replaced with "civil union" where appropriate. Then go and
find the least harmful and unbalancing benefits in our system and assign them to civil unions.

For some examples, I see no reason why anybody needs a tax break above and beyond what two people living together get simply because they are married and/or in a civil union. Giving a tax break to people raising kids, based on the number of children, is just fine and anyone raising children, adopted or naturally born, should get it with no regard for marital or civil union status.

Hospitals should be able to restrict access for visitation in some cases to family members, for example. It's a good idea. And if you make them replace the term "husband or wife" with "civil union partner" it works out just fine.

These are only a couple examples of both governmental and civilian institutions where we'll need to root out these rules and either strike them entirely or re-write them. But it will be worth the effort.

There are far too many benefits and complications in the tax codes, and in fact many outdated laws (you can't engage in sex with so-and-so unless you are married, etc.) which are tied into marriage, and really shouldn't be tied into civil unions either. We could cut out huge sections from our legal and tax codes, strip down and simplify the whole system, and end this stupid debate over who can marry who, all in one fell swoop.

There. Debate over. You have your answer. Go forth and prosper.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:24:00 AM

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The Oct. 27th Richard Reeves commentary was too precious not to share. This is about Dubya's visit to the Phillippines that week, but the closing bits could have the word "Iraq" subsituted for that country and it would play just the same. I'm guessing there was an unwritten message about Iraq here, but why Reeves didn't even bring it up beyond an indirect
statement from an American GI in Baghdad at all is a mystery to me.

http://richardreeves.com/
It's the 10/27/03 article. I'll include a snippet of the intro below just to whet your appetite.
*******************************************

WASHINGTON -- "America is proud of its part in the great story of the
Filipino people," said President Bush to a joint session of the Congress
of the Philippines last week. "Together our soldiers liberated the
Philippines from colonial rule."

Unfortunately, we then killed more than 200,000 Filipinos. Almost all of
the dead were civilians, killed in the two years after we liberated them
from the Spanish in 1898. One of our generals there, a cranky Civil War
veteran named Jacob Smith, told his men: "I wish you to kill and
burn...I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in
actual hostilities against the United States."

"How young?" asked Major Waller Tazewell Waller (cq) of the United
States Marines. "Ten years and up," said General Smith.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:21:00 AM

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The Muqawama

A quick look at the U.S. from the Corriere della Sera, in Milan. I was
unfamiliar with the term "muqawama" before this. It's an interesting
perspective.

http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Esteri/Editoriali/Allam/allam_eng031103.shtml

I'll include a choice bit from the article here, but the link above is an English
translation from the original Italian.
__________________________________________________________-
{begin quoted text from article}

It was a baptism in blood for the muqawama, or resistance, in Iraq. The
word muqawama implies a very positive dimension of existence and
exercises an irresistible attraction on young people seeking a value
system that will provide gratification in this life and the next. Until
yesterday, muqawama referred almost exclusively to Palestinian fedayeen
militias fighting Israel. Now, it is used mainly to indicate fighters
resisting the ihtilal, or occupation, as the Iraqis invariably call the
American military presence.

The bullhorn bellowing for the sanctification of the Iraqi muqawama is
the Al Jazeera Arab-language TV station. Its Baghdad correspondent
gleefully explained that the downing of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was
a "quality leap for the resistance."

"Now," the correspondent went on, "the resistance is capable of
attacking the occupying forces not just on the ground but also in the
air." Seen from the other side of the fence, the "day of death" for
American soldiers in Iraq is the "mother of all celebrations."

The attacks in Iraq are now routinely called al muqawama in
Arab-language media, which is symptomatic of a deeply rooted, gut-level,
anti-Americanism. The foreign ministers of the six states neighboring
Iraq, plus Egypt, meeting in Damascus on Sunday, condemned the
"terrorist attacks against civilians, humanitarian and religious
institutions, embassies, and international organizations", but made no
mention of the attacks on Americans. It is likely that the foreign
ministers, too, consider the attacks to be not terrorism but legitimate
actions of resistance.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:16:00 AM

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Charting Corporate Crime

I don't normally keep up with Citizen Works. It's a good organization,
but being as it was founded by Ralph Nader it tends to lean a bit
further to the left than I'm comfortable with. However, Lee Drutman of
CW wrote a piece this weekend that I though was worthy of note.

The FBI, each year, releases an annual report on crime in America and
its cost to the country in dollars. It's a useful report, giving law
enforcement some good data to help determine where to allocate law
enforcement funding. But it only covers eight basic areas of violent
crime. The government doesn't force them to track or report on white
collar corporate crime in this fashion, so they don't.

