Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin Naked? Says who?

 This post began as a comment to a post by Michael Seitzman at "The Huffington Post."  As you can tell from reading this blog, I'm not a McCain/Palin fanboy.  However, Mr. Seitzman's post was a scurrilous, lowbrow, ad hominem attack against every single McCain/Palin voter and not just against the candidate, Sarah Palin.  It is exactly the sort of politics that Obamafans claim to decry and want to get away from.  The basic premise of the post is that anyone who disagrees with Mr. Seitzman is an idiot.  That premise is hilarious considering that Mr. Seitzman's post is totally devoid of intellectual substance and shows a distinct lack of thoughtfulness.  But isn't that just typical of the paternalistic?  Listen to Daddy! I know what is best! But don't take my word for it, this is how his post begins:

She said "nucular." Twice.
I realized three things tonight. For one, if you are a McCain/Palin/Bush voter, you and I do not have a difference of opinion. We have a difference in brain power. Two, she really is as ignorant as I feared. And, three, she really is kinda hot. Basically, I want to have sex with her on my Barack Obama sheets while my wife reads aloud from the Constitution. (My wife is cool with this if I promise to "first wipe off Palin's tranny makeup." I married well.)

I listened to the entire interview and didn't notice that she said "nucular" even once let alone twice.  I think I would have noticed because it grates on my nerves every time Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush says "nucular."  (Did you notice that half of these presidents who misprounounced nuclear are icons of the left? Shows how smart they are doesn't it?)  Meanwhile, wanting your wife to watch you have sex with a vice-presidential candidate somehow passes for witty reparte' in Hollywood and shows how very smart you are. Imagine for a moment the indignant uproar if a Republican wrote the following about Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama:  
Michelle/Hilary really is kinda hot. Basically, I want to have sex with her on my John McCain sheets while my wife reads aloud from the Communist Manifesto/It Takes A Village. (My wife is cool with this if I promise to "first rip off her lesbian pantsuit"/ "first wipe off Michelle's tranny makeup." I married well.)
I'm not endorsing these sentiments. I'm just making a point about double standards.  Mr. Palin might be justified in beating down Seitzman's door and impaling him with some moose antlers. I guarantee Barack would be on the next episode of Oprah decrying the misogynistic sexism of the author and saying, "Leave my wife out of this!"  As for Bill Clinton, .... Well, let's not go there. I don't want to sink to Seitzman's depths.

I think Seitzman's opening paragraph establishes Seitzman's own lack of brain power although I think he was trying to insinuate that he's smart and McCain/Palin voters are not. The rest of the post went on to accuse anyone who doesn't vote for Obama as voting for who they'd like to have a beer with. That is, any vote but a vote for Obama is a vote for personality alone.  (Deep sigh!) That's the problem.  Seitzman doesn't get it.  A vote for McCain/Palin might be a well considered vote for their policies and against the policies of Obama/Biden. Not every vote you disagree with is "personality" based. McCain even has an actual track record to base your vote on, unlike Obama.(News Flash!  If experience is the criteria, then the top of the GOP ticket has much, much more experience in all areas than the top of the Democrat ticket. If experience is your criteria, then you need to vote for the old guy.)  Nevertheless, I'll give Obama voters their due too. Some of them may have discerned his policies and decided that they prefer them to McCain's.

The irony of accusing McCain/Palin voters of being ignoramouses who vote solely for who they'd like to have a beer with is overwhelming.  Many Obamafans are voting for personality. Sit back and watch an adoring crowd listening to Obama's mellifluous voice and carefully nurtured cadences. The women squeal and swoon like he's the fifth Beatle.  The men have rapturous, vacant looks. Or is that the men squeal and swoon and the women ...... Well, whatever!  The point is that for those enraptured Obamafans, he doesn't need substance. He just needs that winning "class president" personality and nothing else. One look at them tells you they're not basing their vote on the dicates of their superior intellects.

Intelligent people will dismiss Seitzman's lowbrow rhetoric and abusive ad hominem attacks. His post is so devoid of substance that it is the antithesis of intellectualism.  Seitzman should try a little substance next time. If he wants to show that he is voting for the better policies and not just for personality, then he ought to not engage in personal attacks.  He ought to try identifying and contrasting the policies of Obama/Biden with the policies of MCain/Palin and not just dismiss those who prefer other policies as stupid. 

And let's make it clear, this isn't an either/or choice. You don't have to vote for McCain/Palin or for Obama/Biden.  If you're really tired of politics as usual, then vote for real change.  Vote for the "minor" candidate of your choice and send the message that you're not going to take it anymore. I prefer the policies of Bob Barr.  But then I believe that the greatest good for all is achieved by millions of Americans each seeking what is best for them and their families and then pursuing those choices with minimal government intervention.

By the way, suggesting that an attractive woman in her 40s makes herself up like a transvestite shows just how superficial and fatuous Seitzman is. If this is an example of the intellect of an average Obama voter, then we really are doomed.

As for me, I say a pox on both your houses.  I'm voting for Bob Barr. I really do want change and really am tired of politics as usual.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wow! I Totally Agree With Bob Barr's Stance On Immigration

I decided that it was time to put a Bob Barr for President banner on this website. Both of the major parties are supporters of ever bigger government. Neither party shows any serious effort to reduce government in any way. Look at the out of control growth of government under George Bush. Only the Libertarian Party presents a sincere smaller government option. This election year we have an experienced big government Republican versus an inexperienced huge government Democrat. So the only true choice for liberty and reduced government is the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr. I have to admit that he has done a 180 on many of his former positions on issues as a Republican congressman. I'd like to believe that he has seen the light and perhaps has the zeal of a convert. What is important to me is that whatever his former positions personally, he now represents the party of smaller government and individual liberty.

