Ending the Felony Rampage

You loyal readers have noticed I often spit upon proposals to create new felony crimes or bump existing infractions up into felonies (come on, jaywalking causes over $1000 damage to public safety?). Well, some other digitaluminaries are weighing in on this very subject, including Professor Reynolds and Robert Prather (Not Richard Prather, sorry Shell Scott fans).

Now, if each of us could convince one of our senators that this is a good idea, we’re a little under 6% of the way to reform! Well, not quite 6 percent, but closer than we are now.

Paranoia Would Have Paid Off

Techdirt is linking to a story about a guy who installed keylogger software on Kinko’s computers in Manhattan for years. He grabbed many, many sets of usernames and passwords and accounts before being caught.

How did he get caught?

A guy who used a remote access program called GoToMyPC to log into his home personal computer from Kinko’s. Several days later, as this poor sap was sitting at his home PC, he was startled to see the mouse cursor moving on its own and looking through his computer, and then the computer made a new bank account with the mark’s info, much to the mark’s surprise.

The mark logged into his home PC from Kinko’s! Class, how many security rules has this mark broken?

Is “Iris” a Love Song?

Some people seem to think that the Goo Goo Dolls’ song “Iris” is a love song.

Personally, I think it’s begging for a restraining order. Hell, I creeped out women with mere sonnets describing their beauty, much less anything with the lines of

You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll
Ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

Or

When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

John Hinckley, Jr., might have hummed this tune were it around in 1981.

Book Report: We Can’t Go Home Again by Clarence E. Walker

Since I read a lot and nothing good seems to come of it, I’ve decided to do a bit of brief book reviewing for you, my five Internet readers. I shall incorporate some puppetry for the sixth person who cannot read but logs in for the soothing blue tones.

I have just completed We Can’t Go Home Again: An Argument about Afrocentrism by Clarence E. Walker, a professor at University of California at Davis. It’s a highly academic book, as the 31 pages (out of 164) are end notes, and it’s split into only two chapters: “If Everybody was King, Who Built the Pyramids: Afrocentrism and Black American History” (83 pages) and “‘All God’s Dangers Ain’t a White Man’ or ‘Not All Knowledge Is Power'” (50 pages). Personally, this limitation (only two chapters) rather makes it difficult to read, since the organization of the material in the macrochapters is not readily apparent (by the subdivision).

Instead, we have super-sized chapters ill-suited for consumption by a McDonald’s audience. The first chapter, “If Everybody was King, Who Built the Pyramids: Afrocentrism and Black American History”, is the pure science of the book. Walker examines certain tenets of Afrocentric thought, such as Egypt (Kemet) as the primary source for most intellectual thought in the ancient world (which the white men of Greece and Rome ripped off) and that Egypt was even a “black” culture. Instead, Walker identifies Afrocentrism as a therapeutic movement that bears little relationship to actual history. Walker also explores how black African-Americans (not redundant) in the United States diverged from Africans by the nature of their passage to this hemisphere and their bondage.

I didn’t trace the quotes nor research from his endnotes, so I cannot comment on the thoughts and arguments to which he is responding, but his historical points and interpretation make sense in themselves.

However, when we get to “‘All God’s Dangers Ain’t a White Man’ or ‘Not All Knowledge Is Power'”, Walker fails to signal for the left turn he makes. Just because Afrocentrism is wrong doesn’t mean that affirmative action should be eliminated, I think he means. He begins the second paragraph of the second chapter (page 85, remember):

A rightward drift in American politics is moving the country toward what I call “free market racism,” the state of American race relations during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when the ideology of lassez-faire reigned supreme in the realm of economics and race on the national level.

There he lost me. Not in a violent explosion of disbelief, during which I fling the book against the wall and/or stomp on it (this wasn’t Stupid White Men, after all, and it is not a paperback). But by coining a term “free market racism,” Walker provides the good citizens of Oceania academia with a twist of logic.

Racism and affirmative action, the practice this book defends, represent a statist intrusion into thought and practice in one form or another. Free market, on the other hand, represents a rational system of commerce wherein the best value wins. In a free market of ideas, individual performance should prove a better value than racism or affirmative action. Hence, “free market racism” is a paradox, a contradiction, and a big fat hanging straw man that Walker cracks with a full swing.

I was greatly disappointed with the practical application of repudiating Afrocentrism. Quit following a foolish, bankrupt, therapeutic ideology and start supporting affirmative action. Well, the professor does teach at the University of California at Davis. What did I expect?