I'll provide a link to the entire article below, but there was one
section of his argument as to why the FBI should begin tracking
corporate plundering that I thought worthy of mention in this august forum.

*******************************
"Using conservative numbers issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for
instance, criminologist Jeffrey Reiman, a professor at American
University, estimated that the total cost of white-collar crime in 1997
was $338 billion. The actual cost is probably much greater. For
instance, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of
Congress, estimates that health-care fraud alone costs up to $100
billion each year. Another estimate suggests that the annual cost of
antitrust or trade violations is at least $250 billion. By comparison,
the FBI estimated that in 2002, the nation's total loss from robbery,
burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson was almost $18
billion. That's less than a third of the estimated $60 billion Enron
alone cost investors, pensioners and employees.

But corporate crime isn't just about the money. It's also about people's
lives. The national murder rate has hovered around 16,000 a year in
recent years. (In 2002, the FBI reported 16,204 murders.) But a
respected group of occupational health and safety investigators, led by
J. Paul Leigh, a UC Davis School of Medicine professor, has estimated
that in 1992 alone there were 66,971 deaths resulting from job-related
injuries and occupational diseases. These numbers do not include the
thousands of annual deaths caused by cancers linked to corporate
pollution, deaths from defective products, tainted foods and other
corporate-related causes."
***********************************
(end quoted text from article)

It's a pretty good analysis. Should you care to read the entire thing,
it's available at the Citizen Works website, or in the LA Times at this link.

If you aren't registered for the LA Times (or most other online papers)
it's free to register and you can use a throwaway hotmail account, or
similar, to get access at no cost without opening up the spam flood
gates. I'm registered for papers in most US cities and a few overseas
and I find it helpful.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:09:00 AM

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Shooting up at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals

Upon reflection, I understand that the 9th Circuit Court is based in San
Francisco. As such, perhaps they feel that there is some sort of
unspoken expectation that they are supposed to be wacky and do a lot of
drugs. But even with that sort of burden of appearance, surely there
must be some mechanism in place to stop them from continually making
rulings that are, quite simply, stolen in whole cloth from used scripts
from the sixties television series "Lost in Space."

Now they have apparently reinstated a law suit where plaintiffs are
attempting to sue gun manufacturers for, (*gasp*) making guns.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/11/20/gun.lawsuits.ap/index.html

There are two sides to the whole gun debate, and I feel that both sides
have valid points to make. I'm also aware that it's a very controversial
issue which sparks strong feelings on both sides. I happen to believe in
the rights of American citizens who have never committed a felony to own
a gun, within reason [1], for hunting, sport target practice, home
defense, collecting, etc. Other people are very firmly in the camp of
saying, "Guns are bad, mmmmmkay?" If you don't support gun ownership,
I'll defend your right to your opinion as well. But at this moment in
time, from a strictly legal perspective, it is legal for people to
responsibly own guns under certain restrictions.

However if we, as a nation, want to eliminate the private ownership of
guns, then I think you need to stop the pussyfooting around and just
make them illegal entirely. No guns. Period. The answer is not to allow
somebody to set their sights on a group of deep pockets and sue them for
billions of dollars to "teach them a lesson." That's like allowing
farmers to continue growing millions of tons of government subsidized
tobacco every year, and some of the richest companies in the world to
keep pumping out Marlboros, while allowing smokers to sue the companies.
Cigarettes are bad, mmmmmkay? If everyone agrees on that, outlaw them.
Don't sue the companies getting rich making them while you continue to
allow their manufacture to be legal.

This case is suing Glock and some of their partners for selling a
handgun that wound up being used in a murder in Los Angeles by a
convicted felon who shouldn't have had a gun. Sounds good, right? But
here's the catch. Glock sold the gun to a police department in
Washington state. They police department subsequently sold the gun to a
dealer as part of a trade to get them a different model. That dealer
sold it to a private dealer who worked various gun shows who then sold
the weapon illegally to a convicted felon at that gun show.

Who do you sue in a case like that? The felon? The gun show dealer? The
police department? No, of course not! They don't have any money! But
Glock as billions. Let's sue them.

One of the most commonly used weapons in violent crimes are termed by
police as "weapons of opportunity." Among these, along with baseball
bats, bottles and staplers, one of the most common are kitchen knives. I
just checked in our kitchen and, as part of a wedding gift we received,
I have a meat/veggie knife with a seven inch long blade, one inch wide
at the base, stainless steel and sharper than don wheeler's tongue when
commenting on Don Rumsfeld. If I came at you with that bad boy, having
malice aforethought, unless you were extremely good at martial arts I
could slay you in a moment. When will we start suing the good people at
Ronco for making such lethal weapons? Hell, nobody even does a
background check before selling you kitchen knives, and they kill far
more people than handguns.