However, almost no one ever agrees with all the positions of any party that they support. In the past, the Libertarian Party has supported open immigration (this link is to the 2005 immigration stance of the Libertarian Party so compare it to the 2008 stance). It seems they've dropped "open immigration" for a more politically acceptable and sensible stance that balances the importance of immigration with the need for control. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bob Barr's position on immigration almost exactly agrees with my own feelings on the subject as stated in my last post, and differs significantly from unfettered open immigration. In a nutshell, we need to discourage illegal immigration and encourage legal immigration, especially the legal immigration of the highly talented and skilled. Policies that discourage assimilation need to be discarded and we should reconsider birthright citizenship. I like it.

We Need Citizens Not Just Workers

I sometimes am of two minds when it comes to issues. I can see valid points on both sides, but I still feel that one side is the "correct" one. I've been that way about immigration for awhile. I support the legal immigration of smart, hardworking, educated, entrepreneurial people who are willing to embrace all things American. Thomas Sowell recently crystallized my thinking on immigration with a single phrase. I was listening to the Econ Talk podcast. Thomas Sowell is known for his laissez-faire economic approach. The interviewer was taking the position that immigration was economically beneficial because people are a resource and immigrants are often hard working people in search of a better life. That's when Sowell responded. I'm paraphrasing here, but what he said essentially was "we need citizens not just workers." That's when the flip switched in my head and I realized he had just succinctly summarized my position in that single phrase.

On the one hand, I acknowledge that hardworking immigrants are essential to the U.S. and many immigrants just want a better life. I believe that the greatest resource in the world is the human mind and imagination. I believe that the United States of America is a nation built by immigrants. We have prospered due to an ability to attract hardworking and brilliant people from other countries who gladly make America their home and embrace American culture. There are many examples ---- Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, a Scotsman born in the West Indies); Albert Einstein; Enrico Fermi (a developer of the atom bomb); Wernher von Braun (developer of the V-2 and then of U.S. rockets); Pierre Omidyar (founder of eBay); and Sergey Brin (Google co-founder). I could go on like this for pages.

As other nations become more capitalist, more technologically advanced, and better educated (e.g., China and India), more opportunities are presented for their smart, highly educated citizens to remain at home and not seek opportunity in the U.S. As the world becomes flatter, we need to attract those people to come here more than ever if we want to remain competitive with their home countries. Our immigration laws ought to encourage them to move here permanently. Creating temporary worker positions, only encourages them to move here to learn and then go back to their homeland to compete.

On the other hand, I believe that secure borders are important and porous borders are a problem. I object to people who ignore our laws living here illegally. I believe that the unfettered immigration of low skilled workers willing to work for peanuts suppresses the wages of low skilled Americans and hinders there entry into the workforce and maintaining employment. Unfettered immigration creates a labor surplus that harms American workers, but benefits big business because it can hire workers more cheaply. I don't buy the idea that immigrants do jobs Americans "won't do." At best you can say that illegal immigrants will do jobs that American workers won't do as cheaply. The agricultural sector is often given as an example of an area where Americans won't work. If that is so, why were 80% of the workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining sector native born in 2004? If we have shortages in some areas (engineering, mathematics, computer science), then I'm all for recruiting immigrants, who want to make a life here in the U.S. as Americans, to move here and work. I worry about the Balkanization of the U.S. in the name of diversity and multi-culturism. It seems to me that being a great nation still requires secure borders, a common language, a common culture, and the embrace of shared ideals (liberty, freedom. tolerance, free speech, democracy, hard work; i.e., the "American way").

My inarticulately expressed concern is that we're no longer expecting immigrants to become good citizens or to even be citizens. They are defended on the basis that being a "good worker" is enough. That is why that single phrase crystallized my thinking on the subject. Being a "good worker" isn't enough. No country needs unassimilated masses of foreigners in its midst meddling in its politics to push their own agendas and policies. When supposedly intelligent people advocate a dual legal system that recognizes a concept as alien to the existing legal system as Sharia law; when those who owe their allegiance to a foreign country are allowed to demonstrate in an attempt to influence U.S. policy while waving the flag of their homeland; when high school students attending public schools at the expense of U.S. taxpayers hoist a foreign flag above an upside down American flag, we have the beginnings of a house divided. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." --- Abraham Lincoln We do need immigrants, but we need good citizens and not just workers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's So Bad About The "Mojave Experiment"?

I was reminded recently of Microsoft's "Mojave Experiment" while reading an article about how Microsoft has hired Jerry Seinfeld as a pitchman. I guess if Apple has a couple of minor comedians making you look bad, you go and hire a comedian with real star power to retaliate. I had heard about the Mojave Experiment on the TWiT and/or Windows Weekly podcast, but I had never read about it. When I googled "Mojave Experiment", I found mostly Mojave Experiment haters. Seems people hate on Mojave the way they hate on Vista.

For the so-called Mojave Experiment, Windows asked XP users what they thought of Vista. Predictably, they hated it. They then showed them a "new and improved" OS that was actually Vista. People loved it! What does this tell us? It tells us that these people had never seen Vista because most of them didn't recognize the "new and improved" Mojave OS was Vista. It tells us they "hated" Vista mainly because they'd heard they should hate it from people who supposedly were "in the know." I've noticed that a lot of these public Vista haters who brag of their PC prowess include phrases like "stick with OS X" and "on my Linux install..."

