Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boobs Explode! I Told You So

September 9, 2006: I point out the utter uselessness of TSA's ostensibly anti-terrorist rules by asking:
Why hasn’t some enterprising terrorist outfitted a flat-chested female suicide bomber with plastic-explosive breast implants yet? The beauty of a plan like that (from a villainous mastermind perspective) is, even if the plot fails in the sense that the bombs are discovered before they can be set off, it will be a success in terms of terrorizing the population. Consider: the infidel government has already banned certain foods and all beverages, toothpastes, hair-styling products, and anything else that might theoretically be an explosive in disguise. If the government discovered an implant plot, its overreaction would do more to disrupt American air travel than detonating a nuke at O'Hare.
March 30, 2010: British intelligence agency MI5 reports that Muslim female suicide bombers are "getting explosive charges inside their breasts." The story says it would only take enough explosive to fill a C-cup bra to blow a hole in a plane's fuselage and cause it to crash. Though the Gizmodo writer points out something a tad suspicious about the timing of this discovery:
When they are inside clothing or bags, you can easily detect PETN using scanners or chemical test swabs. But the report says that these bombs would be almost impossible to detect when they are inside a body... unless you install human body scanners at airports.

And that's when things get oddly convenient for some companies, pushing hard for the installation of not-so-effective airport body scanners. Just in the middle of the debate, which has rights and privacy watchers pup [sic] in arms, here's a report that says that the only way to stop these highly dangerous naughty bits are body scanners.

I don't doubt that the MI5's intentions are good this time—even while they weren't good at all back in the ramping up of misinformation before the Iraq invasion—but there's something here that smells a bit fishy.
Assuming the stories are true, I can't help but wonder: are these scanners capable of distinguishing between explosive boob jobs and the ordinary kind? Given the amount of silicone found in modern California ladies, I predict flying out of Los Angeles will soon become even more obnoxious than it already is.

And another prediction: when, inevitably, the next terrorist attack happens in the United States, nobody in the government is going to say "Well, taking away your civil liberties did jack-shit to prevent this attack, so we'll give you your freedoms back!" No, no, a fact-finding commission of overpaid bureaucrats will solemnly conclude the terrorists took advantage of loopholes in the constitution, so to protect the population from the danger of terrorists we need to put them in more danger from their own government.

Criticize Kim Jong-Il all you want, the government will say, but you gotta admit this: al-Qaeda has never successfully pulled off an attack in North Korea.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yup. I'm One Of THOSE People Now.

I gave up cigarettes some time ago, solely for the pleasure of depriving Connecticut of the thousand-or-so tax dollars they got from me every year. But I never gave up smoking in my heart, so from time to time I still buy a box of nicotine patches to keep the cravings at bay.

I went to Target a couple days ago to buy new patches, and of course the cashier wanted to see my ID to make sure I'm old enough to buy the damned things. I showed her my driver's license, and she tried to take it from me so she could scan it.

"No need for that," I said, as I refused to let go of the license. "My birth date is right here."

She told me if she couldn't scan my driver's license, she would have to get her supervisor to punch in some special code or other, and that would take time. I told her I had no problem with waiting for the supervisor; I said I understood the law required her to check my age, but in light of all the other personal information listed on my driver's license, I did NOT see any need for my full name, age, address, legal driving restrictions, Social Security number, organ-donor status and whatever the hell else was on my ID to be scanned into Target's corporate database.

So she had to get her supervisor to punch in some special code, and all the people waiting in line behind me made annoyed little noises, though nobody said anything. The supervisor came over and punched in a few numbers without even glancing in my direction. I have little doubt that after I paid for my purchase and left, there was much grumbling over the batshit crazy redhead with the unsocial, unmutual belief that she shouldn't have to turn over all her personal info just to make some perfectly legal purchase.

The hell of it is, I understand perfectly the irritation those people felt: can't I just go along to get along? Why must I delay everyone else on some silly matter of principle? How self-centered do I have to be, to think my privacy something worth preserving? Do I think this really matters?