Suing gun manufacturers for legally manufacturing a product which is
later used in a malicious fashion is nothing more than blatant
profiteering by the litigious, and a barefaced attempt by misguided
courts to do an end around attack on gun ownership which they have not
been able to manage because of that pesky second amendment to the
constitution. And this needs to stop.
______________________________________________________
[1] I will note here that I support the right of qualified citizens to
own "guns" where the term "gun" is understood to be within a reasonable
range of weapons suitable for their legal purposes. These can range
anywhere from a .22 or .25 caliber handgun, or a 410 gage shotgun, all
the way up to 9 mm pistols, 30:06 rifles, and other guns of like power.
I see no reason for the average citizen to have a Howitzer, a brace of
grenades, a 50 caliber machine gun, a cannon, or anything like that.
It's very hard to defend your home from a burglar or kill a rabbit for
dinner using a mortar. I do not define such items as "guns" and would
rather we define them as "weapons of war" or some more appropriate term.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:04:00 AM

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Let's hear it for Chuck Schumer.

I sent Chuck Schumer a very nice, long letter last week, praising him
for his work in leading the fight to shut down the so called "energy
bill" that Tom DeLay has been trying to rifle through the approval
process. Old Chuck even talked a number of republicans into voting to
continue the debate and not pass that abomination.

For those who don't belong to the organization and get the e-mail
updates, you can get some more information on this at:
http://www.moveon.org/

In case you feel like giving old Chuck a pat on the back for taking a
stand like this, you can do so online here:

http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Then, when you get to wondering why, after all of her speeches on the
Senate floor about how the energy bill has problems, needs revisions,
etc. etc. our old friend Billary Clinton somehow *FAILED* to log a vote
on this, you can give her hell by writing to her:

stupiduselessbitch@carpetbaggers.nit

errrr... no, wait. Wrong address.Try this one:

http://clinton.senate.gov/email_form.html

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:03:00 AM

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This "act" has been in effect now since 1933. Were you aware that every
president has continued the state of "emergency" for seventy years?
------------------------------------------------------
National Emergency Act Continues to Grant Bush Generalized War Powers

Despite the non-existence of an Iraqi threat, our President has
reinstated the National Emergencies Act granting the President
comprehensive war-powers.

Source: TheTip, 2002-10-12 00:00:00.000

Candidate: President George Bush


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 12, 2002

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d))
provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless,
prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President
publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice
stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the
anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the
enclosed notice, stating that the emergency posed by the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems declared by
Executive Order 12938 on November 14, 1994, as amended, is to continue
in effect beyond November 14, 2002, to the Federal Register for
publication. The most recent notice continuing this emergency was
published in the Federal Register on November 13, 2001 (66 FR 56965).

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of
delivering them continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to
the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.
Therefore, I have determined the national emergency previously declared
must continue in effect beyond November 14, 2002.

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,
November 6, 2002.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:02:00 AM

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"When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to
build a castle on a swamp, but I built it just the same, just to show
'em. And it sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one
sank into the swamp. So I built a third. The third one burned down, fell
over, and THEN sank into the swamp. But the FOURTH one, laddie... the
fourth one STAYED up! And that's what you're going to get, Son, the
strongest castle in all of England."

God bless Monty Python

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 10:01:00 AM

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http://www.ilovekarlrove.com/

No, you read that correctly. It's a shortened URL version of the sentence, "I love Karl Rove."

(My apologies to anyone who passed out and is just now coming around.)

It's ..... it's .....

There's really not much more to say.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 09:56:00 AM

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Well, that's apparently my Viking Name.

You can find yours at:

http://www.thequarter.org/Media/VikingName.php

J�frei�r Goatsmasher

Your Viking Personality: You're a fearsome Viking, but you aren't completely uncivilized. The other Vikings make fun of you for that. Unlike most Vikings, you don't have a quick temper; you tend to think about your actions before you undertake them. Sometimes you think too long. You probably know which end of a sword to hold, but you're not a fearsome fighter by any stretch of the imagination.

A long sea voyage aboard a Viking longboat would be difficult for you, but you might be able to manage it. You possess some skills which other Vikings respect.

You have a fairly pragmatic attitude towards life, and tend not to expend effort in areas where it would be wasted. Other people tend to think of you as manipulative and conniving.

posted by Jazz at 12/01/2003 09:50:00 AM

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Strange revisions to the format. My apologies for a "test post" but this interface has changed on me, and it's not at all intuitive.