Hhhhmmmm...... Maybe Mac fanboys and Linux geeks aren't the most neutral commenters on any Microsoft products? I've never used a Mac, but I'm sure they're great. Of course, if Microsoft maintained a closed system where they exercise draconian control of the hardware and the software, their products might run just as well as Apples, but then they'd really get bashed for their dictatorial business policies. As Paul Thurrott likes to point out, millions and millions of people boot up a huge variety of hardware running an even more enormous variety of software every day on millions and millions of Windows machines and they run! When you think about it, it is a miracle. I have used Linux and am convinced that while it is interesting that it is way beyond the capabilities and interest level of the average computer user. People aren't going to adopt Linux until they can just hit a button labeled "install" to download new software and don't have to worry about finding the right variety of package. In the meantime, Linux is for professional geeks and hobbyists.

So what do the Mojave Experiment bashers quibble with? One complained that the Mojave Experiment wasn't scientific and he hates bad "science." C'mon! It isn't science! It is marketing! The word "experiment" doesn't make it science. He complains of the "placebo effect"; i.e., if you tell people something is new and improved, then they'll do their best to perceive it as such. So what? These are people who perceived Vista as "terrible" and gave it a 0 out of 10. Microsoft already told them that Vista was "new and improved" and they still gave it a 0 before being exposed to it. The point is that if you don't tell them that the "new and improved" OS is the one they hate, they don't hate it. Another professional journalist "dissected" the Mojave Experiment. He concluded that you were seeing the result of a good sales pitch. It is naive to think the Vista hating isn't in part related to an equally good sales pitch. Seen any funny Apple ads lately?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What's So Terrible About Vista?

I've been using Window's Vista since December 2007. That's when I was compelled to buy a new laptop. I seriously considered buying a business class laptop with XP; however, I found such a good deal on an HP laptop that came bundled with a digital camera and printer that I bought it. Alas, that laptop came loaded with Vista. I could always retro-upgrade to XP, couldn't I?

There were a few hiccups at first. It took me awhile to get the hang of connecting it to wireless networks. As I recall, I had to download a patch to run Office 2003 and at first it wouldn't see the server on my office LAN although it would print and connect to the Internet. The biggest annoyance was a tendency to "hang up" when I shut it down while it was connected to my office network. I'd have to press the power button to shut it down. SP1 seems to have cured that. It still isn't perfectly networked, but that is due to my own ignorance of networking and the fact that I haven't called in help. I haven't had any problems in months though.

The specific version of Vista I'm using is Home Ultimate. The laptop's CPU is an AMD Turion running at 1.9 GHz and the laptop is equipped with 2 GB of RAM. It is equipped with an Nvidia MCP67M integrated graphics card. So we're not talking a high end super laptop here. Yet Vista seems to run fine. I can have multiple programs running and windows open without any problem. I can't remember ever getting a blue screen of death and if one program stops running it doesn't take all the others with it. It seems very stable. Restarts are rare. The user account control (UAC) pops up occasionally, but not inappropriately. That is, it appears when you ought to think about what you're doing and should make sure it is the right thing to do. Clicking the allow button is no big deal.

I usually find that people who are eager to tell me how "horrible" Vista is have never used it. One friend, who ought to be computer savvy, told me that he used it for a short time but "couldn't get anything to work with it" and "you can't use Office 2003 with it." He seemed shocked when I told him that I use Office 2003. I had to wonder if he even tried. I use a legal industry specific program (Amicus Attorney) from 2001 without any problem as well as other relatively obscure legal industry programs.

Ironically, as I was typing this one of those Mac/PC switcher ads came on. I watch them because I think they're funny not because they're true. In this one, a Vista PC therapy group is meeting and one of the PCs says, "We have to come to grips with the fact our operating system isn't working like it should." Hah, hah. I'm no expert but for me Vista seems to be working exactly like it should. What's so terrible about Vista?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get Smart Is Laughable

I was hoping that the new "Get Smart" movie would be okay. I was prepared to be disappointed. But I wasn't. I was delightfully surprised. It was great. The movie is laugh out loud funny. For once, the best bits aren't all in the trailer leaving you with the feeling that you'd already seen all the funny parts. The audience even applauded at the end. A sure sign that everyone enjoyed it. I saw the first "Get Smart" movie and this is much better.

It is played straighter than the TV series. I'd say that one of the strengths of this movie is that it is based on the series without trying to recreate it. The movie can stand on its own. People get shot, knifed, and beat up and they bleed. The violence is more realistic and the stunts more harrowing. Homage is given to the series without going overboard. There are cameos by Bernie Koppel, the original Siegfried; the cone of silence; the telephone booth; Hymie, the robot agent; the red Sunbeam; the blue VW Karmann Ghia; the gold Opel; and the shoe phone. See, Smart Cars None of these touches seem out of place and are woven into the story. Bill Murray must be a fan of "Get Smart" because he has a cameo as the lonely Agent 13 who plays a Larabee like role. Larabee is in this movie, but he never shows up in a mailbox or a trash can. In fact, the movie Larabee is a jerk and doesn't seem to be a friend of Max.

