Monday, July 30, 2012

An Open Letter To All Jennifer Abel Fans

So ... one day back in 2008, I was surprised to suddenly receive a bunch of short, cryptic and encouraging emails: "Good job!" "Way to go!" "You're making us all proud!" and I had no idea what any of them were about until one said something about how I was awesome in Beijing, at which point some quick Googling determined that I share a name with a young Quebecoise who was part of the Canadian Olympic diving team.

Fast forward to today: I'm not even watching the Olympics, yet I know that Canada won its first medal. How do I know this? And who won that medal? Take a wild guess.

This lucky, lucky planet of ours has indeed been blessed with an abundance of Jennifers Abel. However: I was not the Jennifer Abel who went to Beijing in 2008 as part of the Canadian Olympic diving team, nor am I the Jennifer Abel who recently won Canada's first medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

I have received some lovely, flattering and completely misaddressed e-mails, which I would like to forward to their intended recipient except I don't have her email address.

Here is how to tell the difference between me and my namesake in London: one Jennifer Abel is a black-haired, brown-skinned Quebecoise who's good at diving into swimming pools; the other is a red-haired, beige-skinned American who's good at diving into political scandals. (Also, one of the Jennifers Abel could be the other Jennifer Abel's mother, assuming the first Jennifer Abel was really, really stupid as a young teenager. I leave it to you to figure out which is which.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

TSA News Roundup: Three Days In The USA

Brief roundup of TSA news from the past three days:

The "war on terror" is an endless war, and the assault on our civil liberties intended to be permanent. TSA chief John Pistole admitted as much in an interview with a "Nightline" co-anchor, saying all TSA measures (plus whatever additional ones they inflict on us) are here to stay.

In Key West, a "very intoxicated" TSA officer named Milagros Casanas was arrested for attacking another woman and trying to steal her cell phone. The stupid TSA-hole forgot that she's not allowed to assault Americans and steal our property unless she's in uniform; Casanas got arrested because she chose to freelance. (Bear in mind Casanas isn't just any Miami TSAgent; she's the "lead" officer according to TSA itself. This is the type of person TSA considers intelligent and trustworthy enough to not merely fondle passengers and their belongings, but oversee others who do.)

In Philadelphia, LeeAnn Clark reported seeing TSA agents make two wheelchair-bound children leave their chairs and crawl through the scanner. (Those of you who keep track of TSA misconduct might recall that it was Philadelphia, former cradle of American liberty, is also where a four-year-old boy had to remove his leg braces and crawl through the scanner without them back in February 2011.

A journalist in an Amtrak boarding area -- remember, that's a train station, not an airport -- was accused of "terrorism" for recording TSA agents as they set up a checkpoint and searched passengers.

And over at the official TSA blog, the propagandizing sociopath Bob Burns gushed about how wonderful it is that two million Americans have purchased the de facto internal passport called PreCheck (or Pre✓™, as Blogger Bob spells it). All you have to do is pay money and submit to a background check and then, if you pass, you're allowed to board an airplane without getting undressed and/or fondled and/or irradiated and/or photographed naked (if you're flying out of any of the 28 US airports participating in the PreCheck program). You know, the way everybody used to do, before the TSA suspended the fourth amendment and the rest of the country sheepishly went along with it?

The PreCheck program is based on the theory that no terrorist actual could ever manage to get around it, just like none of them know how to get more than three ounces of shampoo onto an airplane now that TSA forbids it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

You Have GOT To Be Kidding

So I'm in my upstairs office working (or, rather, procrastinating from work via the Internet) when I hear a knock at the front door. I figure it's either a delivery guy, since we're expecting a few packages in addition to a few we've already received, or perhaps our next-door neighbor, who's been gifting us his surplus garden produce lately.

I go downstairs, open the front door and see nobody, so I open the screen door and take a half-step out, looking for either a package left in the shrubbery or my neighbor walking back to his place. I see neither, but do see a guy in a polo shirt, with a shaved head and tattoos on his arm, in the process of walking toward his parked car, when he turned around and saw me.

Of course I'm not going to stand there with the screen door open, letting in bugs and heat and humidity while I've got the air conditioner running to fight them, so I stepped back into the house and shut the screen door. The door has no pneumatic arm, so I had to actually hold the handle as the door shut, so it wouldn't slam, then turned the lock/latch from force of habit. The guy, meanwhile, started saying he was from [Name deleted because screw free publicity] Meats, and when he saw me step back and close and latch the screen door, all in more-or-less a single movement (almost automatic by now because I've already done it a hundred times this past month), he apparently decided I was being defensive, so he said "Whoa, sweetheart, I'm not going to...."



My eyebrows went up a bit, and I said, "We haven't ordered any meats."

"I know. I just--"

"We're not going to order any meats." Front door shut. End of conversation.

