if i have to get mugshotted to get into a titty bar, the terrorists have won.

San Francisco is considering making all public venues photograph and ID their guests.

Off the top of my head, I can think up about a million different ways this would greatly benefit stalkers, criminals, and law enforcement, and precisely zero ways this would contribute to public safety.

Looks like it’s not just the social conservatives who get all excited about surveillance and police state methods. Not that I’m a fan of Team Red, but some of my liberal friends should remember this one for the next time someone on the left side of the aisle works themselves into a froth about the excesses of the DHS bestowed on us by George II.

Surely, that would have absolutely no effect on the kinds of events where people would rather not make their identities known…like, say, political rallies for radical causes, or sexually-flavored entertainment venues. Because if you want to stay anonymous, you clearly have something to hide.

And I just know that if that proposal had originated with a Republican governor–or worse, a Republican POTUS as part of some Patriot Act overhaul–the folks in SF would be among the first to make signs and clog the streets of Berkeley in protest. Remember, kids–it’s only fascism when the other team proposes it!

At the current rate, I predict that we’ll see those nifty back-scatter Porn-O-Tron scanners on the street within ten years, and mounted on all police cruisers as soon as the technology fits onto a dashboard. And the first ones fielded will be in urban areas that vote blue. You know, to catch bad people with guns, and terrorists. Who could be against that?

The politicians of both major parties have a weird sort of amnesia. They forget that the nifty tools they put in the law enforcement tool shed when their team is in charge stay in the tool shed when the folks from the other team take over the front office.

shit! it’s will sasso in a tank!

(Alternate post title: “Rainbow Six: Chicken Commando“)

To protect us from the evil scourge of cockfighting, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal staged a raid on a suspect…with dozens of SWAT ninjas in full kit, and an armored personnel carrier.

This is the kind of thing that makes law enforcement look like heavy-handed, jackbooted goonery.  No doubt they had camera crews with them, and that Sheriff Joe in fact decided to take all the sexy hardware along for the bust precisely because it’s photogenic.  But is this still “peace officer” work?

When you serve warrants and stage raids dressed and acting like you’re in urban combat in Fallujah, you look like an occupying army instead of community law enforcement officers, and then you can’t be surprised if people treat you like one.  Us vs. Them mindset, special rights and weapons for the King’s Men, overwhelming force by default in the name of “officer safety”, and the broadest leniency and benefit of the doubt when it comes to the use of force…I don’t see that kind of route to be a healthy one for public safety.

Is the job of the police officer a dangerous one? No doubt.  Are most police officers like Sheriff Joe and his tank-riding cockfight-busting ninjas?  Hell no.  But am I the only one who finds serving a cock-fighting warrant with a fucking tank and a platoon of SWAT just a tad excessive?  What kind of attitude does that kind of swagger generate toward the police?

Tens of thousands in taxpayer money spent on some flash bang theater. Thousands of dollars in property damage.  One unarmed suspect arrested. 115 chickens euthanized on the spot. Well done, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  Well done, indeed.

hippies: entirely useless, or cheap reactor shielding at least?

Our hippie friends across the river have a nuclear power plant in their state, Vermont Yankee.  It’s an older design, similar to the Japanese Fukushima I reactor.   Vermont Yankee generates 73% of the energy used in the state of Vermont.

Naturally, the hippies want it shut down, and the state senate has voted to not renew Vermont Yankee’s operating license past 2012.  Presumably, the magic unicorns roaming the Green Mountains will step up to the plate, touch their horns to the transformers, and feed five thousand gigawatt hours of magic energy into the grid annually to make up for Vermont Yankee’s capacity.  Or something.

Yes, Vermont Yankee is of the same design as the Fukushima I plant that had a radiation leak.  After a 9.0 quake nearby, and after being hammered by a tsunami and losing power for the cooling system as a result.  And that radiation leak has killed 0 (in words: zero) people due to radiation exposure so far.

Look, there is no technology that is absolutely 100% safe–but nuclear energy is the safest, cleanest, and most efficient form of energy generation we have yet invented.  There’s no such thing as a human birthright to be free from all conceivable dangers from cradle to grave.  To be human means to constantly juggle risks and benefits, because we have to constantly work for our survival on this little blue pebble.  Yes, a nuclear accident can cause thousands of deaths, but higher food and energy prices due to insufficient energy supply to keep billions of people warm and fed would kill many more than that. Nuclear energy is indispensable at this point…unless you want to see the Chinese and Indians build a few hundred coal plants in the next few decades, you don’t mind millions of brownish-hued people in Over Thereistan starving in the dark, you feel great about rolling blackouts and $500/month energy bills, and you like driving to work under a permanent dome of coal-burn haze.