The one thing I missed was the chemistry between Max and Agent 99. Unfortunately, they aren't a couple for most of the movie. They might as well have subtitled the movie "When Max Met 99." You might even classify this as a prequel. The movie provides Max's backstory. He's a first rate overly detailed analyst for CONTROL who is dying to be a field agent. When the movie begins, he and 99 haven't met yet although he's heard of her.

When I saw the trailers, I thought the casting was inspired and it is. Like every little boy in the '60s I had a thing for Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. She was everything a girlfriend ought to be pretty, witty, supportive, gorgeous .... Anne Hathaway wasn't even born yet so she's way too young for me. That's too bad because she has never looked better. She's hotter than ever as the svelte, coolly competent, kick butt 99. When she dons an Agent 99 wig for part of the movie, she could be Barbara Feldon's even better looking daughter. I thought she'd be perfect as 99 and she is.

Steve Carell doesn't look particularly like Don Adams but he does great job. He doesn't come off as someone who is trying to do a Don Adams impression even when he utters the trademark line "Missed it by that much." It isn't quite as funny when he does it. He lacks that wryly nasal Don Adams tone to his voice. His Maxwell Smart is actually very smart and perceptive and just a bit more competent than the TV Max, but not too competent. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson even does a good job as the hunky Agent 23. Alan Arkin is a great choice for The Chief. Terence Stamp is a much more menacing and evil Seigfried than Bernie Koppell ever was. There's very little funny about him. An enormous KAOS assassin bears an uncanny resemblance to Richard Kiel, who was Jaws in Moonraker and other Bond movies. He's apparently no relation though as he is professional wrestler Dilip Singh from India. James Caan plays a Bush-like U.S. president whose vice-president runs the show.

I really enjoyed this movie. Even my wife was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and the kids loved it. Speaking of children, a word for the wise --- this movie deserves its PG-13 rating. In addition to the violence, there are frequent uses of the "s word", sexual comedy (including some based on gay sex), one obscene hand gesture, and some nudity. I wouldn't take elementary age or younger children. But I do recommend that you see this movie. At the end, look for the misspelling of the word Cessna in the credits as they roll.

Tiger's Just Dumb!

No doubt about it --- Tiger Woods is the world's greatest golfer. His victory in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines proves it. But playing in this year's Open was just dumb! People are talking like Tiger did something brilliant by playing in the U.S. Open while injured. I disagree. He certainly doesn't need the money. He's got nothing to prove to anybody. He is well on his way to breaking every major record in golf. So why play hurt? Ego?

The smart thing to do would have been to follow his doctor's advice and stay home to recuperate. If he had, he might have finished the season. More importantly, he wouldn't be risking his health and a career ending injury. I have to believe that long-term his career is better off without multiple knee surgeries and silly risks like playing hurt.

Playing hurt proves Tiger has an amazing tolerance for pain, but it isn't smart and doesn't prove much else. I'd like to see him play for another 20 years so I hope he's learned something about pacing himself.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flock Revisited

I first reviewed the Flock browser in May 2007. I have to admit that after I used it awhile the novelty wore off and I didn't use it as much. I think that I downloaded the updated version after hearing about it or perhaps I used Flock and it advised me of the update. I'm using Version 1.1 now and enjoying it. I don't think I'll lose interest this time.

Flock is built on the Firefox platform. Consequently, some Firefox extensions will work with Flock, which also has extensions of its own. The latest version seems to be on the right track as "The Social Web Browser." It integrates social websites like Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and Flickr all in one easy to use web browser. There are 17 social networks, blogging sites, media sites, and email services that work almost seamlessly with Flock.

Flock has a sidebar that can be switched between "People," Feeds, Favorites, Accounts and Services, and Web Clipboard.

The People sidebar shows feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube. In other words, it shows social networks. This makes it very convenient to monitor Twitter or Facebook while your browsing the web. Unfortunately as I write this, there is a problem with the Facebook application.

Feeds shows your RSS feeds, which can be organized in folders. You are shown the number of unread items. If you click on a folder, then all of the items in that folder are shown in the browser. If you click on a feed within the folder, then only that feed is shown in the browser. New Feeds are easily added with a single click.

Favorites is, of course, your bookmarks. The sidebar is divided into Local Favorites (bookmarks) and Online Favorites (e.g., New Favorites can be added with a single click.

Accounts and Services is all of your social networks, blogs, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and everything else organized in Flock.

The Web Clibboard allows you to drag and drop text, links, and images to save for later use. These can also be organized in folders. The items that you drag and drop appear with links labeled View, Email, Blog, and Delete. They're self-explanatory. Flock has a built in blog editor that can be associated with a particular blog. In fact, I've prepared this entry with the Flock blog editor. Here's a tip for the Web Clipboard --- when you drag and drop a website URL use the little icon that appears to the left. If you do this, then the title of the webpage will appear with the item. The Clipboard allows you to save items for later viewing, blogging, or sharing via email.

A photo uploader, which I've never used, allows you to upload photos from your computer by dragging them to the uploader.

A Media Bar can appear at the top or bottom of the browser. This can display media from a selected media feed; e.g., photos from Flickr or Facebook or videos. You can subscribe to your favorite feeds from the Media Bar.

There is a My World page that shows your Friend Activity, Favorite Feeds, Favorite Sites (most recently viewed favorites), and Favorite Media in side-by-side columns on a single page.