Even though I live in the northernest and most Yankeefied part of northern Virginia -- if I fart, they're more likely to smell it in Maryland than anywhere in the old Confederacy -- based on my month-and-change here and a couple minor experiences thus far, I'm thinking there may yet still be something to the stereotype of how a lot of southern men -- especially the less-educated ones -- have some bullshit attitudes toward women.

Also, this is the second guy who's come door-to-door claiming to be from a meat company. I'm pretty sure he's talking about non-sexual, non-male-prostitute, actual dietary meat, but I'm still not used to door-to-door food sales unless it's Girl Scouts peddling cookies. The Girl Scouts are young, immature and clueless in multiple ways, but even they know better than to call a would-be customer "sweetheart."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Second Amendment: The Militia Vs. The People

After last week's tragedy in Aurora there is, of course, renewed vigor among proponents of gun control (if not outright gun bans), and I'm certain that banning guns will solve the problem of illegal shootings without spawning any unpleasant unintended consequences just as surely as banning drugs solved the problem of drug addiction without spawning any unpleasant unintended consequences. (And if you think the War on Drugs has turned America's inner cities into crime-ridden hellholes, wait until you see what a War on Guns will do.)

There's also been multiple rehashes of the old argument that the second amendment should only apply to members of "a well-regulated militia"; a.k.a. the military or National Guard.

To refresh your memory, here's the actual text of the second amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

For those who insist this means that only duly appointed agents of the government (or militias run thereby) have the right to bear arms, I have two questions: one, if the intention of the second amendment was to preserve the government's right to maintain an armed militia, why does it specify that people, rather than militiamen, have the right to bear arms? Any other mention of "people" in the Bill of Rights plainly refers to people, not government organizations.

For that matter, why was this mentioned in the Bill of Rights -- written to safeguard individuals' rights against the government -- rather than in the main body of the constitution? Article 1, section 8 already grants Congress the right to, among other things, "define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations; To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; To raise and support armies" and the right to "[call] forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions."

Surely nobody thinks Congress intended to wage war, repel invasions or defeat pirates without the use of weapons; any constitutional need for National Guardsmen to bear arms is included in Article 1, section 8. So, then, what is the purpose of the second amendment? To remind us that, since the government already has the right to bear arms -- indeed, the need to bear arms, the need to have a military and a national guard -- well, since the State must maintain a well-regulated Militia to ensure its own security, it's vitally important that the right of the people to keep and bear arms not be infringed, lest the State be the only ones allowed to bear arms at all. The writers of the constitution had recently finished fighting a war to preserve the rights of individuals (well, some individuals) against an obtrusive government, and added the Bill of Rights to preserve the rights of individuals against the government, not to grant the government additional power to wield over individuals.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Reason To Be Afraid

The ghost of Osama Bin Laden is a greater existential threat to the United States than the nuclear-armed Soviet Union at the height of its power. I say this because, as a US citizen during the Cold War, I was free to travel within the boundaries of my own country without carrying a de facto internal passport, and without facing the Hobson's choice of molestation or irradiation at the blue-gloved hands of the TSA. Now the land of the free is riddled with internal checkpoints, and the home of the brave spends a disproportionate chunk of its propaganda budget listing sundry reasons its citizens must always be afraid. See something, say something.

Now the Pentagon warns that we in America are in grave danger of IED attacks, according to the Christian Science Monitor:

What is the danger that improvised explosive devices – the sorts of roadside bombs routinely used in Afghanistan, for example – could be used on highway overpasses in the United States?

And could these IED’s be used in combination with a cyber attack – a terrorist who might use, say, a cyber-trigger to detonate a roadside bomb?

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, US military officials are wrestling with these questions – and how to take the lessons they have learned overseas and apply them to defense of the homeland.

Translation: continue the militarization of American police and train them to behave evermore like soldiers occupying a conquered nation, rather than public servants protecting the public they serve.

Which is not to say the Pentagon is wrong. We do face an IED threat, in the sense that it's possible for people here to make and place IEDs. And we face a chlorine gas threat as well -- anybody who owns common household cleansers like bleach and ammonia can whip up a batch anytime they please. (The noisy cicadas outside my home tempt me to try this every day, but I generally abstain after I Think Of The Children who live next door.) City dwellers also face the constant "Die because somebody at a window several stories above you drops something heavy on your head" threat, and anybody living in a home with non-bulletproof glass windows lives with the additional "gunfire or rock going through your window and hits you" threat.

Sooner or later there probably will be IEDs set off in America. And people will be murdered, store clerks robbed and assaulted, women (plus a handful of men) raped, and abused children murdered by their parents or parents' lovers. At least one of those things happened somewhere in this country even as I typed out that last sentence. Evil exists, and innocents suffer as a result. But how many innocents should therefore suffer in the name of preventing evil? How many freedoms lost because of it?