Chernobyl resulted in fewer than a hundred deaths, and a few thousand people with radiation-related health problems, mostly from the area 20 miles around the plant.  That’s the worst nuclear accident in history, and that death toll is unacceptable, and proof that nukes aren’t safe, despite the fact that hundreds of reactors worldwide have been running for decades without any accidents. Automobile accidents kill 30,000 people in the U.S. every year…and that’s the price of freedom.  More miners die every year digging for the coal that runs coal-powered plants than people have died of nuclear accidents in the history of the technology.

Hippies: Sometimes, They Don’t Make Sense.  But then again, the nuclear debate has never really been about what’s safe for people.  It has also never been about what’s good for the planet–otherwise the anti-nuke crowd wouldn’t push to get rid of a technology whose only current viable large-scale alternative, coal power, requires the burning of 8,600 tons of CO2-generating coal per plant and day.

aw, jeez….not this shit again.

In a spectacular display of Not Getting It, some of the Republicans in the Live Free Or Die State are getting cocky about having a supermajority in the NH House and Senate again…and they’re trying to use it to roll back the gay marriage law.  Of all the issues on the table, they make gay cooties a priority once again.

In past elections, I’ve voted for a few Republicans for local office–whenever there wasn’t a Libertarian running, or whenever the Democrat on the ballot was more of a douche than the Republican.  Should the NH Republicans be successful in getting our gay marriage law repealed, I will never again vote for another Republican in this state.  I’m sick and tired of the debate.  We shouldn’t have it in a state that has LIVE FREE OR DIE as its motto.  We shouldn’t have it because the straight majority shouldn’t be able to vote itself special rights they can deny to gays, or blacks, or Jews, or Christians, or left-handed people.  We shouldn’t have that debate anymore for much the same reason why we shouldn’t have a debate about reintroducing miscegenation laws. This particular culture war is pretty much over.  There are just too many people nowadays, both liberal and conservative, who recognize that the state should have precisely fuck-all to do with licensing, condoning, or promoting marriage between two consenting adults.

Now, I realize that I’m once again poking the hornet’s nest with a stick by talking about homosexuality, and inviting certain commenters to leave their feces-obsessed ramblings all over this here Interblog.  I do, however, want to put a theory out there:

Most opposition to, disgust with, and fear of homosexuality in this country is simply male discomfort at the thought of male homosexuality. The arguments against homosexuality and gay marriage come wrapped in convenient religious or pseudo-biological arguments, but to me, it looks like it’s simply a moral cloak wrapped around the fact that a lot of straight American males are grossed out at the idea of two men having sex.  (Note the relative popularity of lesbian vs. gay porn among straight males—ask a college frat brother what he thinks of two hot chicks getting it on, and he’s much more likely to give that a thumbs-up than the idea of two hot guys getting it on.)

On a side note—I throw up a little in my mouth whenever I hear someone referring to the Defense of Marriage act.  Talk about a positively Newspeak name for a piece of legislature.  How do you defend something by making sure there’s less of it?  How does it “defend” my marriage when my home state doesn’t let a gay couple get the same legal benefits my wife and I enjoy?  And do come back to me when the straight marriages in this country don’t have a 50% divorce rate.  If social conservatives wanted to defend the institution of marriage, they should start with the straight folks first.  But I’m utterly convinced that most of the anti-gay marriage hullabaloo is just personal disgust and discomfort packaged in convenient selective bits of Scripture.

(And lest anyone accuse me of “being hostile toward religion” again…I have an awful lot of friends who are a.) Christian, b.) good people, and c.) in favor of equal marriage rights.  Keeping marriage and government apart isn’t exactly a new-fangled radical idea.  Render unto Caesar, and all that.)

way to throw yourself out of the limo.

Yesterday at lunchtime, married father-of-one Chris Lee was a member of Congress, a U.S. Representative from New York.  Today, he’s not a Congressperson anymore, and well on his way to achieving the status he had claimed in an amorous email to some random Craigslist L4M: divorced lobbyist.