I think I've only scratched the surface of what Flock can do. It is extremely flexible and customizable, but the basic functions are fairly intuitive. There are easy to follow set up guides and lots of support online for those things that you don't find intuitive. I would recommend Flock to anyone who enjoys surfing the web and social networks. I'm not quite ready to use it as my default browser, but I use it whenever I'm surfing the web and want to check on Twitter and Facebook or when I'm writing a blog post. In fact, I'm likely to open Flock when I spot interesting items so that I can add interesting bits to the Web Clipboard that I think are fodder for future posts.

This isn't a "how to" guide so if you're interested go ahead and

Get Flocked

Jump in, read the guides, and give it a whirl.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

A Good Reason to Encrypt Your Business Computers

I recently learned of Florida Statute section 817.5681 thanks to an article in The Florida Bar Journal. It seems like hardly a day goes by that there isn't a story about a lost or stolen laptop full of confidential data. Of course, the risk isn't limited to laptops. Hackers, unscrupulous employees, burglars, or others may breach the security of a desktop as well. Plus USB thumbdrives, portable hard drives, and personal digital assistants can also be lost, stolen, or copied and returned.

Losing unencrypted computerized "personal information" about your clients or customers can be very expensive. Florida, 36 other states, and the District of Columbia have enacted data breach laws that impose substantial duties and fines when an unauthorized person acquires unencrypted data. How expensive? How about up to $500,000.00? In addition, you must without unreasonable delay notify every Florida resident whose unencrypted personal information was acquired by an unauthorized person and restore the integrity of your computerized data system. The cost of notifying every one of your customers could be substantial.

The terms “breach" and “breach of the security of the system” mean

unlawful and unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that materially compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information maintained by the person.

It does not, however, mean the good faith acquisition of the personal information by an employee or agent so long as the information is not used in an unauthorized manner. So, what is the “personal information” that is protected? “Personal information” means

an individual's first name, first initial and last name, or any middle name and last name, in combination with any one or more of the following data elements when the data elements are not encrypted:

(a) Social security number.

(b) Driver's license number or Florida Identification Card number.

(c) Account number, credit card number, or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account.

It “does not include publicly available information that is lawfully made available to the general public from federal, state, or local government records or widely distributed media.”

There is hope though. The astute among you have already noticed the repeated use of the words "unencrypted" and “encrypted.” By definition the loss or unauthorized access to encrypted personal information does not violate the statute and is not subject to the substantial penalties or duties.

In one of those moments of serendipity, one of my favorite podcasts, Security Now with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte, just happened to be discussing and highly recommending a hard drive encryption program called TrueCrypt. Steve Gibson really loved it. It can encrypt your laptop hard drive, portable hard drives, and flash drives. By using this or similar programs, you can protect yourself and your customers from the loss of data and the penalties of section 817.5681.

Of course, you should also use a firewall and periodically scan your computer for spyware and viruses. An estimated 500,00 to 2,000,000 computers worldwide are believed to be infected with spyware and other malware that could be used to steal personal information. A friend’s computer recently slowed to a crawl. I recommended that she download free software to scan for spyware and viruses. After days and days of scanning, she was able to identify and eliminate thousands of malware programs and the computer was good as new. I think she has learned her lesson. Don’t learn your lesson the hard way.

In closing, I can’t resist pointing out that, as usual, government protects itself from the expenses, penalties, and duties that it burdens private business with. The penalties don’t apply to governmental agencies who have custody of personal information. The penalties do, however, apply to private government contractors who lose personal information. The government is, of course, a major offender when it comes to the unauthorized disclosure of personal information. The IRS lost 490 laptops with personal taxpayer information and State of Florida lost a laptop containing Florida driver’s license numbers. Maybe the government ought to invest in a little encryption too.

Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved Harry Thomas Hackney, P.A. 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This Is News! Gimme A Break ABC!

We've been hearing complaints from the press for quite some time that Hillary Clinton wouldn't release her schedules from when she was first lady. Well, she finally released the schedules and the press rushed to review them. And what is the best that they can come up with after all this breathless anticipation? What was the first bombshell revealed? Here is the headline from ABC News -- "Hillary Was in White House on 'Stained Blue Dress' Day." That's it? That's the best they can do?

Geesh, give it a rest. ABC ought to be embarrassed. I'm not even a Hillary fan and I don't get the point of dredging this up now. The very first thing they do after all the brouhaha about the schedules is look to see whether she was in the White House on an embarrassing day eleven years ago? Was that ever an issue? Now I can see why she didn't release the schedules. If I was a public figure and all the press could do is this idiocy, I don't think I'd release my schedule either.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Real Story in the Spitzer Case

As usual, the Spitzer story is getting the shallow treatment while the most interesting aspects of the story are glossed over or ignored. The focus is on the salacious ---- how much was he spending; what does "Kristen/Ashley" look like in a bikini; why do politicians wives take this abuse? Who cares? The real story is how Spitzer was caught. Big Brother really is watching and we should all be afraid, very afraid. In fact, some elements of the story do have a "1984" quality to them. According to Phillip Carter, a New York lawyer, and author of an Intel Dump blog post, Spitzer was nailed by the Bank Secrecy Act, which was passed in 1970. I am troubled about how he was caught and believe that it illustrates how all of these government “reporting” laws can be used for other than their claimed purposes. Step 1 pass a law that casts a wide net and results in all kinds of reports of "suspicious activity." Step 2 sift through the nets looking for "leads." Step 3 go on a fishing expedition focused on a promising lead generated by nothing more than the most general of suspicions. Is this really probable cause or just a pretext for an investigation?