Clean Your Plate Or No Television Tonight!

My darling wife has discovered that people get fat from cleaning the plates put down in front of them in restaurants.

Pardon my french fry-induced coronary, but come on. Parents throughout the country made their little boomers clean their plates, and the boomers tried to enforce this dictum on Generation X. So when restaurants started putting pounds of high-margin plate fillers in front of paying customers to make the customers feel like they were getting four RBIs’ in their Grand Slams, the customers would have made their parents proud. And they got four bags, all right, sagging upon their bods.

People have been conditioned to eat what’s in front of them, but hey! You’re Pavlovian pooches. Stop drooling when you hear the dinner bell, and push it away. You can still have your after-dinner Guinness. The waitress won’t think less of you than she does already, you hard-to-please pinhead at table 42.

How about you only cook half the box of Taquitos, muchacho, or put half of them into the refrigerator for tomorrow. You’ll still get all that good yummy Xanthan, Guar, and Carob Bean Gums and annatto colorant, but because you spread it over two servings, you’ll get a better chance to savor them.

I understand thinking about what you’re eating doesn’t burn as many calories as just indiscriminately shoveling crap into your gaping maw, but sometimes it works better.

More Erring on the Side of Caution

Best of the Web links to a story about a boy and his dog. This particular boy is the governor of Connecticut, and his dog leaped from his car and was on the lamb, or on the man, for several hours before the law caught up with it.

The officers chased Coalby for about 3 miles, before a Wolcott man was able to grab the dog after officers shouted at him.

How’s the man doing?

Police said the man, Ed Humel, was taken to a local hospital after his arm ended up in the dog’s mouth. Police would not characterize the incident as a bite.

Not until the medical examiner reports, anyway. It could yet prove to be attempted zerbery.

Erring on the Side of Caution

The headline says “Body in lake was chained to weight“.

The lead paragraph says:

Dawn Brossard’s hands were bound together and her body was held at the bottom of Geneva Lake by a weight and a chain, two officials said Wednesday.

The sheriff’s department, however, is not jumping to conclusions:

The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department has not declared Brossard’s death a homicide, saying it is awaiting a ruling from medical examiners on the cause of her death.

It could yet prove to be natural causes.

Democrat Lawmakers Underestimate Consequences of Music Swapping

Drudge links to a story about the new bill in Congress that will hang music swappers with a jail term for swapping tunes online.

It’s hard to argue with their math:

The Conyers-Berman bill would operate under the assumption that each copyrighted work made available through a computer network was copied by others at least 10 times for a total retail value of $2,500. That would bump the activity from a misdemeanor to a felony, carrying a sentence of up to five years in jail.

Because songs are obviously worth $250 each.

And our lawmakers have uncovered, in a series of hearings, the real consequences of file swapping:

In a series of hearings on Capitol Hill last spring, lawmakers condemned online song swapping and expressed concern the networks could spread computer viruses, create government security risks and allow children access to pornography.

Good going, fellows, you have determined some of the contemporary bugaboos you can arbitrarily associate with with an issue to score extra Politicopoints. But I fear you’ve missed other grim consequences of file swapping:

  • Peer-to-peer file swapping has been proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  • Peer-to-peer music swapping leads to increased manufacture and use of methamphetamine.
  • Peer-to-peer music swapping causes obesity because users no longer have to walk around a music store.
  • Peer-to-peer music swapping uses negative campaign ads against earnest incumbents.
  • Peer-to-peer music swapping contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer.
  • Software like Kazaa and Napster contributes to traffic accidents and SUV rollovers.

So undoubtedly, it is important to make this behavior a Federal felony so states cannot show some restraint in prosectution. It’s very important to take away music swappers’ rights to own firearms and vote, because when they come out five years of hard time for the eleventh download of Metallica’s “St. Anger”, they’re going to be upset, and we don’t want them to have any recourse against their legislator.

So it is important to obscure the true impact of music swapping, which is it has limited economic impact on a small industry with these “reasons.”

If this bill fails on its own, remember you can attach it as an amendment to the next Congress Supports Mothers bill. Because what fool congressperson would vote against Mom?