Those abused children I mentioned ... the overwhelming majority of them die in their own homes, and if we installed Orwell-style telescreens therein we could probably cut the murdered-child deathrate by 90 percent. We already have the technology; it's ubiquitous and it's cheap ... but what do you mean, you don't want to do this? Children are dying out there. But you don't care, do you? It doesn't matter how many innocent, photogenic little children get raped to death, so long as you can sit in your living room picking your nose and scratching your itchy genitals without fear of the audience that you, in your narcissism, think wants to watch you if only it gets the chance, right? Or maybe you're even worse; maybe you oppose telescreens because you personally want to murder people at home.

Why else would anyone oppose this? If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, no reason to fear. Why shouldn't you let total strangers feel you up as a precondition for travel, unless you're smuggling plastic explosive in your underwear? Or in your post-surgical feeding tube? (Disclaimer: Blogger Bob, the propagandist paid to assure his fellow Americans that TSA has never, ever done anything wrong, insists the whole feeding-tube incident never happened. Of course, Blogger Bob also claims there are no children on the no-fly list, and continues to maintain this regardless of how many toddlers find their names on the list each year, so you must decide for yourself how trustworthy a source he makes.) 

Remember, my fellow Americans: even though you say "the land of the free and the home of the brave" when you sing the national anthem, freedom and bravery simply don't fit into the new American paradigm. It's your duty as an American to be very, very afraid, scared enough to abandon your freedom in exchange for empty promises that the government can protect you.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Wish For Well-Behaved Neighbors

Somebody please tell the junebugs it's the middle of July, so the 500 zillion of them within 100 feet of my open window all need to go away and STFU. (Damned things are freaking LOUD. Southern insects are rowdier and ruder than their northern cousins. And there's a hell of a lot more of them because they have waaaaay more kids, doubtless due to the prevalence of abstinence-only sex ed in southern schools, which makes MY TAXES GO UP via sales tax on all the insecticide I keep buying to fight ants and hornets and stinkbugs and creepy-crawlies that I don't even know what they are. Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah -- the damned junebugs won't shut up, and they're driving me insane.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Important Announcement Regarding A Sudden Change In My Tax Status

This afternoon Jeff, my partner of eleven years, took off work early, came home to pick me up, and we drove to Maryland and got married in Frederick County courthouse, to cement the solemn sacred traditional American bond between a woman who needs health insurance and a man whose new job only offers "domestic partner" benefits to same-sex couples, and even if I wanted to become a gay man for insurance purposes I couldn't afford the necessary surgery anyway, due to my aforementioned lack of health insurance. So as of "1:40 o'clock pm" (direct quote from our marriage certificate) today, I am a "respectable" married "lady." My name remains the same.

True anecdote: we found out we'd have to get married for health-insurance purposes the same day the Supreme Court approved the individual mandate. I know there's some irony there, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is. And I bought our marriage license on the same day my car later failed its Virginia-transfer safety inspection, but I'm glad to report nothing similarly unbecoming happened today. 

This picture was taken about four minutes after the wedding, by a lady we met in front of the courthouse. He's wearing his clothes from work; I'm wearing an outfit culled from my closet around 9:30 last night, after I suddenly realized two things: "I ought to wear something nicer tomorrow than the jeans and T-shirts I've been wearing lately" and "It's at least 15 degrees too hot and 70 percent too humid to wear any of my good clothes." 

The guy in the statue is John Hanson, the first US president of pre-constitutional days, under the Articles of Confederation.

Savvy regular readers of this blog might remember that two blog posts ago, I explained my previous lack of posts via a long Biblical rant about how busy I've been since moving to Virginia, and included the sentence "And I DID give you guys the super-condensed version here; there's still sundry unexpected paperwork issues I must resolve, but hope to do so by the end of the week."

Foreshadowing, that was.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

NY Times: Reduce The National Debt By Enslaving The Young

I was pretty sure the New York Times ran this opinion piece as an April Fool's joke until I remembered it's the middle of July: Thomas Ricks saying "Let's Draft Our Kids," proposing a mandatory universal conscription system for every American upon turning 18.
A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.  
Right, because low-income kids would really benefit by having unwilling low-paid 18-year-old teachers fresh out of a modern American high school. But, of course, tasks like teaching, or revamping the infrastructure, aren't as important as freeing up more soldiers to focus on killing, which is why these second-tier civilians who want to go to college later should only receive tuition aid, not free tuition altogether.