It seems that because Spitzer was governor of New York his bank flagged him as a “Politically Exposed Person” (PEP) who was at “higher risk” for “financial crimes.” Apparently, PEPs are subject to higher scrutiny internationally and banks may be fined for failing to report on them. This ought to make you think twice about seeking public office. If you're elected, you are automatically deemed to be under suspicion. Because the money Sptizer was moving around was below the $10,000.00 reporting limit, his bank's computer surveillance systems flagged them for possible structuring. So the bank reported him to the IRS for possible structuring to avoid the Suspicious Activity Reporting requirements of the so-called “Bank Secrecy Act.”

That name "Bank Secrecy Act" is Orwellian. It ought to be called the “Bank Total Lack of Privacy Act.” Anyone who has ever read “1984” will recognize “Bank Secrecy Act” to describe a law that requires your bank to spy on you as Newspeak,. Newspeak is words “deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them." It is also what we call Doublespeak. The fact that our government frequently uses Newspeak/Doublespeak (e.g., “Patriot Act”) has always troubled me. "Patriot Act" is Newspeak, but the "9/11 Counterterrorism Act" would've avoided Newspeak and been accurate. The fact that the government would rather give it a Newspeak name for marketing purposes when perfectly good names suffice worries me.

Spitzer’s bank reported him to Federal authorities not because he broke a law, but because as a politician his banking transactions were already automatically suspect. The “Bank Total Lack of Privacy Act” imposed a duty to report a general suspicion to the government. That gave the pretext to investigate the Governor of New York generally, including wiretaps. The wiretap is how they found out about the call girl connection. Keep in mind too that it gave the Republican controlled Executive Branch of the Federal government a pretext to wiretap the phones of a very powerful elected Democrat. There is no reason to suspect that this was a politically motivated surveillance of an opposition politician. I'm not a conspiracy nut. I think it was just a lucky byproduct of the wide net cast by the Bank Total Lack of Privacy Act. However, you don’t have to make much of a leap in logic to see where this easily could be abused. As is often asked, "You're comfortable that George has this power? Okay, how will you feel if Hillary gets the power?" Who needs to break into the Watergate when you’ve got so many opportunities for pretextual investigations based on the volumes of crimes enshrined in the U.S. Code?

People think that prominent public figures are “above the law” and always “get a break.” This is an example though of what really happens --- they’re held to a higher level of scrutiny and when caught get slammed so no one will look like they’re “going easy” on them. Spitzer could be charged with violations of the Federal Mann Act because he paid a call girl to travel from New York to meet him in Washington, D.C. The Mann Act was intended to address “white slavery” and pimps. Coincidentally, Reason magazine just happened to feature an article entitled "The 'White Slavery Panic'" in its most recent edition.

The Mann Act could be used here to charge Spitzer with a felony for what would have been a misdemeanor if he’d gone down to the corner and picked up a hooker. Alternatively, he could have gone down to the Mayfair Hotel bar and picked up a woman of easy virtue for dinner and drinks and committed no crime at all. Better yet, he could have just hit on some impressionable young intern in his office because that’s “just sex” even when you lie about it under oath. If you take advantage of a much younger intern, you not only don't have to resign, but the press defends you AND you can be sanctimonious about your indiscretions too.

Ben Stein commented on the insidiousness of this investigation on CBS News Sunday Morning this morning. The title of his piece was "Elections More Important Than Call Girls." His take on it was that the normal penalty for sex with a prostitute is a misdemeanor. The "john" is usually fined. The penalty does not involve deposing an elected official. In his opinion, the democratically elected governor of New York was run out of office by some nosy unelected Federal bureaucrats. The people of New York have been denied their choice of governor and he has been replaced by a man who was not elected to that office. That troubled him and it troubles me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Florida Style Fantasy Yacht

Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, you're surrounded by yachts. It is the yacht capital of the world after all. When you live there, you tend to fantasize about owning one too. After all, they're so common! I have a friend, Larry Hendry, who is living that fantasy, and he's doing it aboard a Fantasy yacht.

He purchased his Fantasy in 2005. He picked it up at the factory in Monticello, Kentucky with his wife and son and they took a "trip of a lifetime"cruising down the Mississippi to the West Coast of Florida. He is still planning a "Great Loop" trip some day. He enjoyed it so much that he established a Fantasy dealership in Hudson called Fantasy South. What got me thinking about it is that he sent me a video that features one of his yachts at the St. Petersburg Boat Show. Here it is ---

The Fantasy is actually built for how most people use their yachts. It is a houseboat. One of the things you notice when you pass the same yachts every day is that most of them spend 48 of every 52 weeks tied at the dock. When they do move, they're usually the backdrop for a cocktail party as they cruise down the Intracoastal looking stately. You don't see lots of yachts cruising offshore. Your guests are less likely to get seasick and barf all over your yacht inshore. It is also more scenic. You can admire the mansions you pass and the constant parade of other boats.

Although most yachts are used as floating condominiums close to shore, they have pretensions of being ocean spanning globetrotters. Consequently, they're powered by huge, thirsty twelve cylinder diesels, have cramped staterooms, narrow hallways, and require a crew. In contrast, a Fantasy is a floating condominium. It has a huge sundeck for parties and wide open spaces. It is built for what most people do -- cruising close to shore and having parties. An 85 foot Fantasy Coastal is powered by twin four cylinder diesels which is enough to push the yacht along at a good clip, but much more economical than huge multi-thousand horsepower diesels.