As If They Would Have Given Us One Of Those Boxes

Honey, I see you’ve linked to a CNN Story about how hometown cable television maven Charter Communications has introduced a sooper cable box that plays DVDs and MP3s. Soon, cable boxes will also play video games, vacuum our entertainment rooms, and from then it goes down hill into drinking all our Guinness Draught and tying up the phone line all night.

You lament that we gave up cable before this became available. Honey, we were existing customers.
They wouldn’t have given us this box without charging us extra anyway.

I was listening to Weber and Dolan this morning and they were going on about the business practices of cable companies. Bob Dolan went off on that cable companies have packages that are less expensive than their basic packages and that the customer has to specifically request that package; sales people will never bring it up on their own. Cable companies, and many of their counterparts in high tech services, want to squeeze you for as much as you can when you sign up, and if you’re an existing customer, you get nothing until you complain or cancel.

Anecdotally, it’s why AOL customers get cheap rates only when they try to cancel. Or why all of our equipment said AT&T for years after Charter took over AT&T’s territory here in Casinoport, Missouri, and why the menus were all in middle English and the transmission was in pre-Arabic numerals (1 and who cares, which lead to snow in our reception).

Of course, were we to come crawling back (I mean, try to get the best deal as consumers), they’d throw us all sorts of bones. Want a cheaper rate for 6 months? Want a new box? Maybe some clear reception worthy of the nomer “digital”?

Part of our rebellion in ending the cable tyranny was our response to this sort of business plan which takes advantage of loyal customers and just milks them like old Holsteins already in the barn. Sure, we rebelled against the fact that suddenly our cable bill was double our electricity bill for much less use, but we also rebelled against the Business Plan wherein the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Customers who pay their bills for years without fail should get the latest and greatest automatically to reward their loyalties, but that’s not the contemporary way, and we, in our own small way, tried to assure that this erroneous contemporary way of doing business is overthrown.

Did you think we only gave up our cable content, and hence our television, to save money? Where’s your crusading spirit?

I Don’t Want To Hear It

Japanese inventors are going to sell a device that translates cat meows into words, based upon the pitch, timbre, tambre, and who knows what else. Great. This technological innovation nearly matches the inclusion of the big, hairy string on their backs that you can pull to hear them make a noise.

As a cat owner myself, I can honestly say I don’t care what they mean when they meow. I imagine it’s usually the same pitiful meowing about their own quest for permahomeostasis and the shortcomings of the current stimuli in their environment. Kind of like talking to me during core business hours.

Besides, the cat doesn’t give a schnuck about what I am saying at any given time, so I afford it the same courtesy.

(There, that should be enough cover so that my esteemed spouse would never expect it for Christmas.)

Lileks on Beer-making

James Lileks making your own beer:

I can understand making one’s own beer if, for example, beer is not otherwise available. But there’s a store down the street that sells all manner of fine beers. Some are from breweries that date back to the 18th century. I imagine they’ve gotten the kinks out by now, and it’s safe to drink.

Probably even Modela Negro. Theoretically.

I know a couple of people, including the revered El Guapo, who make their own beers. I love you guys like brothers, but I’d like to point out two things about the process:

  • What you’re doing looks kinda like work. I mean, growing your own hops? Is that necessary? That’s prime napping time you’re wasting.
  • You’re totally not getting the capitalist system, wherein I exchange hours of writing illegible software documentation for a means of exchange, called money, which I can then trade for another good, namely delicious Guinness Draught. Your selfish manufacture of a good you could otherwise buy helps keep the economy stagnant and removes a excessive excisely tax revenue stream from trickling, or in our cases roaring, into state coffers.

Friends, and soon federal officials, won’t let friends brew their own.

Translation=Interpretation

Translation is as much “art” as science, and the obra regurgitated into the second language is subject to the translator’s idiom and biases. I once saw a 1974 translation of a Pablo Neruda sonnet that turned no se hace nada con muerte as “I ain’t got no truck with death,” I kid you not. Who translated that, Shaft?

So it’s with great skepticism and cynicism that I note the CNN story telling about a congressional flack translating the Constitution to dumb it down for students. Especially a congressional staffer who says of the Constitution (about its length) “it’s an itty-bitty thing.”

For example, look at the foreshadowing of the fun to be had when “translators” tell us what the Second Amendment means in common language. This guy’s translation includes “citizens have the right to own firearms.” The contentions have begun already.

I fear one of these translations will supplant the existing document. Hey, how about instead of translating the Constitution for children and the functionally illiterate populace, how about we expect people learn enough to read it in its original form?