So, what is the third option he offers?
And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.
I'm guessing any draft-objectors would still be expected to pay taxes to fund all these goodies they're no longer entitled to, though.
Others argue that the numbers don’t add up. With an average cohort of about four million 18-year-olds annually, they say, there is simply no place to put all these people. But the government could use this cheap labor in new ways, doing jobs that governments do in other countries but which have been deemed too expensive in this one, like providing universal free day care or delivering meals to elderly shut-ins. 
Because who better than unwilling teenagers to care for small children or be forced into elderly people's homes? Ricks is proposing a new American peculiar institution: "Maybe you Europeans can do these things without relying on slave labor, but here in the land of the free that just won't work."
Setting up a new non-career tier of cheap, young labor might be a way of preserving existing jobs for older, more skilled, less mobile union workers.  
Yes, let's make it even harder for young adults to get ahead than it already is, by legally forcing them to provide cheap labor that simultaneously offers no competition to those older, richer and more established than they are.
The pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap labor available to states and cities.  
Because we're not free citizens; we're revenue-generators whose sole purpose is to pay off the government's bloated financial obligations to itself.
But most of all, having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war. Imagine the savings — in blood, tears and national treasure — if we had thought twice about whether we really wanted to invade Iraq.
 Yeah, the draft sure did a great job of keeping us out of Vietnam, didn't it?

Catching Up With The TSA

Here's the quickie King James Version summary of why I've not posted these past couple of weeks:
And lo, the God Of Petty Annoyances DID make his face to shine upon the Feral Genius as she DID maketh arrangements to emigrate FROM New England TO Dixie BECAUSE her partner's job demandeth thus; and the God Of Petty Annoyances DID rain his blessings down upon the Feral Genius (who knoweth NOT what she did to get him so pissed off, but figureth it's probably because the GOPA works for the TSA). For the GOPA is her shepherd, and she shall not want for high blood pressure because the shepherd hungers for mutton. 

And the Feral Genius' car DID get towed after the HOA-hole in charge of her rental DID neglect to issue her a parking pass IN a timely manner; and the ants DID invade repeatedly the Feral Genius' home until she DID spendeth a small fortune on insecticide; and the air conditioning unit DID clog its condensation pipes and DID send forth upon the floor a flood of Noahic proportions; and the derecho storm that slammed the DC region DID slam the Feral Genius as well; and a zombie spammer DID hijack the Feral Genius' Hotmail account and DID send forth a flood of spammy emails to her friends and business contacts; and she immediately DID change her password and the problem DID immediately stop and then Microsoft DID notice the problem four days later and thus DID render the account inactive, and the Feral Genius DID with much scatological profanity cry out "Thanks for the speedy and efficient and incredibly useful response time, jackholes" as she DID endeavor to render the account active again, and this DID happen on the same day her car DID fail the state-transfer safety inspection and the resulting car repair DID cost her over eight hundred bucks.

And I DID give you guys the super-condensed version here; there's still sundry unexpected paperwork issues I must resolve, but hope to do so by the end of the week.

Luckily, things calmed down enough that I finally had time to go online today, not for work-related issues, but simply to read the news. And I DID then remember why I was already in a bad mood before the God Of Petty Annoyances chose to single me out for attention: anyone can have a string of bad luck as I've experienced these past few weeks but, despite my tongue-in-cheek references to the God Of Petty Annoyances, I know it's all merely a statistical anomaly, not the result of a consciously malevolent force.

But I can't say that about any of the TSA outrages I caught up on this afternoon: TSA is  malevolence personified. It takes a purely bullying spirit to sneer "fucking deafie" at a man after you confiscate his candy and eat it in front of him, as TSAgents did to a deaf man in Louisville. A combination of malevolence, perversion and outright stupidity thinks security demands that women wearing skirts lift them high enough to expose their underwear, as demanded of a flier in Philadelphia

TSA agents now wander randomly through airports demanding to do random searches of food and drinks that passengers buy after passing through TSA checkpoints into the "secure" portions of airports; TSA's sociopathic spokesman "Blogger Bob" naturally defended this by saying ... well, nothing, really:
As far as the testing of liquids at the gate, this is just one of the many options we have to choose from when deciding what additional tactics to use each day. We started using test strips back in the summer of 2007 and continue to do so. The test involves a test strip and a dropper containing a nontoxic solution. In case you're wondering, our officers don't place the test strips in your beverages/liquids. They simply have the passenger remove the cap/lid and they hold the strip over the opening of the container. Procedures call for moving the test strip to the side and applying the solution from the dropper to test the strip. If the test results are positive TSA will conduct additional testing to make a final assessment.
In a nutshell, liquid screening at gates is random and it isn't happening at every airport every day. So other than possibly taking a few moments of your time before boarding your flight, it's business as usual.
Yes, it is "business as usual" for the TSA, in the sense of being capricious, unconstitutional and worthless. if TSA actually believes the airport McDonald's is selling explosive sodas, it would test the soda machine in the McDonald's rather than individual random soda-drinkers. 

I remind you here of something I said about the TSA in September 2006, years before they claimed the right to molest people en masse: "These stupid rules aren’t meant to make us safer, but only train us in habits of evermore mindless obedience."

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from