A Fantasy costs about the same as a waterfront condominium, but it can do something that no waterfront condo can do. It can move. St. Augustine in the winter too cold for you? No problem just cruise to the Keys. Keys too crowded for you? Head up the west coast through the Everglades National Park and the 10,000 islands area. I haven't found what their draft is but I'll bet they're shoal draft compared to most vessels the same size. The Coastal series protects the propellers in tunnels, which keeps the draft shallow and makes them perfect for cruising coastal Florida and the Keys.

I'll bet Larry will sell you whatever you want, but he specializes in the Coastals and they're perfect for Florida. They can be equipped with a saltwater corrosion protection package, come equipped with a higher pointed bow for cutting through waves offshore, and have reinforced hull sections. They have diesel v-drives in tunnels and marine air conditioning.

Imagine visiting Steinhatchee in scallop season. In the morning you take your dinghy scalloping, and that evening your eating fresh scallops pulled from the Gulf and just cooked in the fully equipped kitchen of your Fantasy. Wow! Now that's a dream not a fantasy! Enough fantasizing though, does anyone know where I can get an interest free 100 year loan for $700,000.00?

Blogged with Flock

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Weekend at the Blue Moon in Homosassa Springs, Florida

My wife and I recently got a weekend without the children for only the third time in fourteen years. We booked two nights at the Blue Moon Bed and Breakfast in Homosassa Springs. Check in is between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m, but because of a late start we knew that we would not arrive in time so we called ahead. The hosts were very accomodating and said it would not be a problem. We arrived after dark and found ourselves on a very dark Fishbowl Road in Homosassa looking for the entrance to the Blue Moon. Fortunately, the gated entryway was well marked with a lighted sign. As we drove up the long narrow driveway, we were pleased to find that it looked very much like the pictures on the website. As soon as we got out of our vehicle, we could hear the pleasant splashing of the fountains.

It turned out that the owners John and Cindi were in charge that weekend. Normally, John's brother and sister-in-law are the hosts, but they were out of town. You enter through a gift shop with artwork done by the owners and their relations. It was immediately evident that John and Cindi were very pleasant and eager for you to enjoy your stay. We checked in and went to our room.

All five guest rooms are upstairs and arranged on either side of a great room that occupies the center of the house from one end to the other. A gas fireplace is at one end. Three rooms are on one side of the great room and two rooms and the kitchen are on the other side. A TV room stocked with movies, books, and a computer is downstairs. If you've brought a laptop or wifi equipped phone with you, there is no need to use the provided computer to access the internet. The house is equipped with a wifi network. I had no problem using it with my laptop or Sue's iPhone. Snacks, hot water for tea, and sodas are all available in the great room and kitchen at no additional charge. Beer , Smirnoff Ice, and bottled water are kept chilled in the refrigerator and are billed on an honor system. The beers were $2.50 each. An unchilled bottle of red wine and white wine are available in the room with wine glasses. I believe the white wine was $14.00 and the red $17.50. They also have a wine list of available wines that you can order before 9:00 p.m.

We stayed in the French room, which is the only one with a king size bed. A large jacuzzi tub and shower are in the bathroom. A battery operated "candle" is provided. Unfortunately, ours wasn't working so we didn't get to try it out. Of course, the room was not quite as large as it appeared in the pictures on the website, but it was large enough. Every room has two doors. One is off the great room and the other is onto a deck that extends along three sides of the house. The French room's outside door opens onto a large section of deck with a table and chairs and a view of the boathouse and water. Unfortunately, the weekend we stayed was cold, damp, and rainy. Otherwise, the deck would have been a perfect place to sit and read. Fortunately, the weather made a great opportunity to enjoy the gas fireplace. You can turn a valve to get a roaring fire or just enough for a warm glow. We were hungry so we left soon after our arrival to look for dinner. The hosts keep brochures and menus on hand for you and they're also happy to recommend restaurants to you.

Breakfast was provided both mornings at about 9:00 a.m. and both mornings it was good. Two coffees were provided --- one flavored and one regular. I don't like most flavored coffees so it was perfect for me. The first morning was blueberry pancakes, but I don't like fruit so John and Cindi made my pancakes plain. The second morning was a crustless quiche with ham and eggs. Breakfast is served at two tables in the great room. Jazz played softly in the background as we ate. We got a separate table to ourselves. Four rooms were occupied with couples. The main table seats six so we got the table for four to ourselves. The couples all seemed to come from within an hour or two drive of Homosassa.

After breakfast, everyone took off for the day. One couple took one of the canoes and paddled to the springs to see the manatees. Another sounded like they might hit a local flea market. The third couple apparently went for a drive. After a short drive around Homosassa Springs, we came back and rented the B & B's pontoon boat for a half day (a reasonable $95.00 including fuel). If you rent a boat be prepared to go nowhere fast, the whole Homosassa River seems to be one long, slow no wake zone due to the manatees. There was even less to historic Homosassa Springs than I expected. I was hoping for some galleries and shops, but I only saw one gallery.

We puttered down to the springs, which are located at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. We didn't make it to the Park this trip, but it comes highly recommended. John said that he goes at least once every year. The park entrance is located on Fishbowl Road right next to the B & B. There were so many kayakers and snorkelers in the Springs that I turned around before getting over them. We still saw manatees though. It is easy to see how they get run over by boats, They swam directly under our slow moving pontoon boat, which provided a good view of them. We putted back up the river towards the Gulf and admired some of the riverfront homes as we went. We stopped for lunch near Monkey Island and then puttered along awhile longer before turning around. We got back just before the rain started in earnest.