(Like someone on Twitter pointed out yesterday, at least he was looking for a woman, which is a refreshing change for Republican sex scandals.)

While I can’t suppress a little Nelson Muntz-like “Ha Ha” (especially considering former Rep. Lee is a Republican, the party of morals, marriage defense, and the regulation of other people’s bedroom habits), I have to point out that this was not an issue of Republican or Democrat failings, but one of Horny Male Who Thinks He Can Get Away With It, and those come both in liberal and conservative flavors.  I will, however, note the following:

If you’re in a high-profile public job like, say, Member of Congress, and you use your real name while trolling Craigslist for some extra-marital action, you are dumber than a tub of mushrooms, and I wouldn’t trust you to run my checkbook, much less the affairs of the nation.

that’s what diplomacy is, isn’t it?

The Economist weighs in on the latest WikiLeaks “whistle-blowing” that tries to serve up vignettes from the standard global diplomacy dance with a hefty slathering of ZOMG TEH SEEKRITS clandestine sauce.  (Who knew that our diplomats don’t divulge the same information to all their foreign counterparts?  Shocking, that.)

Money paragraph:

At this point, what WikiLeaks is doing seems like tattling: telling Sally what Billy said to Jane. It’s sometimes possible that Sally really ought to know what Billy said to Jane, if Billy were engaged in some morally culpable deception. But in general, we frown on gossips. If there’s something particularly damning in the diplomatic cables WikiLeaks has gotten a hold of, the organisation should bring together a board of experienced people with different perspectives to review the merits of releasing that particular cable. But simply grabbing as many diplomatic cables as you can get your hands on and making them public is not a socially worthy activity.


why the government is like your worthless brother-in-law.

Mathematically speaking, we need major tax increases.  The only way to straighten out the federal books while keeping roughly the same government services and fiscal obligations is to reduce other expenditures and jack up taxes on everyone, not just the top earners.

Here’s why it won’t work, though.  Even if we cranked the federal income tax rate up to 40% across the board, instituted a federal 15% VAT, and triple-taxed our gasoline like those enlightened Europeans do, we’ll still be in the same rut twenty years down the road.  That’s because the government doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to stewardship of our tax money.  Whenever we have a government program that actually generates a surplus, the money gets used for other purposes.  (See Social Security, whose much-invoked “trust fund” contains of nothing but a big-ass file cabinet full of I.O.U.s saying “We borrowed the surplus this year to buy more nukes/food stamps/spaceships.  Pay you back later.  Love, the Feds.”) If you triple the flow of tax revenue next year, they’ll find a way to quintuple expenses and borrow the rest from China.  That’s why I’m not terribly keen on paying more taxes…not because I can’t see that it’s a mathematical necessity, but because I know that the Fed is going to blow it all anyway.  When your worthless slacker brother-in-law reliably blows every last cent of his paycheck every month, the initial approach to his problems is not to give him a salary increase, but to make his expenses match his income.

Problem is, we only ever demand fiscal accountability from our government when it spends money on things we don’t like.  That’s why Gramps will rail against federal spending on frivolities like schools and space shuttles, but pitch a fit when someone proposes cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, even though they’re running in the red to a much greater degree.  Everyone just wants theirs, and then kick the can down the alley for the next generation to worry about.

We’re all to blame, because we tolerate that kind of fiscal insanity as long as we get what we want from Uncle Sam.  The way we’re electing the people who spend our money goes as follows:

Picture the United States as a family household.  That household has a combined monthly net income of $3,000, and a combined list of expenditures running $10,000.  The family writes out a job ad for an accountant/financial manager every four years, stipulating that he/she will have to run the household money, but also find a way to make the $1,200 payment on Dad’s Lexus, the $3,500 payment for the McMansion mortgage, $2,000 in groceries and restaurant expenses every month…oh, and the kids want new iPods and laptops every six months as well.  We don’t want to take steps to increase our income, and we don’t want to hear that we can’t have all the stuff on our list.  Say you can’t possibly find a way, and you don’t get the job.  If you promise that you can do it, you get the family checkbook, with the stipulation that you can write checks that won’t come due until your successor gets the job.

Is it any wonder that only crooks and morons get hired for the job?  The way our system is set up not only encourages fiscal irresponsibility and deficit spending, but practically guarantees it.

that s-word, i don’t think it means what you think it means.