A hundred years ago my attitude would've made me an ordinary American; today, I suspect, I'm a wingnut extremist.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Healthcare Law Is An Ass

Before you contemplate America's historic new healthcare reform bill, here's an inspirational Bible verse from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 22, verses 28 and 29:

"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father 50 shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

Now rewrite this so it's the victim who has to pay her attacker and stay with him forever, and you'll know what happens in the US when big corrupt out-of-control industries screw some little guy, or the entire economy, and government gets involved. The healthcare reform bill rests on the same assumption as the bank bailouts: "Hey, America! Remember those rich, sleazy, politically connected assholes who caused the problem in the first place? We'll reward them with your money. That ought to teach 'em a lesson."

And how do lawmakers respond to our problems with the health insurance companies? By forcing us to marry the bastards, with the IRS ready to fine us if we don't perform our wifely duties.


The rest of my semi-coherent rant can be found in today's Guardian. My original plan was to simply publish a series of photos of me making witheringly obscene gestures to lawmakers in effigy, but the editors wouldn't go for that because they are British, and thus too genteel to appreciate the nyet kulturny beauty of American political commentary.

Anybody care to place bets on exactly how long we'll have to wait before we see the first "Poor people punished for non-compliance with laws touted for their own good" stories? Given the delayed-fuse provisions of the healthcare bill, we already know they won't be until well after the next round of congressional and presidential elections."

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Of The Same

"Hey, America! You know those wealthy, politically connected corporations who totally trashed our economy? We've decided to reward them with more of your money."

That's what the government did with the bank bailouts, and now they're doing it with the health insurance companies, too. Frankly, I suspect an outright single-payer program might be better than the hybrid mess we have now, where taxpayers will be on the hook for any expenses the health insurance companies won't pay, after said companies skim a healthy profit for themselves off the top. Privatize the profits, socialize the losses. More of the same.

In other news: thanks and apologies to all who have written to ask if I'm still alive. Yes, I am, though I've not been blogging because this business of working two full-time jobs in addition to any freelance gig I can scrounge has got me fraying around the edges.

MUCH-LATER-EDIT: In a rare bout of productivity, I expanded on this theme in the Guardian's America blog: The Healthcare Law is an Ass.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Still Can't Afford To Be Poor

I was in a bad mood last June when I wrote this post complaining about laws that make being poor a hell of a lot harder than it is already. I was in an even worse mood last week when I read the infuriating story of Christine Stevens, the Arizona woman kicked out of her own house because zoning codes require a working refrigerator, whereas she made do with an icebox (one of several things she did to save money after losing her job).

I ranted about it over at the Guardian's America blog:
If you see a woman drowning the decent thing to do is toss her a life buoy, or at least leave her the hell alone; sitting on her head to push her deeper under water is wholly unacceptable behaviour. Unless you live in America and work for some local-level housing authority, in which case it's part of your job.
The rest of the piece is here. I don't know what infuriates me more: that the law makes life harder than it already is, or that the law insists it's for your own good.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Feels Great, Not Adding Value To The World

According to a document I got in the mail today (the envelope postmarked Manchester in the UK), it is the official position of Her Majesty's Government that I add no value to the world. At least not via the stuff I write for the Guardian.

Either the document or what's printed on it is called a Remittance Advice, and I gather the Guardian's also sending a copy to "H. M. Inspector of Taxes." It lists the first six pieces I wrote, their titles and publication dates, what I was paid for each, and some long code numbers the Guardian uses for internal recordkeeping. It also says, "This VAT [Value Added Tax] shown is your output tax due to CUSTOMS & EXCISE." The total Value Added Tax for all my output is "zero."

In some contexts this would offend me -- I can take criticism, but "Your writing completely lacks value" goes beyond harsh and into troll territory -- but in this context, where it means I need not contribute toward the upkeep of the Crown Jewels, I am ecstatic to learn I'm worthless and add no value to the human condition. (Actually, according to the remittance advice I am not "worthless" but "exempt," where adding value is concerned. Close enough for government work.)

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