One of the other guests was sitting outside in the gardens reading near the fountains. It looked like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The exterior of the Blue Moon is well landscaped, but the gardens aren't exactly formal. They appear to be planted with native species. There are some nicely babbling fountains near the front entrance. There is a pool around back, but given the weather we never even looked at it so I can't say much about it.

Oddly everyone seemed to gather back in the great room at the same time for naps and relaxation. We had some pleasant conversation with our fellow guests --- an interesting group of people. Cindi and John provided complimentary wine, cheese, and crackers at just the right time. Everyone seemed to disperse at about the same time and head out for dinner. We went to the local mall, which is nice enough but nothing to write home to mom about. We considered seeing a movie but none of the movies were showing at a time that worked. The theatre is hard to find. We drove around the mall several times looking for some sign of the theatre entrance. We finally flagged down a security guard. He told us that you had to enter through one of two Kmart entrances. He apparently gets that question alot.

Unfortunately, the weekend was over all too soon and it was time to head back to the real world. We'll be back. It is a nice spot to spend a romantic weekend for two. We really enjoyed it. We'd like to book it with four other couples that are friends some time. However, being the parents that we are, we kept saying, "We'll have to come back with the kids and show them that," or "The kids would love that." If we go back with the kids, we'll have to find someplace more appropriate for a family.

Blogged with Flock

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fat Actresses?

I first started thinking about this topic when I saw a magazine cover with a very cute Jennifer Love Hewitt in a black bikini declaring, "I'm not fat!" A little investigation online revealed these photos of Ms. Hewitt on a beach in Hawaii. Yep, those camera angles are pretty unflattering without airbrushing. But fat? No, she's not fat. She's probably pretty average for a woman her age. I think she looks pretty good in that bikini. Some of that is the advantage of age. I'm old enough now to appreciate just how cute most young women are. It really is a shame that youth is wasted on the young and judgmental.

One blog posted a picture of Hewitt from a Hanes underwear ad and commented on what a difference a few years makes. I'll bet you anything that the difference isn't the years but Photoshop and airbrushing. Even Cindy Crawford gets the full Photoshop treatment to smooth out wrinkles and shave inches off her thighs. There is hardly an image in a magazine or an ad today that isn't thoroughly altered to create an unbelievably perfect image of the subject. I once blogged about a time lapse video of a Dove ad that showed the process in minutes.

What drove me over the edge and finally caused me to post this was a review of 27 Dresses, which contained this line "They’re no Hepburn and Tracy, but Heigl—her quivering double chin a welcome sight in a profession of dangerously low BMI—and Marsden skillfully find the believable traits in their characters and turn them into some semblance of adults." "Quivering double chin"? MEOW! HISS! That's got to be one of the cattiest comments in movie review history. I spent the entire movie wondering how anyone could ever suggest that a very attractive woman with a totally flat stomach, a 12 inch waste, and no fat could possibly have double chins and anything but a low BMI. (Well, maybe she has some fat, but it is all in the right places.)

Okay, maybe these actors and actresses bring some of this on themselves by helping to promote an unrealistic image of themselves. I'll bet they're not complaining when the director strives for just the right camera angles or the advertisers break out the Photoshop to improve their pictures. But the rest of us don't have to contribute to this unrealistic image of what people really look like.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ben Stein's Commentaries

I've long been a fan of Ben Stein whether it is his deadpan delivery in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" or his display of intellectual prowess on "Win Ben Stein's Money." He has degrees in economics and law and was a speechwriter and lawyer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. These days you can catch him some Sunday mornings doing commentaries for CBS Sunday Morning, which may be my favorite TV show.

I always look forward to his commentaries. Probably because I find that I agree with him on most things. He has this uncanny ability to put what I'm thinking into words. Of course, he does it much more eloquently than I could whether it is a thank you to veterans, the Christmas season, or the arrest of Senator Larry Craig. (Seriously, don't the police have better things to do than hang out in men's rooms looking for ambiguous "signs" of homosexuality? And shame on the Republican legislators for their gutless response.)

This morning (Sunday, January 6, 2008) he put into words a common thought of mine. That is, that presidential candidates and politicians in general have a very inflated opinion of their own importance and ability to affect people's lives. Like I said, Mr. Stein was much more eloquent and less blunt than I just was. Most positive things in most people's lives (in fact, most things in most people's lives) occur in spite of the best efforts of politicians and not because of them. In Stein's view, the only people whose lives are really affected by politician's promises are the poorest Americans who actually depend on government programs. The only thing that really affects all of us is the ability of politicians to declare war. I agree. I've often felt that the U.S. President gets both too much credit and too much blame for the state of the economy. In fact, I believe that the U.S. economy is so huge that most effects of political meddling, good or bad, aren't seen until many years after the President who implemented them is out of office.

As for our day to day lives, it is our daily decisions and actions that determine the quality of our lives and not the politicians. I think they have more power to screw up our lives than they do to improve them. That's why I'd like to see even fewer laws, and a drastically smaller Federal government. If this is ever going to be a reality, people need to stop voting based on promises or the ability of the local politician to "bring home the bacon."

The transcripts of Stein's commentaries are posted on his website and videos of them can be found on the website for CBS News Sunday Morning. Unfortunately, Mr. Stein appears to be three months behind on his transcripts and the video is not yet posted. When the transcript or video for this morning's commentary is posted, I urge you to check it out.