This wired.uk snippet claims that 20% of Americans believe socialism is superior to capitalism.  That’s just a jaw-dropping figure, and one that has me shaking my head in stunned disbelief.

Socialism is an inherently flawed system, because–unlike capitalism–it makes no allowances for rewarding effort.  Actually, there are many more reasons why socialism isn’t even a good system “in theory”, like so many empty-headed college commies assert.  It’s a shitty system in both theory and practice, one that aims to achieve the impossible goal of economic equality by actively discouraging productivity.

Equality is a good thing when it comes to access and opportunity.  It’s a horrible thing when it comes to economic status, because it needs to create a baseline for productivity and personal achievement, and then use the guns of the state to make everyone conform to it–by chopping down the smart and industrious, and then using the trimmings to prop up the underachievers and the ones unwilling to pull the cart.

Take it from someone who has seen socialism–true socialism–first-hand, in all its gray and drab, hopeless, soul-sapping misery: In the history of socialism, no country that has ever tried it has ended up with the desired goal of equality, and the only way to put everyone on one level economically has universally been to impoverish everyone equally.  Except for the ruling class, of course, who always grow fond of their privileges and their powers.  Regardless of how long the lines at the store become, the Politburo and those loyal to them usually eat well, even when the country crumbles to dust around them.

(And if socialism is so fair, uplifting, and equitable, why is it that every single socialist country ever established had to break out the barbed wire and the machine guns sooner or later to keep its own citizens in?)

The only way you can be a fan of socialism is if you’ve never seen it operate in practice, or if you think you’ll be one of the intelligentsia calling the shots in the Better World(tm) you want to build.

(Mind that we’re talking about real socialism here, not the center-left populist wankfest practiced by even the most pink-hued members of the Democratic party, so let’s not have a comment thread full of “OBAMA IZ TEH SOSHULISM!!!!11!, hmm-kay?)

the writing on the wall.

Some of the usual suspects are up in arms about KFC’s new “Double Down”, a chicken sandwich with fried chicken patties in place of a bun.  Over at the HuffPo, they decry KFC’s latest offering as “going too far”…which is an awful lot of alarmist hyperbole when you consider that the Double Down has a measly 540 calories and 32 fat grams.  (That thing is a caloric dead ringer for the Big Mac, which also has 540 calories, and 29 fat grams, but for some reason the HuffPo folks don’t get all bent out of shape about that one.)  It’s not a leafy salad, but there are worse lunch foods, and the nutritional information on that lump of deep-fried chicken grease certainly doesn’t warrant breathless terms like “fast food-related crime against humanity”, and “potentially lethal”.

Here’s a fun exercise: collect all the public statements from various sources about KFC’s “Double Down”, and our “lethal” fast food in general, and see where all those folks stand on health care reform in general, and a public option (or single-payer system) in particular.  I’m willing to wager a non-trivial amount that there’s a near-complete overlap between the “fast food bad” and “public health care system good” sections of that Venn diagram.

With the pants-shitting hysteria every time some fast food joint releases some gastronomic abomination, and with the First Lady beating the drum against child obesity, does anyone really doubt that the fast food industry will take the place of the tobacco industry as a public villain (and, conveniently, a cash-filled pinata) within a decade or so?  And if you get any sort of public subsidy for your shiny new health care plan, boy howdy are they ever going to feel completely justified in telling you what to put in your mouth…and penalizing you for eating whatever wrong stuff you can still buy after they’re done with the evil Big Fast Food profit-mongers.  (Did you know there are lots of fast food joints in inner cities? It’s almost like they’re trying to get the low-income crowd hooked on that unhealthy stuff! Why, if we only outlaw new fast food joints in those neighborhoods, people will have no choice but to buy leafy greens and lean cuts of meat at Whole Foods.)

That Double Down doesn’t look very appealing to me, but I may just make it a point to go out and have one this weekend, because I deeply resent the self-righteous Mommy Staters who try to force everyone to do what’s best for them, personal choice be damned.  Last time I checked, KFC doesn’t force that greasy thing down anyone’s throat.

Carl E. Sagan on a moped…between the hippy-dippy crowd trying to tell everyone what not to eat, and the Fundies trying to tell everyone what not to do with their naughty genitals, it’s a wonder there’s any liberty left in this place.  When did it ever become fashionable to give a shit what your neighbor chooses to have for lunch?